microscopic view of a tissue sample


MSc & PhD

The Department of Physiology is dedicated to understanding fundamental physiological processes and translating these to clinical care. It is home to the discovery of insulin, the scientific intuition and curiosity that led Banting and Best to their seminal studies of diabetes.

Our research-based MSc and PhD programs provide advanced training in physiology and significant experience conducting research in a lab. Under the direct supervision of a member of our world-class faculty, students will apply modern experimental methods to further discover and understand of the systems of the human body. Students will also broaden and deepen their knowledge through coursework and seminars. Both programs culminate with an oral defense of a written thesis based on original research.

Our Programs

In addition to completing a thesis, students take 1.5 FCE*:

  • PSL 1000Y (MSc Seminar in Physiology, 0.5 FCE)
  • A graduate physiology course (0.5 FCE)
  • Elective course (0.5 FCE)

Students successfully finish this program in 2 years.

In addition to conducting independent and original research that will form their
thesis, students complete 2.5 FCE:

  • PSL 2000H (PhD Seminars in Physiology, 0.5 FCE);
  • PSL 1066H (Research Grant Proposal, 0.5 FCE) and
  • A physiology graduate course (0.5 FCE)
  • Elective course (1.0 FCE)

Typically, students successfully complete this program in 6 years.

Alumni Profile

Gareth Lim

Gareth Lim, PhD

My name is Gareth and during my time in the Department of Physiology,
I was amazed by the encouraging and stimulating environment offered by trainees and faculty members. My supervisor was Dr. Patricia Brubaker and, in her lab, I was given the opportunity to grow scientifically and realize my own independence as a researcher.

My advice is to always be willing to ask questions and remember there are never right or wrong questions. Questions may lead to unexpected discoveries that can open new areas of research. It was this line of thinking that led to my interest in the physiological functions of 14-3-3 proteins, which remains the primary area of research in my lab today. I currently lead my own lab at Université de Montréal, where I focus on new treatments of metabolic diseases, including diabetes and obesity.

Potential Career Paths

In 2016, the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) tracked the career outcomes of 10,000 PhD students who graduated from the University of Toronto between 2000 to 2015. The data below is from 140 physiology PhD graduates.


Some examples of the positions our physiology graduates held included:

  • Post-doctoral Fellow
  • Assistant Professor
  • Associate Professor
  • CEO
  • Research Scientist


Some examples of employers for whom our physiology graduates worked included:

  • The University of Toronto
  • The Hospital for Sick Children
  • Harvard University
  • University Health Network
  • Cornell University

The chart below shows a breakdown of the various sectors in which our physiology PhD graduates worked at the time the survey occurred.

Main Employment Sectors of Physiology PhD Graduates

Chart data

Post-Secondary Education Private Sector Public Sector Charitable Sector Individual Sector
84 28 22 2 4

By the Numbers

Number of current MSc & PhD students.
Number of graduate faculty.
Average class size.

Department of Physiology

Learn more about our programs in physiology.

*Full course equivalent. A typical 0.5 FCE is over one term (13 weeks), meeting 1-2 times per week. A typical 1.0 FCE is over two terms (26 weeks), meeting 1-2 times per week.