Undergraduate School

Human Physiology

B120 BSc Human Physiology
B129 MBiol, BSc Human Physiology (Integrated Masters)

This course offers:   

  • heart researchexciting contemporary topics such as the role of cholesterol-reduction in cardiovascular disease; changes in the heart during ageing and exercise; understanding the inner workings of transporter proteins; unravelling mechanisms of diabetes, inflammation, high blood pressure and mechanisms involved in neurodegenerative diseases
  • the chance to study in a Faculty ranked 4th in the UK for research in biological sciences by the leading scientific journal ‘Nature’ based on the numbers of staff producing research that was “world leading or internationally excellent”

BSc Human Physiology offers a fantastic opportunity to excel in a rapidly evolving and up-to- the minute discipline.

What is Human Physiology?

human bodyHuman physiology is the study of how our body works in an integrated way. An understanding of physiology is fundamental to modern medical practice because physiological knowledge allows diagnoses and therefore determines appropriate medicinal treatments. It is the discipline that underpins modern medicine - so important that there is a Nobel Prize for it!

Our approach is an integrative one, ranging from how whole organs work and interact to control body functions, down to the molecular mechanisms operating within cells. As a physiologist you will ask fundamental questions such as:

  • How does the body function during the normal demands of everyday life, and during stressful situations like exercise, or working in extreme environments?
  • How do body systems fail in diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney failure and neurodegeneration?
  • How might these conditions be alleviated and cured?


Did you know?

Physiology emerged from the ancient scientific and philosophical disciplines of the Indian Ayurveda (“science of life”) movement and from the work of philosophers such as Aristotle and his thinking on structure and function. The word “physiology” is derived from the greek word physis, meaning “nature” and logos meaning "study". Later, the Roman physician Galen was the first to use experiments to probe the function of the body. Physiology is a constantly evolving integrative science and current discoveries about physiological process are providing new insights into disease processes every day:

Cardiovascular physiology

An understanding of the functions of the heart and blood vessels is essential to understanding mechanisms underlying vascular disease as well as for the development of therapeutic strategies that protect the heart and blood vessels. Leeds’ Multidisciplinary Cardiovascular Research Centre (MCRC) has particular focus on revealing mechanisms of vascular disease and associated changes in cardiac and vascular smooth muscle.


The brain controls bodily functions, ranging from control of heart rate to learning and memory. Neurophysiological research extends from individual proteins and genes through synaptic communication between neurones, up to the composition and function of neural networks. Understanding these processes is key to explaining neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and depression, as well as to development of the drugs used in treating them. Neuroscience Research at Leeds “NeuR@L” is a cross faculty centre for research in these areas.

Membrane physiology

Every cell in the body has a membrane around it that acts as a selective barrier between cell contents and the extracellular fluids. Membranes contain specialized proteins that act as transporters, channels and receptors that are vital to maintaining the cell as well as permitting communication with its environment. Disordered function of a number of proteins is responsible for diseases such as cystic fibrosis, polycystic kidney disease and certain types of diabetic and vascular disease. Leeds Integrative Membrane Biology Group (IMB) is at the forefront of such study.


Why study BSc Human Physiology?

Pseudo-coloured resin cast of renal glomerular capillaries

  • An understanding of modern human physiology guarantees an almost endless array of possibilities for careers in biomedicine which can be combined with virtually any other area of biological science.
  • This degree will provide you with an ideal opportunity to train in a medically orientated field of world-wide importance.

Are you a potential Nobel Prize winner?

Entry Requirements

2014 entry requirements

BSc Human Physiology - UCAS code B120

A Level or Advanced Higher: AAA-ABB from 3 A2/Advanced Higher including Biology or Human Biology or Chemistry plus another science or science-related subject. Critical Thinking and General Studies excluded.

We consider applications on an individual basis and an offer will depend on the information given on your UCAS form. Applications are assessed from a combination of the following; the balance, nature and quality of A2, AS and GCSE subjects (or equivalents); the referee's comments and your personal statement.

