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Ph.D. Program

Ph.D. Coursework and Research Overview

The Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry offers a number of core courses designed to hone the student's skills in aspects of physical/organic chemistry, chemical kinetics and equilibrium phenomena, which we consider essential in understanding problems of any origin, including biological processes on a molecular level. Accordingly, every student entering the program is expected to successfully complete these core courses during their first year in the program.

Realizing that the research in the department has become increasingly multidisciplinary, students have the option to subsequently focus their didactic training in two unique areas of specialization, referred to as tracks. These tracks are Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Physical/Analytical Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Students can choose from a wide variety of elective courses that allow them to gain knowledge and skills in areas that are very specific to their individual research project/interests.

The department also places a great deal of emphasis on excellence in research. We make every effort to ensure students are able to commit as much time as possible on their research projects, which allows them to earn their Ph.D. degree in a timely fashion. To make this possible, the departmental core courses are taught every year and are designed to be completed in just two semesters. Our students are fully supported by the department throughout their time in the program and are not burdened with time-consuming teaching responsibilities.

Applicant background

Incoming students are expected to be competent in basic principles of physical/organic chemistry and mathematics. These requirements are typically satisfied with most degrees in the basic or pharmaceutical sciences.

Core Courses

We offer seven core courses that each student must take and receive a grade of B or better to be eligible to take the comprehensive core curriculum exam (offered following the spring semester of the first year in the program).

Fall semester - first year

1) CHEM 740 Principles of Organic Reactions (3 credits)

A consideration of the structural features and driving forces that control the course of chemical reactions. Topics will include acid and base properties of functional groups; qualitative aspects of strain, steric, inductive, resonance, and solvent effects on reactivity; stereo-chemistry and conformations; an introduction to orbital symmetry control; basic thermodynamic and kinetic concepts; and an overview of some important classes of mechanisms.

2) PHCH 804 Issues of Scientific Integrity (1 credit)

Lectures and discussion on ethical issues in the conduct of a scientific career, with emphasis on practical topics of special importance in molecular-level research in the chemical, biological, and pharmaceutical sciences. Topics will include the nature of ethics, the scientist in the laboratory, the scientist as author, grantee, reviewer, employer/ employee, teacher/student, and citizen. Discussions will focus on case histories.

3) PHCH 862 Pharmaceutical Equilibria (3 credits, offered every fall semester)

A course on equilibria in aqueous and non-aqueous systems with emphasis on solutions of interest to pharmaceutical technology. Included are association-dissociation equilibria, complexation, protein binding calculation of species concentrations, estimation of solubility, and ionization constants. Methods for the determination of chemical potentials in solution are presented.

4) PHCH 730 Advanced Topics in Biopharmaceutics and Pharmacokinetics I (3 credits, offered every fall semester)

A discussion of the concepts, and some clinical applications, of pharmacokinetics, clearance concepts, extravascular dosing, and the use of pharmacokinetics in dosage regimen design and adjustment.

Spring semester - first year

5) CHEM 840 Physical Organic Chemistry I (3 credits)

An examination of the methods used to probe the mechanisms of organic reactions and of the chemistry of some important reactive intermediates. Topics will include isotope effects, kinetics, linear free energy relationships, solvent effects, a continuing discussion of orbital symmetry, rearrangements, carbocations, carbanions, carbenes, radicals, excited states, and strained molecules.

6) PHCH 920 Applied Chemical Kinetics (2 credits)

A course providing the principles of kinetic data analysis as applied to problems in pharmaceutical chemistry. Topics include the setup and solution of rate equations related to chemical reactions; simplifications and approximations in complex equation systems; isotope, solvent and salt rate effects; and diffusion and activation controlled reactions.

7) PHCH 972 Mechanisms of Drug Deterioration and Stabilization (3 credits)

A course dealing with mechanisms and chemical kinetics of drug deterioration and stabilization.

Specialized areas of emphasis (tracks)

Upon successful completion of the core curriculum, students should select the appropriate specialized area of emphasis, or track, offered by the department. Students may select either the Pharmaceutical Biotechnology track or the Physical/Analytical Pharmaceutical Chemistry track. The student will be required to take the two indicated courses for each track listed below. Note that for students with cross-disciplinary research projects, it may be acceptable to replace a required course from a track with a suitable alternative course. Under such circumstances the student must get consent from his/her advisor and the department graduate studies advisor.

Pharmaceutical Biotechnology Track - Required Courses

1) PHCH 870 Advanced Pharmaceutical Biotechnology (3 credits, offered every other spring semester, even years)

A course designed to emphasize the important facets of recombinant proteins as well as oligonucleotides as pharmaceutical agents. Biophysical methods will be used to analyze the protein structure and stability. Methods of large scale protein production, isolation, and purification will be covered. Potential chemical and physical degradation processes and strategies for circumventing these degradations will be discussed. Finally, procedures for handling regulatory guidelines (filing NDAs and INDs) for biotechnology products will also be addressed.

