Physiology & Pharmacology

Department of Life Sciences

Physiology is the scientific study of how living organisms function, while pharmacology studies the effects of drugs on these organisms, especially in the treatment of disease. Focus is placed on understanding the major organ systems, and changes in these systems caused by disease.

The teams’ research in neuronal, epithelial, cardiovascular, endocrine and respiratory physiology, pharmacology, cell biology and pathology ensures that the latest developments inform teaching in this area across a wide range of disciplines. In particular, an understanding of physiology and pharmacology underpins good biomedical practice and provides the scientific foundation for all professions related to human health and disease.

Areas of Excellence

The BSc (Hons) Clinical Physiology is unique, being the first and only programme of its kind in Scotland. This programme was developed to provide a high-quality honours degree in Scotland which can meet the needs of the profession and of the NHS in Scotland; this was a priority for the Scottish Government Health department, as described in the policy document Safe, Accurate and Effective; an action plan for Healthcare Science (Recommendation 8.1).

Research strengths:

The Physiology and Pharmacology team have links with the Institute of Applied Health Diabetes Research Group, in particular in regulation of islet function, and the link between diabetes and obesity and development of chronic pain conditions.
Other areas of research excellence include:

  • Epithelial Transport
  • Exocrine Secretion
  • In vivo behavioural pharmacology
  • Vascular Pharmacology

Programmes to consider

Academic Staff

  • Dr Fiona Andersen
  • Dr Alistair Corbett
  • Dr Ann Corbett
  • Dr Yvonne Dempsie
  • Dr Sharron Dolan
  • Dr Allison Grant
  • Dr Elaine Gribben
  • Dr Sadie Gow
  • Dr Jane Nally
  • Dr Joyce Nicol
  • Dr Steven Patterson
  • Dr Jim Reilly
  • Dr Angus Shaw
  • Dr Les Wood


The BSc (Hons) Clinical Physiology programme is accredited by the professional body, the Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists (RCCP).

Industry Links

Biopta are a Life Science spin out company from GCU who supervise project students and internships.

Collaboration and financial support for epithelial biology work.

Research collaboration (Dr Dolan)

Contact with NHS employers who employ the trainees and also senior Clinical Services managers regarding workforce planning issues; works with consultants and senior practitioners delivering specialist education during block weeks.

Involved in consultation events regarding future developments in Healthcare Science education such as Modernising Scientific Careers; also involved in development and planning of current/future Healthcare Science provision.


Working in partnership with the GCU Careers Service, we have created the BIO Employability Exit (BEE) initiative to integrate tailored and specific careers, and employability guidance through a series of preparatory workshops embedded throughout the MSc programmes in order to empower graduates to understand the value of transferable 21st century graduate attributes, PDP and employability skills. The funding from Real WoRLD has facilitated the creation of the BEE initiative and includes:

  • Development and delivery of a number of career development and employability workshops
  • BIO internships programme
  • Creation of employer seminar series
  • BIO Careers Net online community
  • BIO Job Club (which runs on a bi-monthly basis offering drop-in sessions for current students and graduates)
  • Forum Theatre interactive employer networking event

The Skills for Professional Practice in Biosciences 2 module (MMC921295) embeds career development as a core subject and students are taught by the SHLS University Careers Adviser on this module. Students are taken through four weeks or developing a career plan, looking at skills and techniques of the UK and global employment markets, preparation of CVs, interview skills, etc. - all tailored towards GCU's 21st Century Graduate Attributes. This module is taken by all programmes on the BIO Masters Suite.

Globally Networked

  • Targets for international students include the Gulf States, Brazil and Saudia Arabia, as well as India and China.
  • Links with the UCSD (USA); Chinese University of Hong Kong; Hong Kong Polytechnic University; Paracelsus University, Salzburg, Austria; St George’s University, Grenada, West Indies (Douglas Bovell)
  • Links with the Diabetes research group at the University of Ulster and at Uppsala University, as well as industrial links with MSD (Stephen Patterson).
  • Links with the Institute of Health Science (Oman) providing a Bridging Programme and Honours Programme for Medical Lab Scientists (Sadie Gow).