PSL1080H: Investigative Developmental Physiology

Course Coordinator:  B. Cox

Introduction and Overview:

July 6 - September 30, 2016

This course represents an excellent opportunity to develop skills in presentation and critical analysis. Students need not have a strong background in many of the topics covered.  In fact, a major goal of the course is to broaden the interdisciplinary background of the participants.  Students will have the opportunities to hear lectures from and to meet international experts in multiple aspects of Developmental Physiology:

Embryo Patterning and Organogenesis
Placentation and Birth
Cardiovascular Development and Function
Developmental Origins of Health & Disease 

Application for this course is due June 10, 2016.
Please visit to download the application/registration form, and email it to Brian Cox at by the above deadline.

The course is divided into 3 parts:

  • The course runs on Wednesdays from 1:30 to 4:00 pm beginning with the introduction (July 6).  The introductory class will focus on guidelines and suggestions for successful paper presentations.  It will be followed by a series of six student-led seminars (weekly, commencing July 2) where recent seminal papers in the field of Developmental Biology and Physiology will be presented and discussed. The goal is for the student to critically assess the published work within the context of the field.  The student is expected to read related work to be able to place the assigned paper in a context and make this clear to the other students.  Students in the audience are expected to have read the presented paper and have questions prepared to engage in a discussion of the paper and the impact it has had on the field.
  • This will be a special year as it is the 20th annual International Exchange Workshop in Developmental and Perinatal Biology (August 22-17) between the University of Toronto (U of T) and Karolinska Institute (KI), Stockholm, Sweden, will be the most intensive component of the course.  This year, the Exchange Workshop will take place at the University of Toronto.  Students will hear lectures from Faculty and from University of Toronto and Karolinska Institute and participate in practical laboratory-based workshops.  Students will present their own thesis work as a poster as part of the course evaluation. Students are expected to attend all seminars and to participate by asking questions and commenting.  Students are strongly encouraged to engage and interact with the participating faculty and other students during the exchange and at social gathering hosted during the week.  This is an opportunity to identify a research topic and mentor (see next section).
  • The final component of the course comprises a written assignment (due September 30at 5 pm) and short oral presentation (September 21) on a particular aspect of Developmental Physiology that was covered during the seminars and/or Exchange Workshop.  Students will pick a topic and a mentor, a faculty member at either U of T or KI, to help direct them in their literature review and writing. 

Course Evaluation:
Students must attend all components of the course, including the International Exchange Workshop, in order to receive a passing course mark.

Components 1 and 2: Seminars and International Exchange Workshop:
1) Presentation of Paper: 30% final course mark
2) Participation, including evaluation of questions prepared: 10% final course mark
3) Abstract and oral or poster presentation at Exchange Workshop: 10% final course mark

Together, the marks from Components 1 and 2 of the course will form the mid-term mark.

Written Assignment and Oral Presentation:
Written Assignment: 40% final course mark
Oral Presentation of Assignment: 10% final course mark

Course Components:
Component 1: Seminars (July 6 - August 17)

  • Course Introduction:  July 6
  • Seminar 1:  July 13
  • Seminar 2:  July 20
  • Seminar 3:  July 27
  • Seminar 4:  August 3
  • Seminar 5:  August 10
  • Seminar 6:  August 17

Sessions will take place on Wednesdays 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. in the Physiology Seminar Room (MSB Room 3227A) in the Medical Sciences Building. Students will meet each week as a group with members of the Teaching Faculty. At every seminar, 2 students will be assigned by the course coordinators to choose one of two recent seminal papers in a particular field of developmental physiology to present and discuss the paper in the context of other research and knowledge in the field. Teaching Faculty will assign a review article to provide perspective on each field. In the preceding class (1 week before) the faculty member or a senior trainee from their group will give a 20-minute review seminar and 10 minutes for questions and discussion. This will provide a similar background to all students and should allow the presenting student to focus more on the article’s data, findings and implications. Presenting students will summarize and critique their chosen paper in the form of a 20-25-minute PowerPoint presentation followed by 20-25 minutes for questions and discussion. All students are expected to read the Faculty-assigned review paper(s) and the original research paper(s) presented each week and to actively participate in discussions. Teaching Faculty will moderate the discussion.

Absence from a seminar for legitimate reasons (e.g. health or attendance at a scientific meeting) must be compensated by writing a 2-page summary and critique of each of the assigned papers for that lecture.

Component 2: International Exchange Workshop (August 22-27)

Participating in the exchange will be graduate students, fellows, postdocs, and faculty members from both the University of Toronto and the Karolinska Institute.  Therefore, the Workshop presents an excellent networking opportunity. A number of social activities and visits are also planned. Further details regarding the Exchange Workshop regarding the Exchange Workshop can be found at:

Note: Students are required to submit an updated abstract on the work they intend to present at the Workshop.  Please send by June 27 (by email to: Brian Cox,

Component 3: Written Assignment and Oral Presentation

Students will select a mentor from among the Teaching Faculty (whether from Toronto or Stockholm) during, or shortly after, the International Exchange Workshop. Together with their mentor, students will select a topic covered during the seminars and/or Exchange Workshop on which to write a concise and critical review. Please email Dr. Brian Cox ( when you have selected a topic and mentor.  Please provide a short summary of the topic area and review goals to get approval for the topic.  Please ensure to copy the mentor on the email to Dr. Cox.

Oral Presentation of Assignment Topic: There will be a final group session on September 21, 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. in the Medical Sciences Building, Room 3227A during which each student will present a 10-minute overview of their proposed written assignment. The presentation should be concise and critical, providing 'big picture' messages.  This is an opportunity for the student to receive feedback on the topic focus and organization of the review paper.

Written Assignments:  The paper should be submitted as a manuscript format with a title page and figures and table in line with the text for easy reading (Do not put the figures at the end).The body of the paper must be at least 15 up to a maximum of 18 pages typed (12 point times new roman or 11 point Arial font) and double-spaced (not including figures and references).  Please create original images or tables (combined maximum 6 figures and tables) to help summarize important points and guide the reader.  Due date is Friday, September 30 by 5 pm (please send papers as a PDF by email to Dr. Brian Cox,  Late papers will be penalized - 5% per 24 hour period late.

Past Teaching Faculty and Topics:
Norm Rosenblum (Kidney development)
Cristina Nostro (Stem cell models of development)
Evelyn Lambe (DoHaD and neural development)
Brian Cox (Placenta and trophoblast)
Harvey Anderson (Nutrition and epigenetics)
Bob Jankov (Lung development)
Ian Scott (Cardiac development)
John Sled (Imaging analysis of organ/embryo development)
Gary Bader (Systems biology/network analysis)
Janet Rossant (Embryo patterning/blastocyst)
Sevan Hopyan (Limb development)
Andrea Jurisicova (Oogenesis and ovary development)

Drop Date:
The official drop date for the course is August 17, 2016. You will have 50% of your mark before this date.
Further Questions? Please email

Please note that space is limited.

Last updated: 6-Apr-2016

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