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Course Breakdown


Mid-Semester Test: 10%
Laboratory Component: 10%
Fertility Assignment: 10%
Exam: 70%

Course Information


Recommended textbooks:
Essential Reproduction - Johnson
Human Reproductive Biology - Jones & Lopez
Official UoA Website: link.

Basic Information

This course is based on the biology of reproduction from the standpoints of anatomy, biochemistry, and physiology. Here you will meet concepts ranging from the stark and cruel realities of infertility, the popcorn hypothesis of follicular maturation, as well as the evolution of menopause. Learning about the disorders of reproduction, molecular methods to detect problems, and technological advances to manage contraception and fertility, all give a unique flavour of what it is like to be a clinician in this field. Although there are rumours suggesting that this is an easy A+ course, we would suggest reconsideration of your decision. Although the course is exciting and there are only two lectures a week, essays in the exam require you to know everything that is mentioned in the lectures and more. The Fertility Assignment and Lab Reports are not marked leniently and extra readings are recommended. Yes, it is expected that you do extra readings to do really well. (However, some would argue that going into these efforts was unnecessary). As a bonus there was a prize of $500 for the top in the class in 2017.

The first test covers 8 lectures in the form of Short Answer Questions. These 8 lectures are covered over a period of 5 weeks so it is quite manageable. Lecture slides are printed out in the course guide so it is very handy to make notes on these. The final exam includes MCQs and 4 essays (from a choice of 6 essays). On top of 3 lab reports, there is a Fertility Essay based on a Case Study. Forewarning: The Fertility Assignment in 2017 was quite harshly marked and a number of students in our cohort complained. In particular, the assignment was very stringent on its quality and range of content to be covered, most of which was beyond the scope given in the question itself. 

In 2017, it was noted by members of the cohort that the course itself wasn't as well organised relative to other Medsci Courses (Stage II or Stage III). There seems to have been a level of miscommunication regarding due dates for lab reports, and some streams having access to marking rubrics while others didn't. This had been brought up with the Co-Ordinator, and we are hopeful that the course will run much more smoothly in the years to come. 


Laboratory Component

In this course you have to do 3 lab reports. They are fairly straightforward but you are not given much formal guidance in terms of what you should write in your lab reports as compared to Stage II or other Stage III papers. That being said, Lynsey, Jo and Anna point you in the right direction during the labs. It is worth noting that reports are not a piece of cake. Although they don't take too much time, they are marked pretty harshly so our advice would be to approach them with care and get as much help from lecturers/demonstrators as possible in terms of presentation.


Lecture Content

Dr Lynsee Cree

Dr. Cree was the course co-ordinator in 2017. She began the course with 2 lectures on the molecular methods in reproduction and a lecture on the Male Reproductive System. After the break, she also lectured on In Vitro Fertilisation and the Sexual Differentiation of the fetus. The topic of molecular methods is exciting for some but dull for others as it is does not seem very relevant to the physiology of reproductive biology. Dr Lynsey is a very straightforward lecturer. Going through her lecture recording could be beneficial, as well as reading a few pages of the textbook to answer her question on the sexual differentiation of the fetus. She will generally tell you what she expects if her essay was to come up in the exam. You should expect ~1 question from these two lectures in the exam.


Dr Anna Ponnampalam

Dr Anna Ponnampalam is a new lecturer in 2017. She was the second lecturer in 2017, and lectured a number of times during the course of the semester. These included 2 lectures on Reproductive Endocrinology/Steroid Hormones, a lecture on Immunoassays, and ELISA. Her lecture style is very straightforward and is open to re-explaining her content if necessary. One such example was the biosynthesis of steroid hormones. She was also present at all the labs and tutored the ELISA lab. 


Professor Andrew Shelling

Professor Shelling is one of the most passionate lecturers in the department. Over 6 lectures, he covered Ovarian Structure and Function, Reproductive Disorders, Puberty and Menopause.  There is a lot of content to be learned but it is relatively simple – facts, symptoms, names, etc. To do well in his section, he suggests, not only should you parrot everything he has mentioned, but also show off extra relevant knowledge learned from journal articles, newspapers, or YouTube videos. In 2017, there was a Fertility Assignment that was based on his content, in addition to a Fertility NZ Lecture Session which was an eye-opener into the reality of the struggle associated with infertility. 


Professor Larry Chamley

Larry is a charismatic lecturer. This makes it relatively enjoyable to go through contraceptives, assisted reproductive technologies, and reproductive cloning. At times lectures seem to go off on great tangents but don't let that catch you off guard - still do pay attention! You should expect ~1-2 essays from these lectures in the exam. Don’t forget that Larry still loves testing on his ‘numbers’! He also took one of the lab streams for the ELISA lab and is very conservative in the amount of guidance he provides. He does have relatively high expectations so do bear that in mind when starting the report. 


Dr Joanna James

Dr. James returned to Medsci 313 in 2017 to teach 3 lectures on Implantation/Fertilisation, the physiology of Pregnancy, Labour and Preterm Labour. There is a lot of information, but it is physiology at last, and her lecture style is easy going and straightforward to follow. There is some overlap with Medsci 311 in this section; which is a bonus because you can show off your extra knowledge without putting in too much effort. Dr James also takes the lab on Immunoassays which focuses on Placental Tissue. Extra readings from her suggested list could be beneficial for essays and the lab report if you choose to do hers.