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (QCF): DDD in Applied Science, including Distinctions in 10 of the following units: Fundamentals of Science, Scientific Investigations, Scientific Practical Techniques, Perceptions of Science, Mathematics Calculations for Science, Using Statistics in Science, Physiology of Human Body Systems, Physiology of Human Regulation and Reproduction, Genetics and Genetic Engineering, Biomedical Science Techniques, Physiological Investigations, Diseases and Infections

International Baccalaureate: 35-34 (with 18-16 at higher level) including 6 in higher level Biology or Chemistry and another science or science-related subject at higher level.

Irish Leaving Certificate: AAAAAB-AAABBB including an A in higher level Biology or Chemistry and another science at higher level.

Scottish Higher: Scottish Highers not accepted on their own.

Cambridge Pre-U: D3/D3/D3-D3/M2/M2 including Pre-U Biology or Chemistry plus one other science or science-related subject.

Science subjects: Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Physics.
Science- related subjects: Computing, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, ICT, P.E, Psychology, Science in Society, Statistics and Sports Science.

BSc (Hons) Human Physiology with Industrial Placement

If you are interested in this programme, apply via UCAS for the standard BSc programme above. We will provide you with further details of the placement and study abroad schemes in year one, and you can transfer at the end of year two (subject to academic performance).

Read more about Industrial Placements

BSc (Hons) Human Physiology with Study Year Abroad

If you are interested in this programme, apply via UCAS for the standard BSc programme above. We will provide you with further details of the placement and study abroad schemes in year one, and you can transfer at the end of year two (subject to academic performance).

Read more about Study Year Abroad

MBiol, BSc Human Physiology (Integrated Masters) - UCAS code B129

A Level or Advanced Higher: AAA from 3 A2/Advanced Higher including Biology or Human Biology or Chemistry plus another science or science-related subject. Critical Thinking and General Studies excluded.

International Baccalaureate:
35 (with 18 at higher level) including 6 in higher level Biology or Chemistry, and another science or science-related subject at higher level.

Irish Leaving Certificate:
AAAAAB including an A in higher level Biology or Chemistry, and another science at higher level.

Scottish Higher:
Scottish Highers not accepted on their own.

Cambridge Pre-U:
D3/D3/D3 including Pre-U Biology or Chemistry, plus one other science or science-related subject.

Applications are assessed from a combination of the following; the balance, nature and quality of A2, AS and GCSE subjects (or equivalents); the referee's comments and your personal statement.

Science subjects: Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Physics.
Science- related subjects: Computing, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, ICT, P.E, Psychology, Science in Society, Statistics and Sports Science.

Duration of the course 3 Years Full Time (B120)
4 Years Full Time (B129)
An Industrial Placement or Study Year Abroad will add a year to the duration of the course
English language requirements If English is not your first language, please check our minimum English language requirements. UG brochure 2014
Admissions policy

Download our Admissions Policy for 2014 entry. (PDF format). This includes information on the application process, our admissions intake and the selection process.

Admissions enquiries

Maureen Cummings
Tel: 0113 343 4226
Email: fbsadmissions@leeds.ac.uk

Admissions tutor

Dr. Charlotte Haigh
Tel: 0113 343 4226
Email: biomed.admissions@leeds.ac.uk


Faculty of Biological Sciences Undergraduate School

Programme Leaders

Dr Anne King

Course brochure

Download a course brochure

Course Structure

The structure of your course will vary dependent upon which of the following pathways you choose:

Qualification Course Title Duration
BSc Human Physiology 3 years
BSc Human Physiology with industrial placement year 4 years
BSc Human Physiology with a study year abroad 4 years
MBiol, BSc Human Physiology 4 years
MBiol, BSc Human Physiology with industrial placement year 5 years
MBiol, BSc Human Physiology with a study year abroad 5 years

BSc Course Structure

studentIn the first and second year lectures, practicals and tutorials are the most important forms of teaching. You will have lectures and tutorials each week, and regular laboratory sessions. In the final year, you will be able to choose your favourite topics to study under the guidance of leading experts; your research project will take up about one third of your time with the rest devoted to lectures and tutorials. Formal examinations are held twice a year, in January and May/June, to spread the assessment load.


All degree programmes are modular and offer wide choice.

