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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience


The 2022-3 course

The course organiser is yet to be decided but may well remain as Prof. Matt Mason (

Please note that after many years of outstanding service, Howard Davies has now retired. Our new Chief Teaching Technician in PDN is Lorna Roberts (

For the PDN practical classes, we plan to continue what we did last year with the 12-1 slots, i.e. keep them as online preparatory sessions. The students are supposed to use this time to review the debrief sheet from the last class, and prepare for the class that will start at 2PM that day. Demonstrator support will be available throughout the 12-1 slot on Zoom, if they have any questions. 

We will continue to use the Moodle "book" structure introduced last year. All the lecture and practical material is within the "Course Material" section of that site. The idea is that all work is presented within these Moodle books, in weekly modules. The students can see how long each exercise should take and should work through each book before the completion date for that module. We recommend that you consider the completion date for each Moodle book module (generally a Wednesday), and supervise on that module after that completion date, at which point the students should have gone through all that material.

Lent and Easter term material from Plant Sciences and Zoology may or may not follow this same format, depending on the views of those departments.

We have no information yet about the exam format in the coming academic year, but we presume that exams will be taken within the Inspera system.

Please ask Mel Quy (mq200) to enrol you in our new Moodle site for supervisors, which offers help, advice and training for all supervisors involved in PDN subjects.

I would be very happy to answer any questions you may have.

Matt Mason

Department of PDN, July 2022


General information

Physiology of Organisms is the first-year physiology course for natural science students. Taking a comparative physiological focus, PoO combines lectures from PDN, Plant Sciences and Zoology. Many Colleges have two PoO supervisors, representing the 'animal' and 'plant' side of the course, but a few use the same supervisor to cover all the lectures. The plant physiology is taught as a block in the last six weeks of the Lent term. As well as the lecture material, PoO supervisors are expected to cover the experimental physiology practical classes which the students take as part of this course; there is a practical paper set as part of the June exam. If you wish to attend a practical class to get a better feel for what it is all about, please contact Prof. Matt Mason (

The PoO Moodle site describes the lectures in this course and holds all the course material. It is designed primarily for those students enrolled on the course but it also includes a Moodle 'book' for PoO supervisors, which gives advice and guidance about supervising in general, as well as hints and tips specific to Physiology of Organisms supervisions. Please note that this "Information for Supervisors" section should be visible on the main PoO title page, but it is not visible to students. If you cannot see it, it may be that you are not enrolled as a supervisor: please contact Mel Quy ( and ask her to put you on the list and give you access.

We also have an open-access Physiology of Organisms website, designed to give basic information for those outside Cambridge, for example potential applicants or new arrivals.

When advising new students about this course, Directors of Studies should be aware of potential conflicts between the 12-1 PM component of the Physiology of Organisms practical classes which would be either on Wednesdays or Fridays according to group allocation, and other 1A courses - Earth Sciences, for example. The first hour of the PoO practicals from 12-1 PM represents a preparatory session in which students are invited to look over the practical class to come, and the debrief sheet from the last one, and ask any questions they might have. That hour is spent at home (Q&As are online), so students could do this work at another time if there were a timetable conflict and ask questions in the live part of the practical class, if necessary. They should come at 2 PM to the Experimental Laboratory in the Michaelmas term for the practical part of the class.

We have noticed that several Colleges have in the past arranged supervisions during scheduled PoO practical class times (12-1 and 2-5 PM Wednesdays and Fridays, every two weeks in the Michaelmas term). Several students were having to leave the classes before finishing their practicals in order to attend their supervisions. Others were missing practical classes because of tutorial or DoS meetings. The practical classes are an essential part of the Physiology course, and an area that many students struggle with: we would be grateful if Directors of Studies would please make sure that their Colleges do not present the students with these timetabling conflicts!