About Physiology

The Discipline of Physiology is a member of the School of Medicine of Trinity College Dublin, established in 1711. The Discipline itself was established in 1922, when the King's Professorship of the Institutes of Medicine was replaced by the Chair of Physiology. Four incumbents have held the Chair over that period: Harold Pringle (appointed 1922), David Smyth Torrens (1936), Roland Edward Moore (1968) and Christopher Bell (1

All experimental scientists receive a general training that is of great value in later employment, be that in scientific or in other disciplines. They learn to think analytically - to break a problem down into its component parts and then to examine those parts critically. They also learn to assimilate and criticise the accumulated ideas of others. Problem-solving is learnt by experience in the laboratory as well as through study problems. It is, of course, not enough merely to carry out experiments; it is also essential to be able to communicate the results of one's work to others. Development of writing and oral presentation skills is therefore an important component of the undergraduate training programme.

Physiology is function - it is the science of how the body works. It describes how cells operate, how they combine their functions in specific organs, and how these organ systems work together to maintain a stable environment inside the body. Physiology is the functional basis of the health sciences, because most disease states are the result of disturbances of physiological processes. A basic knowledge of physiology is therefore essential for all students whose professional careers will involve aspects of health and patient care. Physiology is also one of the key subjects in biomedical science and continues to be at the forefront of biomedical research. Physiologists aim to use their research findings to increase our understanding of how the human body works and thereby assist in the development of better treatments for disease, or help to improve athletic performance. Its importance as a research discipline is exemplified by the annual award of a Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Over the years, our graduates have used their general scientific training and their specialised knowledge of physiology to find employment in a wide variety of jobs. Some have gone on to further training in physiology, taking higher degrees and becoming research scientists in hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry or government agencies or obtaining academic posts within universities. Others have entered second-level teaching or the business world, while others again have moved into health-related fields such as medicine, physiotherapy, pharmacy and fitness counselling.

A high proportion of all graduates acquire some form of further qualification before entering employment and physiologists are no exception. Based on recent survey returns to the careers advisory service, 70% of the Natural Sciences graduates from this discipline were engaged in some form of further study during the year following their graduation. About 25% were enrolled in undergraduate professional courses for medicine, pharmacy or physiotherapy, 45% were undertaking research towards MSc or PhD degrees, 20% were enrolled for the Higher Diploma in Education and 10% were in other postgraduate courses.

Of the physiology graduates who decided not to pursue further studies, the survey found that around one-third were already in full-time posts and that none were still seeking employment. Fields of employment entered directly on graduation were mainly in the financial sector (banking and insurance) and information technology.

Entry to the Sophister programme in Physiology is highly competitive, as a maximum of only 18 places are available.

To enter the Junior Sophister (third year) programme, internal students of the University of Dublin must have successfully completed the Senior Freshman courses in Biology I and Biology II. Places are awarded competitively on the basis of the results of Senior Freshman examinations.

Students taking the Senior Freshman biology courses are introduced to the basic physiology of the main body organs comprising the nervous (brain and spinal cord), cardiovascular (blood circulation), respiratory (lungs), gastrointestinal (digestion), excretory (kidneys) and endocrine (hormones) systems.

Courses in the Sophister years build on this foundation to provide a detailed understanding of cellular, organ and whole-body function, together with training in scientific methodology, experimental design, data analysis and resource skills. Over the second half of the Senior Sophister (fourth) year, each student undertakes an individual research project under the direction of a staff member. These projects may be based within the Discipline or in one of the associated hospital disciplines and include a literature survey and production of a written dissertation.


Assessment within the Sophister programme is by a combination of in-course evaluation and formal examination. Final assessment at the end of the Senior Sophister year includes viva voce examination by an external examiner.


The Course structure of the Moderatorship in Physiology is fully described here.


You may download the current handbooks from our internal Virtual Learning Environment Blackboard.