Modules may be core (you have to take them), optional (you can choose from a list of alternatives) or elective (you have a free choice); the balance depends upon your year and programme of study. We offer a wide range of modules. Examples include:

Human Physiology Year 1

Foundations of Biomedical Sciences

This module covers the basic anatomy, biochemistry and physiology of the human body, which you will study alongside the ways pathology and pharmacology can alter them.

Basic Laboratory and Scientific Skills

This module will initially cover the basic laboratory and numerical skills that are essential to proper understanding of experimental work in biomedical science and development of some basic laboratory skills. It will then extend further to develop many more transferable skills such as data handling, scientific report writing, oral communication, poster presentation and team work skills.

Biology of the Mind

This module will introduce students to the workings of the nervous system and will cover all major aspects of neuroscience from a basic level. The module will take students on a journey starting with the development and evolution of the nervous system through the anatomy and physiology of neurons, exploring sensory/motor systems and culminating in discussion of higher cognitive functions. During the module, relevant neuroscience techniques will be explained. There will also be an introduction to the major disorders of the nervous system.

Introduction to Pharmacology

The module will include an introduction to the principles of how drugs produce beneficial effects in disease and how drug action is quantified. The lectures will provide explanations of how drugs such as curare produce muscle paralysis, an effect that is useful in general anaesthesia; how adrenaline stimulates the heart; why Botox is a biological warfare agent and a cosmetic treatment and why beta blockers are widely used in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Human Endocrinology

This module covers the anatomy and pathophysiology of the main endocrine systems, including the endocrine pancreas; the thyroid; the parathyroids; the adrenal gland and its disorders; the hypothalamus and pituitary as well as reproductive endocrinology and fertility.

Human Physiology Year 2

Cardiorespiratory Physiology & Pharmacology

The module covers the activity of the heart and lungs and their functions, and control mechanisms involved in the maintenance of respiration, blood pressure and blood flow through tissues in health and disease. Integrated within this module is a description of the detailed mechanisms of action, effects and adverse properties of the various major drugs that affect the heart, vasculature and respiratory systems.


This module covers the structure and function of the human central nervous system and its control of a range of physiological processes. These include neurotransmission; the pathways responsible for sensory perception and the mechanisms responsible for voluntary movement, and for maintaining balance and posture.

Physiology of Absorption and Excretion

This module examines the structure and function of the gut and kidneys. This includes mechanisms of gut motility, gastrointestinal and renal epithelial absorption, secretion, and how these functions are controlled so as to maintain body fluid composition and volume in health & disease.

Exercise Physiology in Health & Disease

This module integrates basic concepts and contemporary scientific information surrounding acute and chronic responses to exercise in health and disease. The systems-led module explores the pulmonary, cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems required to sustain exercise and the adaptations of these systems in response to exercise training.

Experimental Techniques in Human Physiology

This module features investigative laboratory based teaching running over two semesters. In semester 1, students develop their knowledge of the principles of experimental design. Experiments are included which familiarize students with some of the methods used in modern physiological research. In Semester 2, the emphasis is on experimental approaches into normal physiology in humans and how to analyze and present data in appropriate formats.

Topics in Human Physiology

In this module students encounter a variety of important discoveries and concepts in physiological research, which will enrich their understanding of the whole area of biomedical sciences. Students discuss key topics in physiology with the guidance of experienced researchers, and communicate their findings in tutorial sessions. The tutorial sessions allow students to examine areas of specific interest more closely, providing a solid foundation for understanding current research topics in their final year.

Human Physiology Year 3

Advanced Scientific Skills

A tutorial based module dealing with advanced scientific data analysis and interpretation. Many of the topics in this module are related to the research strengths and interests of the Faculty.

Advanced topics in Physiology 1 and 2

Students are able to choose a minimum of five topics from a shortlist of subjects which reflect current research in the physiological sciences.

Inherited Disorders

The syllabus will comprise of a general introduction to the study of inherited disorders and the general principles involved in the study of a diverse range of inherited disorders. Web-based resources will be used for these studies, and each student gains excellent transferable skills in oral presentation or written report writing.

