Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

Click on an offering mode for more details.

Unit Overview


The content of the unit is divided into several major themes: (1) Membrane transport and electrical phenomena in cells—this is concerned with the physical rules and the molecular mechanisms that govern the movement of salts, solutes and water across cell membranes, how these are linked to cell volume and membrane voltages and how they are coupled in tissues to achieve secretion and absorption that is fundamental to the operation of many organ systems; (2) Electrical and chemical communication between cells, including how nerve cells transmit rapid electrical and chemical signals for information processing in the nervous system, and 'slow' chemical signalling pathways; (3) The cellular basis of sensation and how sensory stimuli are detected by specialised cells and converted into electrical signals for use by the nervous system. This section includes a consideration of the chemo–electrical interactions that occur between cells in early stages of sensory pathways; and (4) Generation of mechanical force by cells, relating molecular processes to functional contraction of skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscles. This section ends with an illustration of how nerve and muscle cells are linked together by synapses to form simple neural circuits controlling muscle contraction and generating reflex contractions of muscle in response to sensory stimuli.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face

Students are able to (1) recall and integrate key knowledge and concepts about membrane transport and function of epithelia, nerve cell function, cellular basis of sensation, and cellular basis of movement; (2) acquire skills in dissection and handling materials for experimentation, use of instrumentation for physiological experimentation and measurement, data recording and analysis including simple use of a spreadsheet, and simple statistical tests; and (3) write clearly in correct scientific style based on their experience gained from laboratory work and reading, use word-processing software to generate a document in prescribed scientific format, and work as a team to explore and present a topic.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) theory examination and (2) continuous assessment. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Peter McFawn and Professor Shane Maloney
Unit rules
Advisable prior study
12 points of any Level 1 biology type units including human biology, biology, sports science, biomedical (IMED) and especially SCIE1106 Molecular Biology of the Cell.
Those without any high-school physics are encouraged to consider taking a suitable Level 1 physics unit.
Knowledge of year 12 chemistry is assumed and those without high school chemistry are advised to take a level 1 chemistry unit.
Contact hours
lectures: 2 hours per week
labs: 3 hours per week (for 5 weeks)
tutorials: 2 hours per week (for 6 weeks) (alternating with lab classes)

Sherwood, L. Human Physiology: from Cells to Systems, 9th edn, Thomson 2009

Students who have Rhoades and Tanner's Medical Physiology will find this text is suitable for some aspects of this unit but they may need to supplement their reading in some areas. Copies of Sherwood are on closed reserve in the Science Library.

Alberts' Molecular Biology of the Cell provides useful supportive material in some areas.

  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.