Oct 22, 2021  
2013-2014 University Catalog 
2013-2014 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Pharmaceutical Chemistry – Major

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs

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 130 credit hours of approved courses are required, including courses in the natural and social sciences, mathematics, humanities, and communications, which is required to meet the University core or general education curriculum.

A minimum of 57 credit hours of courses in all areas of chemistry is required, along with supporting courses in mathematics and natural science as indicated below. These courses also satisfy 13 credit hours of the general education curriculum.

American Chemical Society certification of the degree can be obtained by inclusion of selected chemistry courses as part of the 57 credit hours required. 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 (29–30 credits)

And one of the following:

Pharmaceutical Chemistry Program Electives (3 credits)

Students must choose a minimum of 3 credits from any combination of the 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.

General Education Free Electives (3 credits)

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 2009 and beyond (graduating classes of 2013 and beyond)—with general education.

First Year

Second Year

Intellectual Heritage I Credits: 3

(Choose one)

Credits/Semester: 15

Intellectual Heritage II Credits: 3

(Choose one)

And one of the following:

Credits/Semester: 17-18

Third Year

Fourth Year

Fall Semester

  • Free Electives Credits: 6
    (See Footnote 2 Below)
  • Pharmaceutical Chemistry Program Elective Credits: 3
    (See Footnote 1 Below)

Credits/Semester: 15

Spring Semester

  • Free Elective Credits: 3
  • General Education Requirement Credits: 3

Credits/Semester: 17

Total Credits: 130–131


  1. 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.
  2. At least one free elective cannot be a course offered or required by the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.
  3. CH 411 - Medicinal Chemistry may be substituted for CH 414 - Structure-Activity Relationships.

General Notes:

  1. American Chemical Society certification of the pharmaceutical chemistry BS degree may be obtained by selecting as pharmaceutical chemistry program electives or free electives:
    • CH 416 - Chemical Synthesis Laboratory
    • CH 431 - Inorganic Chemistry
  2. The CH 450 - Undergraduate Research experience is strongly encouraged for all department majors. An application form is available in the department office.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs