Degree Requirements

The student’s academic and research programs are tailored to meet his or her specific interests and professional goals and are decided upon by that student and his/her supervising professor. However, all students take a set of “core” courses in advanced organic chemistry, advanced medicinal chemistry, advanced biochemistry and molecular biology (12 semester hours). Within one calendar year of admission, each student declares a sub-specialization in medicinal chemistry (synthetic medicinal chemistry, bioorganic chemistry or structural molecular biology) and fulfills the core requirements of that sub-specialization.

Following completion of the core requirements, and typically near the end of the second year of study, the student will be required to take the candidacy examinations. The written candidacy examination consists of a single comprehensive exam prepared by the student’s examination committee consisting of division faculty and other faculty members whose selection is based upon the student’s specialization and research. Within 90 days of passing the written exam, the student submits a formal, original NIH proposal to the examination committee concerning a topic chosen by the student and approved by the examination committee. This serves as the basis for the oral candidacy examination. Upon successful completion of both examinations, the student is admitted to candidacy and the dissertation committee is formulated and charged with supervising the dissertation research and final defense.


Progression through the Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry Ph.D. program involves the satisfactory completion of 8 didactic courses, 2-3 research laboratory rotations, participation in the seminar series including the presentation of a departmental seminar, two long semesters as a teaching assistant, a two-part qualifying examination, the development and execution of a successful original research project under the supervision of a faculty member, a written dissertation, and the defense of the dissertation. These requirements are described in detail in this section, and in all cases, are dependent upon approval from the appropriate advisors. In brief:

a) Students are required to take four core courses (Physical Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Medicinal Chemistry) and four additional courses selected in consultation with the Supervising Professor. These courses cover topics in bio-organic chemistry, mechanistic enzymology, structural biology, and synthetic organic chemistry and are offered by Division faculty and by Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences faculty. Students must complete all courses with a grade of B- or above (but maintain a 3.0 GPA).

b) Students are strongly encouraged to carry out 2-3 research rotations in their first semester. The rotations are discussed with and scheduled by the Academic Advisor. This requirement may be waived under unusual circumstances. At the end of the rotations, students select a Supervising Professor.

c) Students must attend the Division seminar series every long semester and present a divisional seminar in their third long semester. The Academic Advisor will notify the student in order to schedule to the seminar.

d) Students must serve as teaching assistants for two long semesters in the College of Pharmacy, the Department of Chemistry, Molecular Biosciences, or related departments.

e) Students must successfully pass a two-part written and oral qualifying examination. The first part covers the proposed dissertation research project; and, the second part covers an original research proposal. For each part, students prepare a 10-15 page proposal and defend the proposal after a 20-30 min presentation (of the proposal).

f) Under the direction of the Supervising Professor, students complete the dissertation research project, write a dissertation, and defend the dissertation. Students must make satisfactory progress on their research project each semester, as determined by the Supervising Professor, in order to complete the Ph.D.

In general, students complete all requirements (except for the research project described in f above) by the end of their second full year. Students take the two-part qualifying examination at this time so that they can be admitted to candidacy by the start of the third year. The research project is then completed over the next 3-5 years.

Curriculum Sequence

Listed below are the course requirements that must be satisfied before a student may apply for doctoral candidacy. It should be noted that courses are not offered every semester and are subject to change. For a detailed curriculum and additional requirements, please visit the Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry division handbook (pdf).

Core Course Requirements
(Required of all students unless waived by the Academic Advisor)
CH 386J Advanced Organic Chemistry
CH 395G Biochemistry
CH 395J Molecular Biology (This can be replaced with other courses by permission)
PGS 396M Medicinal Chemistry: General Principles, Pharmacological Classification, and Mechanism of Action

(Choose 4 courses)
PGS 382C Chemistry of Natural Products
PGS 386E Enzymes and DNA as Chemical Targets for Drug Action
PGS 388C Introductory Bioorganic Chemistry
PGS 388D Advanced Bioorganic Chemistry
PGS 396C Synthetic Medicinal Chemistry
PGS 397M Drug Design and Synthetic Strategy
CH 386K Advanced Organic Chemistry
CH 387D Physical Methods in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
CH 387K Biochemical Techniques
CH 391L Macromolecular Structure Determination
CH 392H Biomolecular Structure by NMR Spectroscopy
CH 392N Physical Chemistry of Macromolecular Systems
CH 394 Chemistry of Enzyme Systems

Students may enroll in other electives with the approval of the Academic Advisor and the Supervising Professor.

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