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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience



MedST IA Functional Architecture of the Body

Course organiser: Sarah Fawcett (slf43[at]

Course Moodle page (current students only)



The FAB course teaches topographical anatomy of the limbs and trunk mainly through hands-on cadaveric dissection. During practical classes, students also learn with prosected specimens, VH Dissector software and ultrasound scanning. Applied anatomy seminars relate anatomical knowledge to relevant clinical scenarios, with embryological development and more general topics being covered in lectures. The FAB Moodle VLE provides access to the teaching materials required for the course, as well as a variety of learning resources. Students may be interested in the other activities that take place at the Human Anatomy Centre.

Med/VetST IA Histology

Course organisers: Nick Brown (nb117[at] and Milka Sarris (ms543[at]

Course Moodle page (current students only) moodle-logo.png

Please go to Moodle to access the Histology Computer Modules images as pdf files.


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The Histology course aims to:

  • Provide students with an understanding of the microscopic structure of cells and tissues, with emphasis in the correlation between structure and function.
  • Provide a practical experience in the examination of the microscopic anatomy and ultrastructure of cells and tissues to support other Part IA courses, particularly Homeostasis, Functional Architecture of the Body, Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology, and Cell Biology.
  • Provide the basis of understanding of normal tissue structure needed to prepare for certain Part IB courses, such as Biology of Disease, Human Reproduction, and Veterinary Reproductive Biology.

Med/VetST IA Homeostasis

Course organisers: Dino Giussani ([at]

Course Moodle page (current students only) moodle-logo.png



In Homeostasis, you study the physiological systems which underpin the body's regulation of its internal environment and its responses to external threats. This includes nerve function, neuromuscular transmission, muscle, circulation, respiration, excretion, water balance, digestion, absorption, metabolism and thermoregulation. There are related practical classes in experimental physiology and histology (the microscopic structure of tissues).

VetST IA Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology

Course organiser: David Bainbridge (db125[at]




Welcome to the Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology course (VAP). This is the course in which you will first learn about the gross structure of the animal body.

By the end of this year, you will have a detailed knowledge of the general arrangement of many of the body's organ systems, in particular the locomotor, cardiovascular, nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, urinary and digestive system. You will also understand how those systems form in a few fleeting weeks from a single fertilised egg, and also you will hopefully appreciate that the mammalian body has evolved over hundreds of millions of years from simpler ancestral life forms.

Your course is divided into three main portions. (1) You receive up to three lectures a week, and these are usually arranged on a system-by-system basis. (2) There are also up to three practicals a week. Often, but not always, these are wet practicals or dissections, but they are arranged slightly differently. While it makes sense to lecture system-by-system, this is not the order in which structures reveal themselves as you dissect. Because of this, many of the practicals are arranged on a regional basis - for example, many the components of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems are jumbled up together in one region of the body: the thorax. We have also arranged some 'live anatomy' sessions at the Vet School for you to learn to apply some of what you have learnt to the living, breathing, biting, kicking animal. (3) Weekly supervisions will be arranged by your college to help you develop your understanding of the subject and hone your writing skills.

Although anatomy is the study of body structure, it does not exist in a vacuum, and the anatomy you learn will be related constantly to other scientific disciplines - especially physiology. This may take the form of discussions of the biomechanics of elements or the locomotor system, or more formal expression in lectures on comparative aspects of digestive physiology later in the course.

It is probably worth mentioning the things not covered in this course. (1) First, not all body systems are covered this year - the reproductive system and the central nervous system are covered in their own courses in the second year. (2) Second, that most elaborate of all anatomical constructs, the head, gets a course of its own next year. (3) Third, histology, the study of the microscopic structure of the body is covered in the first year Homeostasis course. (4) Finally, in this first year, we will only have time to focus on the major domestic species, and even that coverage will often be biased to certain species, but next year you will take a course on a more varied range of vertebrates.

Anatomy can be an enjoyable, inspiring subject, as long as you try not to get overwhelmed by some of the detail. Some detail is important - especially in certain clinical contexts - but in many cases, a more general view can be more helpful. If you feel the clouds of anatomical confusion closing in on you, then remember to stand back, take a deep breath, look at the big picture, and then ask one of us.

NST Part IA Physiology of Organisms

Course organiser: Matt Mason (Dept. PDN, mjm68[at]

Course website

Course Moodle page (current students only) moodle-logo.png



Physiology is the study of organ systems and how they help the body to deal with challenges. Our course, Physiology of Organisms, looks at and compares animal, plant and microbial physiology. It occupies an important central position within Cambridge's first-year biology courses, providing a wider functional context for the material covered in Biology of Cells while underpinning the broader material covered in Evolution & Behaviour. Physiology forms the foundation for future specialization in fields including neurobiology, pathology and pharmacology - the medical sciences - but our comparative course is also very relevant to zoology and plant sciences, and will be of interest to anyone curious about how living organisms function.

Physiology is a broad and intellectually demanding subject. Over the course of the year you will be asked to consider the latest advances in cell biology and genetics, to use simple maths and physics to model biological systems and to design and control your own experiments to test hypotheses in our exciting practical classes. Our course does not assume knowledge of any particular A2-level course, but some background in biology, chemistry and physics will be useful.

We very much hope that you will choose to read Physiology of Organisms, and that you will enjoy this year's lectures and classes. We believe that at the end of the year you will have found our course to have been not just interesting but also very useful for your future career directions!