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Ph.D. Program

Ph.D. Coursework and Research Overview

The Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry offers a series of courses designed to impart the student with a knowledge base in pharmacokinetics, equilibrium phenomena, organic chemistry physical-organic chemistry, chemical kinetics, drug stability, separation science and biotechnology. Collectively, these are referred to as foundation courses, which are to be successfully completed by all students enrolled in the program within the first three semesters of graduate studies. The students are additionally required to complete an elective course that ideally is related to their research interests and further, complete what the institution has termed RS2 requirements.

Further, the department emphasizes excellence in research. We make every effort to ensure students are able to commit as much time as possible on their research projects, thus allowing the student to earn their Ph.D. degree in a timely fashion. To make this possible, the departmental foundation courses are taught every year. 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 STEM disciplines.

Foundation Courses

We offer eight core courses that each student must take and receive a grade of B or better to be eligible to take the comprehensive foundation exam (typically offered in January after the completion of three semester of graduate study).

Fall semester - first year

CHEM 740 Principles of Organic Reactions (3 credits)

This course provides 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; stereochemistry and conformation; an introduction to orbital symmetry control; basic thermodynamic and kinetic concepts; and an overview of some important classes of mechanisms.

PHCH 862 Physical Chemistry of Solutions, Solids and Surfaces (3 credits)

A lecture-discussion course concerned with the equilibrium of molecular species interacting in aqueous solutions, at interfaces of multi-phasic systems and in condensed and crystalline phases. Problem setup and solving techniques will be discussed in detail. Additional concepts include mixed aqueous-organic systems, salt complex formation, gas/liquid equilibrium, pH solubility effects, heterogeneous systems and colloidal systems, enzymatic systems, including amorphous and crystalline solid phases. 

PHCH 730 Biopharmaceutics and Pharmacokinetics I (3 credits)

This course provides a discussion of the basic concepts of biopharmaceutics and pharmacokinetics, including classical compartmental models, clearance concepts, vascular and extravascular dosing, and the use of pharmacokinetics in dosage regimen design and adjustment.

Spring semester - first year

CHEM 840 Physical Organic Chemistry (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.

PHCH 920 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.

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

This course emphasizes the principles of physical organic chemistry as relevant to mechanisms and chemical kinetics of drug degradation and the rational development for approaches to drug stabilization. Topics include a survey of commonly encountered degradation reactions, pH-rate profiles, kinetic isotope effects, publications detailing the degradation of various drug substances, and oxidative and photochemical mediated drug degradation processes.

Fall semester - second year

PHCH 870 Advanced Pharmaceutical Biotechnology (4 credits)

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.

1) PHCH 864 Pharmaceutical Analysis (4 credits)

This course presents various aspects of analytical chemistry that are utilized on a routine basis by scientists in various areas of biomedical research and drug discovery and development. Emphasis will be on chromatography, electrophoresis and mass spectrometry, which reflect the preeminent position that these techniques occupy in the field of pharmaceutical and biomedical analysis. The course additionally addresses the statistical used to validate analytical methods for the determination of drugs in the bulk form, pharmaceutical formulations, biological samples, and other relevant media.


Graduate students are required to take one additional elective course in addition to the previously listed courses. This may be from an additional course 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 and/or graduate director.

PHCH 715 Drug Delivery (3 credits, spring semesters)

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.

RS2 Requirements

In order to successfully complete the didactic component of training in the Department, the student must complete two Research Skills requirements, frequently satisfied by successfully undertaking an appropriate course.

Required of all students and to be taken at the first opportunity.

PHCH 804 Issues of Scientific Integrity (1 credit, offered even years in the fall)

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.

PHCH 705 Pharmaceutical Chemistry - Writing and Communications Training for Science Graduate Students (3 credits, spring semesters)

Communicating research proposals and experimental findings is a critical skill for scientists. Successful communication depends on clarity of thought and careful use of language. This course will use class discussions with examples and homework assignments to help prepare the graduate student to successfully communicate in both academia and industry settings. Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.


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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