What is physiology?
Physiology is not about discovering how fizzy things are! That would be fizz-iology! Physiologists are specialist biological scientists that conduct research and investigations into living organisms and their various functions. The experts that work in this area can pursue both academic and applied science routes.
What does physiology involve?
Physiology is a fairly broad area of science. These guys can study literally any form of life, from single-celled amoebae and viruses, to humans, zebras and Giant Redwood trees. If aliens landed on earth tomorrow, tentacles flailing in the air and speaking absolute nonsense, physiologists would be the first people to have a shot at studying them.
Consequently, most physiologists specialise in a specific area, such as clinical physiology, viral physiology, exercise physiology, animal or plant physiology.
The main focus of these careers is on research. Physiologists investigate the biological systems and processes that allow humans, animals, plants and other organisms to function properly and perform effectively. Key areas of study include respiratory, muscular, reproductive and digestive systems.
Physiologists are employed by all kinds of private companies and government organisations, from pharmaceutical companies, the NHS, food manufacturers and the Ministry of Defence, to universities, scientific research agencies, professional sports organisations and animal sanctuaries.
What kinds of physiologists are there?
Clinical physiologists and viral physiologists work in hospitals, medical science laboratories or clinics and help with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and other medical problems. For more information on this area of physiology, check out the Physiological Sciences subsector now!
Understandably, animal physiologists conduct experiments and studies into the physical systems of animals. Plant physiologists, on the other hand, investigate the functional systems of plant life in order to help farmers and growers improve crop yields and enhance the growth and survival of different plant species.
Exercise physiologists tend to work with professional sportspeople; investigating the effects of exercise and sporting activity on the human body. They analyse their training, how their bodies move, how their respiratory systems function, how their hearts beat and how they convert food into energy.
They then use these findings to provide advice on how athletes can alter their training, technique and diet to optimise their performance. They may also help injured sportspeople to get back to full-fitness.
A prime example of a sportsperson that has been helped by exercise physiology is the ex-Manchester United midfielder, Owen Hargreaves, who was injured for over two years. He spent time with an expert surgeon and exercise physiologist over in the United States.
Their role was to analyse his recurring injury and figure out how to prevent it in the future. We’re not sure whether they actually did a good job (he got injured again), but you get the idea!
To develop a career in any area of physiology, you will need to study a relevant scientific degree, such as physiology, biotechnology, medicine, biology pharmacology, botanical sciences, sports science, zoology, biomedical sciences or physiotherapy.
So, if you want to make geraniums grow ginormous and footballers fast and furious, and you want to get the first peak of the aliens when they finally get around to visiting, a career as a physiologist might be right up your street.