Cellular Cardiology

The 12 lectures in this module lead you on an in-depth analysis of how the heart works from a cellular perspective. The module starts with a description of how and why electrical activity varies in different tissues of the heart and continues on to describe the cellular mechanisms underlying the regulation of intracellular calcium which controls the force of contraction. The final 4 lectures are concerned with modulation of the strength of contraction by exercise, muscle length and autonomic regulation.

Systems Neurophysiology

The module System Neurophysiology is aiming for a broad understanding of neural circuits of the brain. The main focus of twelve lectures is on the emotional motor system. This includes the integration of sensory information from the body in brainstem circuits controlling homeostatic functions. Later the links and interactions between the brainstem functions to the limbic system which controls the emotions is further explored in detail to reveal the current knowledge of the fundamental organization of the body and mind interface.

Module Details

This link takes you to detailed information (on another part of the University of Leeds website) about this degree for the 2012/13 academic year. Please bear in mind that programme details may change and that entry requirements refer to previous years.practical session

Research Projects

Final year students choose an individual project from a wide range of topics to suit their interests and career aspirations. The project is an original study which may be laboratory-based or a critical review of the literature. Alternatively, students may develop an educational package for use in teaching or a “Science and Society” activity for communicating our science to the general public. All projects are supervised by an academic member of staff. These projects are an important way for students to learn about independent scientific research and develop important skills for future employment.

Recent examples include:

Gene expression in disease (laboratory research project) - Supervisor: Dr Ian Wood

My lab is interested in the mechanisms that regulate the levels of expression of genes, and how a disruption to these mechanisms plays a role in disease processes. One protein that plays a pivotal role in regulating many genes in different cell types is the transcription factor REST. REST is expressed mainly in non-neuronal cells and reduced expression of REST is associated with many cancer, vascular proliferative disease and cardiac hypertrophy. This project will use biochemical (including molecular biology, PCR, ELISA and cloning), cell culture (bacterial, yeast and mammalian cell culture) techniques and would be appropriate for any bright, hardworking, conscientious individual with an interest in gaining state of the art, molecular biology experience.

Computer modelling of cellular changes associated with ventricular hypertrophy (computer modelling project) - Supervisor: Dr Simon Harrison

Left ventricular hypertrophy occurs as a consequence of systemic hypertension, a condition which is increasingly prevalent in the western world. Left ventricular hypertrophy is associated with aberrant gene expression which affects cellular function and consequently the function of the heart as a whole. The aim of the proposed project is to use a well characterized and respected computer model to compare function in normal tissue with that in the hypertrophied myocardium. A variety of directions could be pursued depending on the interests of the student. One example would be to investigate the impact of changes in ion channel/exchanger expression which occur during the development of hypertrophy to assess their impact on action potential configuration, contraction and regulation of cytoplasmic Ca2+.

Making science fun (science and society project) - Supervisor: Dr Dave Lewis

This project will involve working with a secondary school in Leeds or the surrounding area and contributing to the science curriculum in a novel, informative and engaging manner. The project will entail meeting with science teachers to discuss teaching sessions, delivering scientific material in line with the curriculum, evaluating students understanding of material and success of your teaching. It could involve running teaching sessions during the day or an after school science club. The School you will be working with will be arranged for you. This project is ideal for a student who is outgoing, has good communication skills and can interact with children in a manner which inspires enthusiasm. This project may be of interest to students wishing to pursue a career in teaching or science communication.

Some of our students have been fortunate enough to get their final year research project data published in a scientific journal..

MBiol Course Structure

To find out more about how the MBiol differs from the BSc programme, download our PDF guide to MBiol degrees.

Visit the Undergraduate School pages to find out more about studying in the Faculty of Biological Sciences Undergraduate School.

Please be aware that course details do change from time to time. ...

... If in doubt, please contact us to verify course content and availability. Whilst the University endeavours to ensure that the information on this website is accurate at the date of publication it does not accept liability for any inaccuracies. The University reserves the right to change or cancel its courses or services at any time without liability even after students have registered at the University. The University's contract with its students does not confer third party benefits for the purposes of Contracts (Right of Third Parties) Act 1999.


