November 23, 2012, by Holly Jackson

Why study Physiology?

Dr Danny McLaughlin, Associate Professor in Physiology.

As a teenager in Scotland my choice of subjects was considered slightly unusual.  Not many people twinned two sciences with two languages at O grade (GCSE to those of you from the ‘English’ education system).  Fewer still continued with a language (Italian) and two sciences (Biology and Chemistry) at Higher level, but I loved the structured learning of verbs (even use of the subjunctive tense) and the idea that someday I might actually book that train ticket andata e ritorno (go and back).  By the time I had to apply to university, though, it was clear that Biology was the thing for me.  So many biological phenomena were just so… elegant.  Cool, even.  My daughters will cringe when they read this.

My undergraduate degree was a voyage of discovery in itself – at Glasgow we entered the Faculty of Science and were simply told we had to register for three first year subjects from a choice of 13 (I think).  Largely left to our own devices, our personal choices and success in the various subjects determined our path and which ‘named’ degree we received after four years.  I studied what interested me, falling in love with some subjects and out of love with others (Biochemistry in the second year a personal low point), before emerging with a BSc (Hons) in Physiology in 1986.

Excited by the prospect of biological research following my final year project, I decided on a PhD and then held an eclectic mix of research-oriented jobs in the UK and the USA before settling down to teach physiology to medical students in 2003.  I’m writing this after delivering a lecture on ‘The pharmacology of the autonomic nervous system’, which coincidentally was the topic of my final year project and my PhD.  Andata e ritorno – eventually.

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