2) PHCH 725 Molecular Cell Biology (3 credits, offered every other spring semester, odd years)

Fundamental and advanced concepts in cell biology and the molecular interactions responsible for cell function, homeostasis, and disease will be presented. Current analytical methods for examining cells and their molecular components will be discussed. Emphasis will be placed on the chemical and physical properties of individual proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids and their assembly into cellular and subcellular structure.

Physical/Analytical Pharmaceutical Chemistry Track

1) PHCH 864 Pharmaceutical Analysis (Four credits, offered every other fall semester, odd years)

Advanced course on pharmaceutical analysis. This course is also intended to be a comprehensive treatment of contemporary techniques used to validate analytical methods for the determination of drugs in the bulk form, pharmaceutical formulations, biological samples, and other relevant media. The emphasis will be on chromatographic techniques reflecting the preeminent position that these techniques occupy in the field of pharmaceutical and biomedical analysis.

Electives and FLORS Requirements

Graduate students are required to take one additional elective course in addition to the previously listed courses. This may be from the additional courses offered by the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry (see below) or it can be from any other department on campus with prior approval from the student's research advisor. Examples of additional courses offered by this Department are:

1) PHCH 977 Advanced Topics in Biopharmaceutics and Pharmacokinetics II (2 credits, offered every other fall semester, even years)

A course addressing special topics in biopharmaceutics and pharmacokinetics. Specific topics include complex pharmacokinetic modeling, pharmacokinetic considerations relating to clinical trials of drugs, the influence of drug distribution in cells on their activity, and the influence on macroscopic pharmacokinetic parameters and research relating to novel experimental techniques and strategies pertaining to the delivery of molecules across physiological barriers including the intestinal mucosa and the blood-brain barrier.

2) PHCH 715 Drug Delivery (3 credits, offered every other fall semester, odd years)

Drug Delivery surveys the latest technology for delivering pharmaceuticals and biologicals to reduce side effects and enhance drug efficacy. The course will review the latest research in this area and examine more classical delivery methods. A qualitative and quantitative understanding of drug delivery practice and theory is the goal.

In order to successfully complete the didactic component of training in the Department, the student must complete the FLORS (foreign language or other research skill) requirement. This may be fulfilled by successfully completing an acceptable skills development course. A list of courses that have been previously accepted to fulfill the FLORS requirement are as follows (other courses may be permissible upon approval of the Pharmaceutical Chemistry FLORS committee):

BIOL 672 Gene Expression (3)

BIOL 688 The Molecular Biology of Cancer (3)

BIOL 702 Laboratory Practice Radiation Safety Procedures (0.75)

BIOL 703 Radioisotopes in Radiation Safety in Research (1.25)

BIOL 704 Research Animal Methods (3)

BIOL 718 Laboratory in Molecular Biology (3)

BIOL 756 Cell and Tissue Culture Laboratory (3)

BIOL 841 Biometry I (5)

BIOL 918 Modern Biochemical and Biophysical Methods (4)

CHEM 711 Applied Electronics for Scientists (4)

CHEM 766 Spectroscopic Identification of Organic Compounds (3)

CHEM 959 Advanced Topics in Bioanalytical Chemistry (3)

CHEM 966 Physical Organic Chemistry II (3)

MDCH 861 Drug Metabolism (2)

C&PE 121 Introduction to Computers in Engineering (3)

PHCH 725 Molecular Biology of the Cell (3)


All graduate students are required to attend the weekly departmental seminar. Seminars consist of presentations by guest speakers, faculty members, and students. Typically, graduate students are required to present at least two departmental seminars during their time in the program. The seminar may be based on progress achieved in their research or on a literature review of work related to their research.

Ph.D. Dissertation

Each Ph.D. candidate is required to submit and defend a dissertation resulting from research of sufficient originality and quality for publication in peer reviewed scientific journals. The research is conducted under the supervision and guidance from the student's advisor, with input from the dissertation committee as needed. The median time for students to complete their Ph.D. degree in the Department is 5.3 years.

M.S. Degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Except under unusual circumstances, the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry does not recruit students seeking the M.S. degree. However, all students who pass the comprehensive qualifying exams for the Ph.D. receive a non-thesis M.S. degree. Students enrolled in the Ph.D. program who wish to terminate with the M.S. degree must satisfactorily complete at least one third of the courses recommended for the Ph.D. degree, present a thesis based on original research or a suitable technical report based on the review of published research in a particular area, and pass a final oral general examination.


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