A Look at a Pitt Human Physiology Course

by Neel Andharia

Did you know an average-sized human has about 5 liters of blood? Have you ever wondered why there’s only one standard size for snorkels (35 cm long)? Why do the Denver Broncos have an even greater home-field advantage when compared to the home-field advantage of other teams?

Sved not only fulfills the job of Professor at Pitt; he also chairs the Department of Neuroscience and directs his own research laboratory. His passion for teaching arises from his curiosity of the human body. Even with three full-time jobs, he is quite committed to giving his best to all three fields of work. Interestingly, some professors are compensated for conducting research, not teaching. But Sved chooses to teach anyway.

Life wouldn’t be as good anymore if I stopped teaching undergraduates,” Sved said. “Teaching is totally selfless. I have the capacity to influence people. If the students go on to do something good because of me, it is all worth it.

Sved recommends pre-med-bound students to take NROSCI/BIOSC 1250 to be exposed to the type of material an average medical student will have to know thoroughly. For students who like challenges, he advises them to take the honors human physiology course, NROSCI 1070/2070, taught by Dr. Bill Yates.

As you can imagine, the human body is an intricate and complex system of machinery. Although there is quite a bit known about the human body due to previous research, there is still so much left for scientists to discover. Obviously it is impossible to cover every detail within one semester, but don’t let your guard down just yet. Sved picks the vital topics about each system in the body so that after taking the course, you can gain a general understanding of many components of physiology. Sved also points out the consequences of a diseased system and throws in quite a few stories of his own.

With the ability to utilize Sved’s notes, the TAs’ notes and the recorded lectures available on CourseWeb, it is not impossible to receive a decent grade in the class. Sved is readily available to meet with students and help them achieve their goals. Apart from him, there are several TAs who have mastered the material and are willing to donate their spare time and effort for current students. They attend lectures, and hold review sessions before the exams in order to provide students with another way of viewing the material. They also create a Facebook group so that if anyone has a quick question, they can post it on the group page and expect a response in a timely manner. With these resources at your fingertips, you can be quite successful in the course.

There are roughly eight online quizzes, three exams and a cumulative final. To ensure an A in the course, you usually need an average of 85 percent; to ensure a B, you need an average of 75 to 84 percent. The class is really straightforward, as long as you are individually willing to put in the effort. So, do you want to hear about Dr. Sved’s personal experience concerning anaphylactic shock? Or why drinking alcohol outside in the cold is not the brightest thing to do? Then register for this course!

Still wondering about the questions from the beginning of this article? Here are the answers as an early preview of the course:

The standard size for a snorkel is 35 cm long and 1.5 to 2.5 cm in diameter. If it were longer, the amount of fresh air you breathe in would decrease and would result in an oxygen deficiency, causing you to breathe faster. If the diameter were outside of the range, either there would be much more resistance for breathing to occur, causing the body to allocate a lot more energy for breathing than necessary in normal conditions (without a snorkel) or there wouldn’t be enough pressure to breathe in.

The Denver Broncos have a greater home-field advantage, which may or may not help them win a game, due to the high elevation of the city. As you know, Denver, Colorado is referred to as the mile-high city. The stadium they practice and play games in is exactly one mile above sea level. Athletes who are accustomed to high elevation and low oxygen levels have an increased number of red blood cells, increased vascularity of the tissues, increased pulmonary ventilation and an increased efficiency of cellular metabolism. An athlete who is used to practicing at a lower altitude doesn’t develop these mechanisms; thus, when teams travel to Denver to play, they are more likely to experience altitude-related injuries and sickness.