Our PhD curriculum is streamlined, which allows our students to specialize faster and tailor the graduate curriculum to their interests. Although not required, students can choose to pursue additional coursework to earn a PhD minor or Graduate Certificate in a field such as Clinical Investigation or Life Science Communication. For a complete list of PhD minors or Graduate Certificates available please see the Graduate Guide.

In addition to their research credits, Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Students must fulfill a core curriculum consisting of three courses as well as requirements in scientific ethics and seminar. Beyond this foundation, each student is expected to attain a depth of knowledge in their area of expertise and to work with their advisor and thesis committee to identify an elective course or courses that will provide this desired depth. At least three credits of elective coursework are required.


Required Courses

The following required interdisciplinary courses provide students a breadth of knowledge in the Pharmaceutical Sciences:

– Course I

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718-780: Principles of Pharmaceutical Sciences (3 cr.)

Provides an overview of the drug development process and essential development components; taught by multiple Pharmaceutical Sciences Division faculty. Exposes students to cutting-edge research in drug discovery, action, and delivery. Taught from the perspective that first-semester graduate students have diverse backgrounds, and therefore focus is placed on practical information and crucial underpinnings in chemistry, biology, physical chemistry, and engineering. Students are strongly encouraged to be inquisitive and to communicate, asking questions and fielding comments outside their areas of expertise. Prerequisite: First-semester student in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Program.

– Course II & III

Students must take at least 3 credits from each of two different core areas:

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Action Core Courses

200-630: Cellular Signal Transduction Mechanisms (3 cr.)

Focuses on how cells produce, sense, and respond to a variety of signaling molecules. Prerequisites: Introductory biochemistry and cell biology.
Note: This course is currently not being offered, but may return in the future.

PATH-750: (3 cr. version) Cellular and Molecular Biology/Pathology

The emphasis is on our current understanding of molecular and cellular mechanisms. Wherever possible, human diseases are used to illustrate the outcome at the organismal level of defects in these mechanisms. Lectures will draw from the current research literature and cover topics such as cell and tissue organization, intracellular sorting, cell migration and growth. Must enroll for lectures, 2 credits and discussion section, 1 credit.

PHMCOL-M-781: Molecular and Cellular Principles in Pharmacology (4 cr)

Provides an in-depth introduction to the molecular and cellular principles of pharmacology. Emphasis is on the mechanisms of drug and small molecule action in cells, with a particular focus on downstream signaling pathways, second messenger systems, protein kinase cascades, and the regulation of gene transcription.

Delivery Core Courses

718-766: Molecular Recognition (2-3 cr.)

Origin, nature, classification, and description of intermolecular forces. The hydrophobic effect. Molecular complexes, binding constants, and their measurements. General principles of self-assembly, molecular recognition, complex formation, host design. Supramolecular systems and their dynamics. Micelles, bilayers, vesicles, biological membranes.

718-773: Molecular Solids (2-3 cr.)

This course describes the science and technology of solid materials with emphasis on molecular solids. Molecular solids have important applications in medicine, food, energetic materials, and organic electronics. Molecular solids have strong intramolecular bonds but weak intermolecular forces; the constituent molecules are usually non-spherical, chiral, and flexible. As a result, these materials are fundamentally different from traditional inorganic and polymeric materials, with their own interesting phenomena and applications. The student will acquire knowledge in the structure, thermodynamics, dynamics, and transformation of molecular solids.

718-775: Polymeric Drug Delivery (3 cr.)

Introduces synthetic and biological polymers applied for drug targeting and controlled drug release, focusing on injectable drugs, including biologics.

Discovery Core

718-786: Natural Product Synthesis, Biosynthesis & Drug Discovery (3 cr.)

Synthetic methods in natural product synthesis and drug discovery; strategies of natural product synthesis; chemical biology; medical chemistry. Prerequisites: Intermediate organic chemistry and two semesters of introductory biochemistry or consent of the instructor.

– Ethics Course

A 1-credit ethics course that meets NIH ethics training requirements is required. The School of Pharmacy offers the following 2-credit ethics course every other year (in the fall semester of even years):

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726-800: Research Ethics: Scientific Integrity and the Responsible Conduct of Research (2 cr.)

This course meets NIH ethics training requirements and familiarizes students with basic ethical issues surrounding biomedical science research through readings, overview lectures at the beginning of each class and in-class discussion of case studies. Prerequisite: Graduate student in the School of Pharmacy or consent of the instructor.

– Seminar

(To be taken each fall and spring semester while in PhD program):

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718-931 & 718-932: Pharmaceutical Sciences Seminar (1 cr.)

This weekly seminar is a requirement each fall and spring semester throughout one’s Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate career. Students select one section of the course to attend (Drug Discovery, Drug Action, or Drug Delivery). The seminar series is designed to provide graduate students with a diverse array of topics both inside and outside the scope of their projects. Seminar speakers include invited guests (nationally and internationally recognized scientists from academia and industry), and include speakers able to appeal to the interdisciplinary breadth across the division’s research.

Further, beginning in one’s first or second year, Pharmsci graduate students are expected to present an annual seminar, providing an update of their research and research directions. Graduate students provide feedback on their peers’ research and, as presenters, receive such constructive feedback.

– Research

Research credits are required every semester while in the program. In the first semester students register for 718-999 for their research rotations. After that, students register for 718-990 under their thesis advisor. Both 999 and 990 are variable credits.


At least 3 credits of elective coursework is required. Elective courses must have the 50% graduate coursework designation.

View Elective Courses »

Professor Arash Bashirullah discusses the progress of a research project with a student

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