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What is Physiology?

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« As a biologist you must have an idea of all levels (of order), so that you know where you are, and what you are talking about. If there was a creator, he was not a quantum mechanician, nor was he a macromolecular chemist or physiologist--he was all of these, and knew all of it. In the same way, we must know a little bit of all of it. »

- Albert Szent-Györgyi, biochemist and physiologist (1966)


Some of you may wonder why we need to have a department dedicated to what looks like an old-fashioned discipline at the beginning of the 21st century. In the era of molecular and cellular biology, of genomics and of computational biology, is there any interest to continue to maintain something called Physiology ? The answer to this question is more than ever yes.

Physiology is the study of life in its complexity. In contrast to other biologists who study life at various levels, physiologists INTEGRATE biological knowledge acquired at different levels to provide A COHERENT explanation of biological processes and functions. The practice of Physiology requires a particular training to acquire this peculiar VISION OF LIFE and its underpinnings. With the accumulation of data coming from the various specialized branches of biology, it becomes increasingly necessary in order to obtain a full understanding of biological functions that a physiological approach to study life is not only maintained but should be an intrinsic part of any medical or biological training.

    In the department of Physiology, we are dedicated to promote this scientific culture of integrative biological thinking, to foster it among colleagues and transmit it to the young generation. This is part of our mission through research and teaching.

Choose life. Choose Physiology.

Prof. Luc Pellerin

Prof. Christian Widmann

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Prof. Luc Pellerin


Prof. Christian Widmann
Deputy director

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Swiss University