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University of Pittsburgh    
2016-2017 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jul 14, 2024
2016-2017 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Pharmaceutical Sciences - Medicinal Chemistry Track, PhD

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Medicinal Chemistry

The medicinal chemistry track is a complex scientific discipline whose focus is to develop molecules that can impact human health by discovering, designing, synthesizing and characterizing safe and effective agents for disease therapy and diagnosis. The research involves a multidisciplinary approach encompassing chemistry and biology, and includes organic synthesis, protein and nucleic acid chemistry, natural product chemistry, computational chemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, structural biology, pharmacology and proteomics.

  • You will learn to design, synthesize and characterize new medicinal agents and enhance the biological activity of existing pharmaceutical agents.
  • You will learn to use computational, biophysical, structural biology and cell-based screening technologies to identify natural and synthetic compounds for pharmacological activity and to conduct structure-based drug design.
  • You will isolate, characterize, and synthesize compounds based on natural products, as well as target identification for biologically active natural products.

PhD Comprehensive Exam and Dissertation


Students must complete a total of 72 credit hours to fulfill the requirements for the PhD. Required courses for all PhD students are listed below. Students who have had prior course work or extensive experience in a given area may be exempted from the required course at the discretion of the faculty. The remaining credit requirements are completed through elective courses and dissertation research. The specific plan of study is developed by the student and their faculty advisor and committee. Courses should be selected to assure an adequate breadth of knowledge as well as depth in the student’s focus area. For students interested in the Clinical Pharmaceutical Scientist Track, you may find the curriculum here:

PhD Comprehensive Exam and Dissertation

Each student follows a program of study developed in conjunction with the major advisor with input from the student’s doctoral committee. The program of study must contain all of the program core courses as well as elective courses specific to the student’s focus area.

Following completion of course work, students are required to complete a comprehensive examination. To be eligible for the comprehensive examination, students must be in full graduate status and have completed didactic course work with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.00. To qualify for advancement to candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy degree the student must pass the comprehensive examination.

Admission to PhD candidacy constitutes a promotion of the student to the most advanced stage of graduate study and provides formal approval to devote essentially exclusive attention to research and writing of the dissertation.

Each PhD student must write a dissertation that presents the results of research carried out by the student. An appropriate research project involves a substantive piece of original and independent research grounded in an appropriate body of literature. It is relevant to an identifiable field as it is currently practiced. It represents a hypothesis tested by collection and analysis of data and provides a significant contribution or advancement to that field.

See Regulations Pertaining to Doctoral Degrees  for a full overview of regulations and procedures for PhD candidates.

Further information is available on the School of Pharmacy website:

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