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Course Breakdown


Mid-Semester Test: 10%
Laboratory Component: 15%
Poster Presentation: 5%
Literature Review: 10%
Exam: 60%

Course Information


Recommended textbooks:
Physiology, Berne RM & Levy MN, 6th ed.
Textbook of Medical Physiology, Guyton & Hall.

Official UoA Website: link.

Basic Information

Medsci 311 is a paper that doesn’t deserve its bad press. It is an enjoyable paper comprising of exciting laboratory components, stimulating lecture content, and extremely helpful lecturers. At its crux, the course wishes to produce autonomous thinkers and competent scientists. Reading journal articles that are often written by the respective lecturers, producing your own experiments, presenting a poster and working in a team are some such core values 311 wishes to pass on. There are only 2 lectures a week so there is plenty of time to read and appreciate the cardiovascular system.

Tips on how to do well:

  • Read journal articles and textbook where relevant

  • Discuss ideas with peers

  • Make friends with your lab group

  • Make friends with lecturers

  • Talk to seniors for tips

  • Practice essays 


Laboratory Component

Medsci 311 has 2 laboratory assignments, the Cardiovascular Function Lab and the Cardiovascular Control Lab (aka Sheep Lab). Each lab component will receive a 4-week span to complete. The lab in the first week will be a preparatory session, the second will be the actual experiment, the third will be a data-analysis session, and the fourth week will be an off week to do the lab report. Due to smaller lab groups for this course, when you have each 4-week lab set is variable, however this will be explained to you. 

Firstly, the sheep lab. Arguably one of the best labs of Stage III. The crux of this lab is to understand the effects of increased/decreased blood volume and inotropes on the ventricular function curve of an anaesthetised sheep. This is achieved in groups of 5-6. During this lab, you will be assigned a role out of the computer person, the anaesthetist and 2 surgeons. With the aid of a lecturer and a lab demonstrator you’ll be given the opportunity to monitor an anaesthetised sheep and place various catheters to generate a ventricular function curve. The second lab series involves the production of your own experiment/intervention based on the apparatus provided. The best thing to do would be to explore the experiment in week 1 followed by some research of interventions produced by others in scientific journals before planning your own experiments. 

There are only 2 Lab reports but they are worth a lot! Best advice that we could give would be to ask heaps of questions during the data-analysis lab session. They should give hints as to what they expect as they are the ones who will mark. Overall, personally I would rate MEDSCI 311 labs as one of my favourite experiences of my degree.

In addition to the labs, there is also a poster presentation component based on the cardiovascular control lab. This involves making a poster in your lab group and then presenting it to a few lecturers like those good old Science Fairs in intermediate school. Finally, there is a literature review based on the topic of your choice. Bear in mind that the topic must be cardiovascular related and one that is currently in contention. This task seems daunting but is more than possible to do well in. To not only do well, but also appreciate the experience, make sure you choose a topic that you are genuinely interested in. Have a look at other published reviews to get a feel for how literature reviews are structured and written to produce a cohesive understanding of the various perspectives and theories that exist surrounding the topic.  As of S1 2017, Anuj produced a web-based resource to help you guide you along this process as well as a CANVAS Conference to answer specific questions. I would highly recommend you have a look at both resources to get you underway.


Lecture Content

Module A: Cardiac and Vascular Function

The first 3 lectures in addition to lecture 6 and 7 were taught by Associate Prof. LeGrice in 2017. The content includes revision of his section from Medsci 205, an in-depth understanding into the mechanics of the ventricular walls, and the intrinsic and extrinsic regulation of the heart and the regulation of vascular function. Understanding this material requires self-discipline – make sure to read back on notes from Medsci 205, read articles written by LeGrice et al., and better still contact him if you are confused. Note that this is not a section you can memorise straight off the bat. It is a very conceptual section, so don’t worry if it takes a bit of doing to understand the content. Please also note that we were made aware at the end of the semester that Ian was retiring at the end of the year so it is very likely that Ian will not be taking this section in the future. ​


Module B: Cardiac Pharmacology and Disease

This is a 5 lecture series taught by Dr. Kim Mellor and Anuj Bhargava. Dr. Kim Mellor is the second lecturer in this course, however her 2 lectures are bookended with Ian LeGrice. Her lectures were an extension of her section in Medsci 205 and incorporated a fair amount of her research on cardiac dysfunction, especially in regard with diabetes. Similar to Medsci 205, Dr. Mellor’s slides are incredibly helpful with understanding the content and her lectures take you step by step through the concepts presented. The next 3 lectures are taught by Anuj Bhargava. This series is about heart failure and arrhythmias. To do well in this section it is crucial to pay attention to what is said by Anuj and read the journal articles he puts on CANVAS. There is an emphasis on the physiological mechanisms of the drugs used in treating heart failure which was a very interesting part of the course. 


Module C: Cardiovascular Control

This is a 7-lecture series; the first 2 lectures are presented by Dr. Fiona McBryde, the next 2 were presented by Dr. Rohit Ramchandra and the final 3 lectures are by Dr. Carolyn Barrett. These lectures cover the role of sympathetic nervous activity in the physiology and pathophysiology in short term and long term regulation of blood pressure. Fiona’s lectures are well presented; however, it could be worth having look at journal articles to deepen your understanding. Rohit’s lectures are well covered in an article written by Simon Malpas that was available on CANVAS (or easily accessible on the database). Alternatively, the textbook could do the work but this will not include an understanding of recent endeavours. Carolyn’s first two lectures are covered well in Guyton and Hall textbook Chapter 19. Her final lecture was a little more challenging and is best explained in the articles that she refers to during the lecture if not the lecture itself. ​


Module D: Fetal Physiology

The first lecture was taken by Prof. Laura Bennet and was a refresher of the fetal physiology covered in Medsci 205. The following 2 lectures were taken by Dr. Robert Galinsky regarding infection and pre-term birth. These lectures were well covered and explained. However, it is important to note that similar to Medsci 205 neither Dr. Bennet’s or Dr. Galinsky’s lectures were recorded in S1 of 2017. Dr. Mhoyra Fraser followed with a lecture on Glucocorticoids and fetal programming while Prof Peter Stone finished the course with a clinical lecture to consolidate the content provided in this section. For this section, be aware of hints given as well as the readings referenced in the lecture.

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