In 2005 the separate Departments of Anatomy and Physiology proposed to the University the establishment of a single Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience. The proposal followed extensive discussions and consultation, involving the Council of the School of the Biological Sciences, the Faculty Board of Clinical Medicine, the Faculty Board of Biology, and the staff of the two Departments.
The two Departments already shared common areas of research interests. Thus, one of the principal aims of the merger was to create a Department with significant critical mass and a modernised infrastructure, that would be well-placed to attract grant funding and develop an international reputation at the cutting edge of bioscience research. This improved research environment provides for enhanced opportunities to recruit of research fellows, postdoctoral workers, and graduate students.
The merged Department has four basic research areas: namely Cellular and Systems Physiology, Developmental and Reproductive Biology, Neuroscience, and Form and Function. Each of these areas spans research from the genetic and molecular level to the level of the functioning systems and behaving organism, reflecting the integrative nature of the Department's research.
The new institution is looking to enhance its research capabilities further through the establishment of a biomedical research unit, centred around an appointment to a proposed new Professorship of Molecular Biology in the field of Integrative Biology for which an endowment has been received through the will of Dr Herchel Smith.
The creation of a new Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience provides scope for restructuring teaching Both the Departments of Anatomy and Physiology made major contributions to the preclinical teaching of medical and veterinary students. In recent years the teaching load has increased as a result of rising student numbers, the implementation of requirements of the professional bodies (namely the General Medical Council and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) and the proliferation of courses and practical sessions to meet those demands.
The merger makes possible the integration of courses currently taught separately to medical and veterinary students and natural science students. In addition, the creation of one integrated Department facilitates increased collaboration with the Clinical School in both preclinical and clinical teaching, and the development of a more structured training programme at the postgraduate level to meet the expectations of the Research Councils and the students.
A major programme of refurbishment accompanies the merger and new research facilities in the Physiology building are already nearing completion with the support of SRIF-2 funding. The needs of the merged Department will be given a high priority for funding through further infrastructure initiatives.
The merger also creates significant economies of space and greater efficiency in the use of core facilities with, for example, a single library. This merged institution also provide opportunities for cost-effective financial management policies and savings in recurrent costs, together with scope, through research grant funding.