University of Otago.Department of Physiology.Department of Physiology.

Physiology TV

An overview of Physiology at the University of Otago.


9th January, 2018

Otago breakthrough in diabetic heart disease

The molecule responsible for heart disease in diabetics has been identified by University of Otago researchers, greatly improving chances of survival.

13th November, 2017

Otago study could mean hope for infertile couples

Crucial new information about how the brain controls fertility has been unlocked by University of Otago researchers, with their findings just published in prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

13th November, 2017

Phenomenal success for Physiology researchers in latest Marsden funding round

Four 3-year project grants were awarded to Department of Physiology researchers in this year’s Marsden Fund - totalling over $3.8M.

25th October, 2017

Charlotte Steel, BSc (Hons) NEUR student in the Department has gained a Cambridge Rutherford Memorial PhD Scholarship

Our congratulations to Charlotte who is currently completing a BSc (Hons) degree in Neuroscience in the Department of Physiology with supervisor Assoc Prof Phil Sheard.

8th September, 2017

PhD student wins two awards at Queenstown Research Week

Congratulations to Mauro Silva, PhD student in the Department of Physiology. Mauro is supervised by Dr Rebecca Campbell.

Next Event

22nd January, 2018

Dr. rer. nat. Fenja Knopp (Excellence Cluster Cardio-Pulmonary System, Justus-Liebig University, Giessen, Germany)

PhD Programme.
Course Advice About Physiology

Department of Physiology

The Department of Physiology at the University of Otago is the largest Department of Physiology in New Zealand. Established in 1905, the Otago Department of Physiology celebrated its 100th anniversary in mid-2005. Over the years we have made major contributions to undergraduate science, physical education, medical, dental, pharmacy and physiotherapy education and we are one of the larger departments in the University. We have contributed strongly to biomedical research both nationally and internationally and have trained many postgraduates, a number of whom have attained a high international reputation for their research.

The Department of Physiology is part of the Otago School of Medical Sciences (OSMS) in the Division of Health Sciences.

Health Sciences is one of the four academic Divisions in the University, the others being Commerce, Humanities, and Sciences. Although the Department is administered by the Division of Health Sciences, it is closely allied academically with the Division of Sciences through its BSc programme and the teaching of physical education, human nutrition and neuroscience students. The Department of Physiology also has research collaborations within both Health Sciences and Sciences.

The Division of Health Sciences comprises the Faculty of Medicine (Otago School of Medical Sciences; Dunedin School of Medicine; University of Otago, Christchurch; and University of Otago, Wellington), the Faculty/School of Dentistry and the Schools of Pharmacy and of Physiotherapy.

The Faculty of Medicine is also referred to as the Otago Medical School which was founded in 1874 and, until the establishment of the University of Auckland School of Medicine, in 1967, was the only Medical School in New Zealand.


The OSMS was established at the beginning of 1996 and comprises the Departments of Anatomy; Biochemistry; Microbiology and Immunology; Pharmacology and Toxicology; and Physiology.


Leadership and management are provided by a Head, Professor Brian Hyland, and the Department operates via departmental meetings, committees and ad hoc working parties. The Department is a Cost Centre within the OSMS, giving it the flexibility to manage its own finances, establish its own priorities and act accordingly.

The Department currently employs almost 100 staff.

For further information on our people, please see Our People.


Academic and research-support staff in the 21 research laboratory groups of the Department are engaged in high quality, internationally-recognised physiological research focussed on the three themes of Cardiovascular & Respiratory Physiology, Cellular & Molecular Neuroscience and Membrane & Ion Transport. In the laboratories a range of state-of-the-art technologies, including the use of transgenic mouse models, are used to undertake integrative, cellular and molecular investigations aimed at understanding animal and human physiology.

The Department, together with the Department of Anatomy, also hosts the University’s Centre of Neuroendocrinology.

Research in the Department is funded currently by international and national research organisations such as the USA National Institutes of Health; EU Framework; Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmBH & Co; Health Research Council of NZ; Foundation for Research, Science and Technology; Royal Society Marsden Fund; Animal Health Board; Lottery Health; Neurological Foundation; National Kidney Foundation; National Heart Foundation; Arthritis Foundation; Otago Medical Research Foundation; and the Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust. Individual researchers within the Department maintain strong collaborative links with other Departments within the University and multiple Australasian, European and US laboratories.

Much of the Department’s research is published in high-ranking international journals. For details please visit the personal webpages of our academic staff members.


The Department offers two undergraduate degrees, a BSc/BSc(Hons) in Physiology or a BBiomedSc/BBiomedSc(Hons) in Functional Human Biology. The papers associated with these degrees include three second-year papers:

and five third-year papers

In addition the Department contributes to an interdepartmental BSc and BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience, to the Health Sciences First Year papers and to undergraduate medical education (Early Learning in Medicine (ELM) years 2 and 3). We also provide a 200-level paper (“PHSL” 251) for other health science professionals (Dentistry, Medical Laboratory Science, Pharmacy, and Physiotherapy) and Human Nutrition students. Overall, we teach more than 3,500 individual students over the course of the academic year.

The aim in all our papers is that they are in the main research-informed, focus on concept rather than detail, and provide students with the ability to apply what they learn to the understanding of everyday physiological situations and to gain generic skills relevant to their future careers.

Postgraduate Students

Postgraduate study is undertaken in one of the following programmes: by papers and thesis for 400-level BSc(Hons), PGDipSci and first year MSc students; by thesis for BBiomedSc(Hons), second year MSc, BMedSc (Hons), MMedSc and PhD students.

We currently have 52 postgraduate students – some are co-supervised with other departments. Each student has not only a supervisor but also an Advisor (400-level) or an Advisory Committee (thesis students).

Physical Resources

The Department is housed in the Medical School complex and occupies three floors of the Lindo Ferguson Building, with additional space in three adjacent buildings – ground, 1st & 2nd floor of Scott, 3rd floor of Hercus and 1st & 2nd floor of Wellcome. We have a range of research facilities.

Housed within this space are communal research facilities such as:

The Department also hosts:

Having a Summer Research Scholarship opened up a lot more opportunities for me to explore my career potentials. I strongly recommend taking up this opportunity because it definitely gave me the confidence and skills essential for my future endeavors.

Aye Thaung - Summer Research Student 2010/2011