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Directors of Studies

Pharmacology in the Natural Sciences Tripos and the Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos Notes for Directors of Studies

Pharmacology in Part IB NST and MVST

In the Part I courses teaching is accomplished through lectures, practicals, seminars and supervisions.

The NST course is organized to consider the interaction of drugs with the body first at the molecular level, followed by the effects at the cellular level and finally the consequences for the whole organism.

  • The course is structured not only to introduce the factual material, but especially to show how the information is obtained and to stimulate the students to be able to solve problems themselves. The practical course forms an integral part of the teaching.
  • In the Michaelmas Term, a series of eight practicals complement the lectures by providing practical experience of both traditional pharmacological techniques, still in use in drug discovery.
  • In the Lent Term six of the conventional practicals are replaced by two mini-projects each spanning three sessions. In the mini-projects the students are given explicit instructions to get started, but it is up to them to develop and refine the procedures to obtain the best data possible. Students are required to submit notebooks their mini-project. The notebook is assessed, and the mark contributes to the overall students' marks in the summer Tripos examination.
  • The practicals and mini-projects are intended to allow the students to develop sufficient expertise in simple, useful procedures that they can obtain sufficient data to draw new conclusions for themselves. A number of the one-hour seminars are used for revision of background material necessary to understand the pharmacology. These were introduced originally for students (usually chemists) who had not done any Physiology. However, they have proved popular with all the students.

The Part I MVST Mechanisms of Drug Action course has similar objectives, but with a slant more to the medical applications.

In the MVST course the practicals are used primarily as illustrated extensions of the lectures, usually with the students producing the illustrations of the effects for themselves. It is important for the students to realize that some material is presented only in the practicals.


  • Students are encouraged to complete anonymous feedback forms commenting on all the lectures at the end of each term.
  • At the end of the Lent Term they are also asked to comment on the qualityof Supervisions they have received (and as a result they are asked to name their Colleges).
  • There is a comment/queries book in the Teaching Laboratory which students can use. This is examined regularly and queries answered as soon as possible.
  • The Department invites students to sit on committees that meets at the end of each term to discuss the quality of the course that has taken place during that term. We ask for nominations for suitable students from Directors of Studies, and work through the Colleges in rotation. We have found this to be a very valuable exercise.
  • Supervisors are encouraged to provide feedback from students to Lecturers, Course Organisers and Demonstrators in order to enhance the quality of the Department's teaching. This is best done via our confidential feedback website. All Supervisors should have been sent details of this, but if Directors of Studies wish to know how to use the service, or require further details, then please do not hesitate to contact  (3)34034)


  • Rang and Dale's Pharmacology (Seventh Edition). H.P. Rang, M.M. Dale, J.M. Ritter, R.J. Flower and G. Henderson. Churchill Livingstone; 2012.
  • Principles of Pharmacology (Third Edition). D.E. Golan, A.H. Tashjian, E.J. Armstrong and A.W. Armstrong. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins; 2012.

Handouts and Examination Papers

  • Handouts are distributed to students in lectures and sent by UMS to Supervisors and Directors of Studies who have requested them. Past Examination Papers are available from the Teaching Laboratory.
  • Both Handouts and Examination Papers (both Tripos and 2nd MB and 2nd VetMB) are also available on CamTools.

Teaching Software

  • We have a large number of interactive programs for Computer-Aided Learning. They are likely to be useful for revision purposes, but they will be available throughout the year.
  • The programs are available for use on a set of computers in the Teaching Laboratory. These are accessible during normal working hours.
  • They have also been installed on the University's PWF Service and so are accessible from the various terminals around the University that are connected to the PWF. This means that they are availble in Colleges that operate PWF 'Managed Clusters' (which are computer rooms run jointly by the institution and the Computing Service, and providing facilities more or less identical to those in the public PWF rooms).
  • In October 2000 there were 17 MCS institution clusters, encompassing a total with the Computing Service PWF rooms of some 30 NetWare servers and 650 PCs and Macintoshes

Queries with respect to either Part I course can be directed to any teaching officer in the Department. The formal contact person for College liaison is (3)34034). Feedback forms and statistics are collated and tabulated by the Secretary of the Departmental Teaching Committee.

The Part II courses are intended to treat a number of selected topics in depth. Information regarding the Part II courses for NST and MVST Part II (General) is available elsewhere on this server. The contact person for Part II courses is

The Department welcomes the attendance of any supervisors or Directors of Studies at lectures. Lecture handouts are normally available at the time of the first lecture in each titled series. Copies will be made available to any college teachers who request them. The simplest way is probably to send a note to the assistants in charge of the practical classes via a student who can then collect the handouts as they become available.

The Department has always been prepared to help Colleges find suitable supervisors. Anyone who wants advice should contact (3)34034).