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Monash University

Monash University Handbook 2010 Undergraduate - Area of Study

All areas of study information should be read in conjunction with the relevant course entry in the Handbook. The units listed for this area of study relate only to the 'Requirements' outlined in the Faculty of Science component of any bachelors double degrees.

Managing facultyFaculty of Science
Offered byDepartment of Pharmacology
Course coordinatorDr Wayne Hodgson (Department of Pharmacology)


Pharmacology and toxicology has a broad contemporary educative function, teaching how a wide variety of chemicals and drugs produce their effects on living organisms.

An understanding of the way in which drugs produce their effects in the body is becoming increasingly important as the use and abuse of drugs becomes more widespread in society. The science of pharmacology is the study of the effects of drugs on living organisms where the term drug can be defined as a chemical substance, natural or synthetic, which affects a biological system. Pharmacology is an interdisciplinary science that employs experimental approaches common to chemistry, biochemistry and physiology.


On completion of a sequence in pharmacology students will be able to:

  • describe the basic mechanisms of drug action and, using relevant examples, the importance of endogenous transmitter/mediator/hormone systems in health and disease
  • explain the basic principles of pharmacokinetics
  • apply knowledge of concepts in pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics to explain the actions of chemicals (therapeutic and non-therapeutic) on biological systems
  • demonstrate basic laboratory skills and relevant aspects of good laboratory practice, including the ability to present and evaluate experimental data
  • demonstrate the ability to access and critically evaluate scientific literature to address current issues in drug action and development
  • demonstrate their ability to work in a team environment.


Level two

Level three

  • PHA3011 Principles of drug action
  • PHA3021 Drugs in health and disease
  • PHA3032 Neuro and endocrine pharmacology
  • PHA3042 Modern drug development
  • PHA3052 Poisons and toxins
  • PHA3990 Action in pharmacology research project

Sequence requirements

Minor sequence in pharmacology (24 points)

Major sequence in pharmacology (48 points)

Details of the PHY units, and some related sequences, are described in the physiology entry in this section of the Handbook.


Level two

The Department of Pharmacology offers one 6-point unit - PHA2022 - at level two. This unit is of interest to all students taking biomedical science units (physiology, biochemistry, anatomy, microbiology) but also as an adjunct to a degree in law or psychology. PHA2022 is not a prerequisite for further study in pharmacology but is highly recommended.

The prerequisites for PHA3011 and PHA3021 are normally an adequate performance in physiology at level two. Units studied at level two may also include pharmacology, biochemistry or chemistry.

Students planning to complete major sequences in both physiology and pharmacology are advised to take all three level-two physiology units and PHA2022.

Level three

The first semester units, PHA3011 and PHA3021 lay the foundations for understanding how drugs act and the use of drugs to treat disease; PHA3011 is a prerequisite for all second-semester units offered by the school. In second semester students may elect to take any combination of the four units - PHA3032, PHA3042 and PHA3990. These units may be combined with units in other disciplines such as any of the biological/medical disciplines, chemistry or law.


Students who have completed appropriate studies at level three may be eligible for the opportunity to pursue a fourth year at honours level. These studies involve advanced coursework and a laboratory-based project under the supervision of a staff member. Details of projects can be found at