Medicinal Chemistry Core Curriculum

Course Requirements for the Ph.D.

As part of the requirements for the Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences – Medicinal Chemistry – students must complete the departmental core curriculum listed below. The required courses are offered by the Medicinal Chemistry, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmacology departments. Courses in other departments may be recommended or required by some faculty advisors. A minimum of 90 credit hours (research and didactic courses) are needed to graduate. Students will normally complete their didactic course work by the end of their second year in the program. Failure to do so will result in a review.

Please note that Medicinal Chemistry sequence courses from the Pharm. D. professional curriculum cannot substitute for the graduate level courses listed below in completing the departmental core requirements.

Departmental Core Curriculum

All students must take didactic courses as outlined below:

From the Medicinal Chemistry Department:

  • PHA 6447 and one other departmental didactic courses (see below). In addition, the Seminar in Medicinal Chemistry, PHA 6934, 1 credit, must be attended by all students during the time they are in the department.  The seminar course should be taken for credit at least twice. In their final year, students will be required to present their thesis research at a departmental seminar.
  • PHA 6934 Seminar in Medicinal Chemistry. 1 credit. Held every Fall and Spring semester. Weekly presentations and discussion of research reports based on college programs or literature.  Compulsory for all students in the Ph.D. program.
  • PHA 6447 Drug Design. 6 credits (3 credits in fall and spring semesters). This course covers the basic principles of drug design and is required for all graduate students. All department faculty teach in this course. The course was last offered in Fall 2015.
  • PHA 6425 Drug Biotransformation and Molecular Mechanisms of Toxicity. 3 credits. Detailed coverage of each of major xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes with respect to substrates and products, enzyme properties, modulators of activity, tissue expression and regulation. Knowledge of these enzymes is then applied to understanding mechanisms of the biological and toxicological actions of xenobiotics (drugs, natural products, environmental chemicals) whose biological activity is modulated by biotransformation. Review texts and original journal articles are used.  (Lecture course will be taught Fall 2016)
  • PHA 6356 Structure Determination of Complex Natural Products.  3 credits.  Structure determination of natural products using modern spectroscopic methods with emphasis on two-dimensional NMR.  Methods for determining relative and absolute stereochemistry will also be discussed.  This is an applied, problem-based course and requires basic knowledge of the use of MS, NMR, IR and UV spectroscopy.  (Will be offered Spring 2017)
  • PHA/CHM 6435 Biosynthetic Logic of Medicinal Natural Products. 3 credits. Outline of the major families of medical natural products, how they are biosynthesized, structural and biochemical understanding of their biosynthetic logic, gene cluster identification, genome mining, and production of bioactive “unnatural products” for drug discovery and development. The student will gain a general understanding of how Nature creates these bioactive chemicals. (Will be offered Spring 2016)
  • PHA 6472 Organic Synthesis of Drug Molecules. 3 credits. This course focuses on the strategic and problem solving aspects of total synthesis. Modern chemical reactions that may be new to students will be covered in the context of the total synthesis of biologically active compounds of medicinal interest. The overarching goal of this course is to train students to systematically and strategically plan practical synthetic routes using retrosynthetic analysis for organic molecules of interest in medicine (Will be offered Spring 2016.)
  • PHA 6935 Selected Topics in Pharmacy.  Variable credits
  • PHA 6936 Advanced Topics in Pharmaceutical Sciences.  Variable credits

From the Chemistry Department:

See the department of Chemistry catalog or web page for more information.

Required courses are:

  • CHM 5224, 3 credits, Basic Principles of Organic Chemistry (Fall semester)
  • CHM 5235 3 credits, Organic Spectroscopy (Fall semester)

Optional courses include:

  • CHM 6225, 4 credits, Advanced Principles of Organic Chemistry (Spring semester)
  • CHM 6226, 3 credits, Advanced Synthetic Organic Chemistry

From the Biochemistry Department:

If students have not taken an advanced undergraduate level biochemistry course, they should take BCH 4024.  The other listed courses are optional, but these or other biochemistry courses may be required by some faculty for students in their group. See the Biochemistry department web page at  or for further details.

  • BCH 4024, 4 credits, Introduction to Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Optional courses include:

  • BCH 5413, 3 credits,  Eukaryotic Molecular Biology and Genetics
  • BCH 6206, 3 credits, Advanced Metabolism
  • BCH 6415, 3 credits, Advanced Molecular and Cell Biology
  • BCH 6740, 3 credits, Advanced Physical Biochemistry

From the Pharmacology Department:

Students with no background in Pharmacology must take a course in Pharmacology.  Of the several available, the following is advised:

  • GMS 6009, 3 credits, Principles of Drug Action. Taught during each Spring semester.

Research Courses:

Most of the student’s time will be spent conducting research, directed by their advisor.  Departmental research courses are as follows:

  • PHA 6905C Research Procedures in Medicinal Chemistry. Variable credits
  • PHA 6910  Supervised Research. Variable credits
  • PHA 7979  Advanced Research.  Variable credits
  • PHA 7980  Doctoral Research.  Variable credits, taken after passing the qualifying examination

Toxicology Concentration

Students interested in toxicology may participate in the interdisciplinary toxicology program.   This program requires students to take four toxicology courses and a statistics course in addition to the departmental core courses and to attend the toxicology seminar program (approximately 8 seminars per year).  The courses are listed below.

Required of all interdisciplinary toxicology students in Medicinal Chemistry

  • VME 6602 General Toxicology, 3 credits. General principles of toxicology and mechanisms by which toxic effects occur in target organs and tissues. (Offered in the fall semester)
  • PHA 6425 Xenobiotic Biotransformation and Molecular Mechanisms of Toxicity, 3 credits. (See above for description.)
  • VME 6603 Advanced Toxicology, 3 credits. Survey of the health effects of each major class of toxicant. Offered in the Spring (VME 6602 is a pre-requisite).
  • STA 6166 Statistical Methods in Research, 3 credits. (Offered every semester)
  • GMS 7003 Ethics in biomedical research, 1 credit (Offered in spring semester)

One from the following list of elective courses

  • GMS 7593 Functional Genomic Applications in Pharmacology and Toxicology, 2 credits
  • VME 6606 Environmental Toxicology and Ecological Risk Assessment, 3 credits
  • VME 6607 Human Health Risk Assessment, 4 credits

Progress in the Ph.D. Curriculum

Possible sample curriculum for a student entering in Fall. (9 credits per semester Fall and Spring, 6 in summer). This timetable illustrates a possible course selection and sequence: the exact courses will be decided on an individual basis, depending on year of entry and major professor.

Year 1- Fall Semester Credits Year 2- Fall Semester Credits
Basic Principles of Organic CHM 5224 3 Advanced metabolism BCH 6206 3
Organic Spectroscopy CHM 5235 3 Research, PHA 7979 5
Drug Design, PHA 6447 3  Seminar, PHA 6934        1
Year 1- Spring Semester Year 2- Spring Semester
Biosynthetic logic of Medicinal Natural Products PHA 6435 3 Structure determination of complex natural products, PHA 6356 3
Organic Synthesis of Drug Molecules PHA 6472 3 Pharmacology GMS 6009 3
 Drug Design, PHA 6447 3 Research 3
Supervised Research, PHA 6910 2  
Seminar PHA 6934 1 Didactic coursework normally completed
Year 1- Summer Semester Year 2 Summer & Remaining Years
Research PHA 7979 3 Research 8-9
Statistical methods in research STA 6166 3 Seminar 0-1