Study Physiology and Pharmacology

What is physiology and pharmacology?

Physiology is the branch of biology and health science that concerns the study of organs in animals, plants and microorganisms. Both the individual role of specific organs, and their contribution to larger systems within the body are considered.

There are both theoretical and applied elements of physiology. Theoretical physiology focuses on molecular systems. This moves beyond simply understanding the makeup of molecules and into how they contribute to the function of larger systems.

Neurology and neuroscience are part of physiology and intertwine the theoretical and the applied streams. Our understanding of the brain, this most complex of organs, is an ever-evolving field.

Applied physiology has relevance to medicine, veterinary sciences and agriculture, among other fields. It centres on the physical functions of organs within a system. In medicine and veterinary science, this often involves comparisons of healthy and diseased organs, to devise potential treatments and prevention for diseases. Within agriculture, physiologists use their understanding of plant and animal function to increase farming yields and contribute to projects concerning genetic improvement.

Physiology provides opportunities to research and practice on a molecular level, through to large-scale bodily systems. Physiology contributes much to our understanding of plants and animals, and how they interact within certain systems and conditions.

A field that has significant crossover with physiology, pharmacology involves the study of the chemical and physical makeup of drugs, and their impacts on living systems.

A core aspect of this involves understanding and accounting for variations in physical responses to medication across patients, whether animal or human. Physiological knowledge is essential to the pharmacology field.

Pharmacology is also concerned with the longer-term impacts of drug intake, both physical and psychological. Exploring how the chemical makeup causes certain drugs to be addictive is a particular consideration. Research in this area can lead to a greater awareness of safe usage and facilitate the creation of alternatives.

Although they sound similar, pharmacology is quite different to pharmacy. Where pharmacology is a field of science that examines the effect of drugs on the body, pharmacy is a healthcare discipline focused on patient wellbeing and the optimal use of medication.

The work of pharmacology comes both before and after the work of pharmacy – first in understanding new drugs, and then in examining the makeup, use and effect of existing drugs.

Both physiology and pharmacology have a wide range of applications and connections to other scientific fields. Particularly prominent areas of crossover include biochemistry, ecology, medicine, molecular and cell biology, and veterinary and animal sciences.

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Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences

Understand the origins of physical and chemical responses in plants and animals and make a difference in research or clinical settings.

What do physiologists and pharmacologists do?

The roles and responsibilities of physiologists and pharmacologists vary greatly depending on the field within which they choose to specialise.

Those with an interest in research in physiology and pharmacology apply their abilities to think logically and work methodically to innovate within the field. Employed by government organisations, universities or private companies, they think critically about knowledge gaps and challenges, devise projects, collect data and communicate results to wider audiences.

Physiology in particular has strong applications to medicine. Doctors and surgeons may work as physiology specialists, who focus on treatment and prevention of disease within a specific organ or system. This could include patient consultation, performing surgery, reviewing new and existing treatment plans and providing health information to relevant parties.

Pharmacologists frequently work within a research setting. Many play a vital role in researching, creating and testing drugs before they are made available to patients. Whether on the experimental or clinical side, many work with patients to test human responses to certain drugs and drug combinations. The results may require clear and concise communication to a wide array of interested parties, ranging from governments, right through to the everyday consumer.

Clinical applications of pharmacology attract those who wish to pursue a patient-facing role. Some pharmacologists work within disease management, devising the most effective combination of medication for those with complex or multiple conditions.

Some pharmacologists may choose to apply their research and clinical skills to the assessment of a wider range of products. The chemical background, knowledge of physical systems, and high level of technical and analytical skills can be applied to product development and testing across the food, beauty and agricultural industries, to name a few.

Both physiology and pharmacology specialisations are relevant to several hands-on professional careers. Forensic scientists, exercise physiologists and audiologists all utilise their knowledge and skills within biomedical science to apply reason and logic to the various problems they face within their roles.

With many societies looking to biomedical science to provide solutions to complex 21st century challenges, the diverse skills and foundational knowledge of physiologists and pharmacologists will only increase in importance. Opportunities abound as the field continues to expand and interlink with other industries.

What jobs are there in physiology and pharmacology?

Specialising in Physiology and Pharmacology with a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences gives you the knowledge and skills to work across many fields. While the scientific and healthcare applications are perhaps the most obvious, they are by no means the only opportunities for careers involving these areas.

Education, communications, politics, policy development, law and quality assurance all present unique opportunities for those who can apply their physiology and pharmacology learnings in flexible ways.

The demand for these skills is wide-ranging. You may find yourself working for government or private enterprise, within a laboratory, out in the field or in a clinical setting.

Depending on your interest and skillset, your role could involve working with people, navigating the safety requirements of experimentation with hazardous materials, or incorporating information technology and artificial intelligence into the field.

JCU Biomedical Sciences graduates are equipped with the adaptability and industry connections to embrace roles in metropolitan, regional, rural and remote locations, both domestically and internationally. Your future career could involve any combination of your highly developed analytical, technical, problem-solving and communication skills.

With a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences majoring in Physiology and Pharmacology from JCU, you could explore roles including:

  • Analytical chemist
  • Clinical scientist
  • Exercise physiologist
  • Immunologist
  • Laboratory technician
  • Neuroscientist
  • Pharmacist (further qualifications required)
  • Research scientist
  • Surgeon (further qualifications required)
  • Toxicologist
  • Veterinary surgeon (further qualifications required)
  • Virologist.
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Why study Physiology and Pharmacology at JCU?

When you study Physiology and Pharmacology at JCU, with a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences, you’ll benefit from an education that is future focused. Graduates are equipped to pursue their passion across multiple industries, through an engaging combination of theoretical knowledge and hands-on learning.

Benefit from a degree structure that provides multiple transfer and entry points to related fields. Your biomedical science studies may unearth an interest in medicine, physiotherapy or veterinary science, to name a few. Subjects within the Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences have been designed to align with the learning outcomes of multiple related subjects, meaning you’ll be prepared to tackle whichever specialisation suits your goals.

Hands-on learning is a core priority from your first year. You’ll apply your theoretical understandings to supervised practice through opportunities to work in laboratories, medical settings and real-life workplaces. There’s no substitute for the experience you’ll receive in these environments.

Engage with renowned academics, industry experts and state-of-the-art facilities through your studies at our JCU Townsville campus. Smaller class sizes mean you’ll receive tailored support. The active on-campus student community can connect you to a variety of associations and programs that provide unique opportunities to put your skills into practice in diverse settings.

Discover how a major in Physiology and Pharmacology can equip you for your future. Explore JCU’s Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences today and discover how you can become ready today, for tomorrow.

Headshot of Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences alumni Laura Tengzelius.

Laura Tengzelius


Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences, majoring in Physiology and Pharmacology

"Studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences gives a deeper appreciation of the correlation between human physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, immunology and genetics. At JCU it is a hands-on degree where you get to spend a lot of time in the lab, working with microorganisms, DNA and human tissue. Ultimately, allowing for a better understanding of the behind the scenes of the medical field and community."

Discover Physiology and Pharmacology at JCU

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