Teaching and Assessment

Samantha Spratley did a research placementOur approach to teaching and learning is based around developing your knowledge and skills, and training you to be independent and to think critically. This means that you will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials with additional time allocated to private study, project work and laboratory practicals, the balance of which will vary through your course and as you become more confident and experienced. At Leeds you will learn in many different ways:

Typical timetable (3 year BSc)

  • A typical week in year one includes twelve hours of lectures, a three hour practical session in the lab, additional tutorial, workshop and seminar sessions, plus private study.
  • Year two consists of around eight to ten lectures per week, four hours in the lab either on a single practical or ongoing project, additional tutorial, workshop and seminar sessions, plus private study time.
  • In year three you will have around eight lectures per week and tutorial and seminar sessions (Semester One). Your research project will take around three days per week (Semester Two), you will also attend three to six lectures per week, plus private study time.


We use a variety of assessment methods including:

  • reports
  • multiple-choice testing
  • practical work
  • data handling and problem-solving exercises
  • group work
  • discussion groups (physical and online),
  • computer-based simulation
  • essays
  • posters
  • oral presentations.

Current assessment details for each individual module can be accessed via the programme catalogue.


Human Physiology graduates enjoy excellent career prospects as their training opens up opportunities in scientific and non-scientific careers alike. Our Human Physiology programmes foster the development of transferable skills which are highly valued by employers throughout the world.

Marc Fadden - Practical"Physiology is a brilliantly run course. You can choose optional modules and tailor the course to suit you. I gained so many transferable skills such as presentation skills, report writing and working in teams. I’m currently a 1st year medical student at Leeds. My degree has been a huge help as 1st year medicine is all biomedical sciences, so I’ve had quite an advantage."

Marc Fadden, BSc Physiology, 2007

Human Physiology Careers

View scientific careers

Many of our graduates use their first degree as a stepping stone to medicine and health care professions. Graduates also work in research institutes, academia and forensics.

View non-scientific professions

Our graduates acquire skills of numeracy, analytical thinking, creativity in problem solving and data handling, all of which equip them for jobs in non-scientific careers such as sales and marketing, accountancy, finance, patent work and journalism.

View further study

The most popular single destination for our graduates is further study including PhD, Masters, Medicine and Physiotherapy.

Careers Support

Faculty careers events

We organise regular careers workshops especially for biological sciences students. We also organise an annual Bioscience Careers Networking Event, offering a chance to meet bioscience employers, speak to alumni, attend workshops and get masses of information. Browse the careers fair photo gallery.

University Careers Service

Our on-campus Careers Centre is one of the largest in the country, with experienced advisers and strong relationships with graduate recruiters. The Careers Centre will help you to find out how to develop your employability right from the start and get long-term support after you graduate. Find out what the Careers Centre has to offer. .

Gaining work experience

Work experience is increasingly important in a competitive job market and Leeds offers many opportunities to develop skills valuable to employers, including our industrial placement and year abroad schemes, laboratory placement schemes, and volunteering via Leeds for Life..

Industrial Advisory Board

Our Industrial Advisory Board gives employers the chance to input directly into programme and module content. This ensures that our programmes include appropriate training and skills so that our students and graduates are desirable to a broad range of graduate employers.

Join a global network of Leeds graduates

A remarkable variety of opportunities result from our relationships with our graduates, including access to the Leeds Graduate Careers Network.

ECG - electrocardiograph
Recent graduate jobs include:
Recent graduate employers include:
  • Accountancy Assistant
  • Associate Scientist
  • Cardiac Physiologist
  • Embryologist
  • Medical Representative
  • Research Associate
  • AstraZeneca
  • Merck Sharp & Dome
  • NHS
  • Primary Care Trust
  • University of Nottingham

Read about more BSc Human Physiology graduates...

Careers resources

For more information on our approach to graduate employability, please see: www.leeds.ac.uk/employability


Students' Experiences

Sigourney BellSigourney

Sigourney was Vice-President of FoBSoc by the end of her first year.

"The way the course is run at Leeds gives you the opportunity to find what you’re most interested in and tailor your degree."

Richard WestleyLab Session

Richard was attracted by a perfect combination of cutting-edge research, attractive module choices and career options.

“The dissection sessions backed up lectures where the anatomy of certain organs were been discussed, which is often hard to appreciate without having seen them for real.”

See more student profiles.

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