Sep 26, 2021  
2016-2017 University Catalog 
2016-2017 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Pharmaceutical Chemistry – Major

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Pharmaceutical chemistry is an area of chemistry that focuses on the development and evaluation of new drugs. Modern medicine relies on a multitude of drugs produced through the efforts of pharmaceutical chemists, including drugs such as cisplatin, used in the treatment of cancer, and AZT, used in the treatment of AIDS. The most effective approaches to drug development rely on a fundamental knowledge of the chemical and biochemical basis underlying the targeted disease state and how that disease affects the living system.

Pharmaceutical chemists may perform two very different kinds of functions in the pharmaceutical industry: 1) a “synthetic” function and 2) an “analytical” function, each of which requires a correspondingly different kind of chemical training.

The “synthetic” pharmaceutical chemist, sometimes also called a medicinal chemist, is asked to devise and implement strategies for the synthesis of drugs that can reduce or eliminate the impact of disease, injuries, or genetic defects. Subsequent efforts are focused on the modification of the drug or change in the delivery mechanism (e.g., pill vs. patch) with the goal of maximizing the therapeutic effects while minimizing the negative side effects and lowering the cost of production.

Students interested in this “synthetic” function are advised to obtain a BS degree in chemistry at the undergraduate level, rather than a degree in pharmaceutical chemistry. Additional training at the MS and/or PhD level in synthetic or medicinal chemistry is often needed to pursue this career.

In contrast, the “analytical” pharmaceutical chemist is typically involved in devising analytical procedures that ensure that the drug produced for sale is pure and that the drug and its metabolites can be detected in an individual taking the drug. This latter aspect is critical for necessary toxicological and pharmacological studies to determine if the drug is both efficacious and safe and at what levels. These kind of analytical skills also play a critical role in forensic applications.

Students interested in this “analytical” focus, which is the focus of the pharmaceutical chemistry BS degree at USciences, will often enter the pharmaceutical industry or forensic laboratory directly with a BS degree, although advanced degrees may also be obtained. Students with this degree may also be involved in clinical trials of new drugs or in sales.

Pharmaceutical chemists are in high demand within the vast pharmaceutical industry and are also employed in government regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They may be involved in drug synthesis or drug analysis or as a technical representative in the marketing division of a company.

Pharmaceutical Chemistry Degree Requirements

To qualify for the bachelor of science in pharmaceutical chemistry, a minimum of 122 credit hours of approved courses are required, including courses in the natural and social sciences, mathematics, humanities, and communications, which are required to meet the University general education curriculum.

A minimum of 55 credit hours of courses in all areas of chemistry are required, along with supporting courses in mathematics and natural science as indicated below. American Chemical Society certification of the degree can be obtained by inclusion of selected chemistry courses as part of the 55 credit hours required, together with additional electives. Students are also strongly encouraged to complete an undergraduate research project as part of their degree program, with the guidance of a department faculty member.

In order to earn a degree from Misher College of Arts and Sciences, a student must complete thirty (30) in-residence credits at a University campus. Fifteen (15) of the thirty in-residence credits must be at the 300 level or higher. In-residence credits are defined as credits for courses offered by the University for which a student receives credit and a grade that can contribute to the student’s calculated grade point average.

Supporting Requirements in Science and Mathematics (27 credits)

Pharmaceutical Chemistry Program Electives (9-10 credits)

Students must choose a minimum of 9 credits from one of the following two combination of the courses:

1st combination: CH 448, Computer Aided Drug Design, Credits: 3, and at least 6 credits from Pharmaceutical Chemistry program electives selected from the list below.


2nd combination: PH 316, Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics I, Credits: 3 and PH 317, Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics II, Credits: 4, and at least 3 additional credits chosen from courses listed below.

Alternative courses, including selected courses in pharmaceutical sciences and graduate courses, may be selected with the approval of the department chair.

The CH 450 - Undergraduate Research experience is strongly encouraged for all departmental majors; application forms are available in the department office. A combined maximum of 3 credits of CH 450 and CH480 can be used to meet this requirement, and both courses require the approval of the department chair prior to registration.

Integrated Undergraduate/Graduate Degree Program

Students may take advantage of the opportunity to integrate their BS degree program with one of the graduate degree programs offered through the department in either chemistry or biochemistry, including the MS (non-thesis), MS (thesis), and PhD programs. Students should consult with the department’s graduate program director regarding the differences among the various options and the specific requirements that they need to meet in order to enroll in the integrated program. Students may apply to the Integrated Program at any point prior to the beginning of the fourth year of their BS program. However, because not all graduate courses are offered every year, the time required to complete a BS/MS integrated program will depend in part on when students enter the program.

Sample Pharmaceutical Chemistry Curriculum Plan

Students entering in Catalog Years 2016 and beyond (graduating classes of 2020 and beyond)—with general education.

First Year

Second Year

Fall Semester

  • Multidisciplinary Inquiry Requirement (MD) Credits: 3

Credits/Semester: 15

Spring Semester

  • Multidisciplinary Inquiry (MD) Credits: 3

Credits/Semester: 18

Third Year

Credits/Semester: 15

Spring Semester

Credits/Semester: 15

Fourth Year

Fall Semester

  • Free Elective Credits: 3
    (See Footnote 1 Below)
  • General Education Requirement Credits: 3
  • Pharmaceutical Chemistry Program Elective Credits: 3
    (See Footnote 2 Below)

Credits/Semester: 15

Spring Semester

  • General Education Requirement Credits: 3
  • Pharmaceutical Chemistry Program Electives Credits: 6-7

Credits/Semester: 14-15

Total Credits: 122-123


  1. At least one free elective (3 credits) can in no way be required for the BS in Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
  2. Pharmaceutical chemistry program electives, in addition to the preapproved list, may be selected from other appropriate undergraduate courses with the approval of the department chair, as well as graduate courses with the approval of the instructor and department chair.

General Notes:

  1. American Chemical Society certification of the pharmaceutical chemistry BS degree may be obtained by inclusion of selected chemistry courses as part of the 55 credit hours required, together with additional electives. Consult with a chemistry advisor.
  2. The CH 450 - Undergraduate Research experience is strongly encouraged for all department majors. An application form is available in the department office.

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