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Pharmaceutical Sciences

Program Website
Director of Graduate Studies: Qisheng Zhang, PhD (CBMC) | Shawn Hingtgen, PhD & Owen Fenton, PhD (DPMP)
Student Services Specialist: Ain Mason (CBMC) |Garrett Bethmann (DPMP)

Program Overview

Fluorescent image displaying the migration of a human induced neural stem cell (red) into a glioblastoma cancer cell spheroid (green), leading eventually to killing the cancer cells. Image courtesy of Dr. Juli R. Bago, Hingtgen lab.

The PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences offers students a rigorous grounding in a broad range of disciplines that are critical to success as a biomedical scientist in academia and industry. We take an interdisciplinary approach to graduate research by combining the aspects of chemistry, biology, and engineering that relate to drug discovery and pharmaceutical engineering. PhD students choose a concentration in one of two of the School’s academic divisions: Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry (CBMC) or Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics (DPMP). There are more than 70 graduate students working with 16 faculty members in this stimulating environment.


Students in the concentration in CBMC take a total of five (5) courses, including three in Medicinal Chemistry, one in Pharmacology and one in Chemistry. Students in the concentration in DPMP take a total of eight (8) courses, including six core courses in Molecular Pharmaceutics plus two elective courses.

Qualifying Exams

Written Exam: The written qualifying exam has two components. For CBMC, part one involves monthly “cumulative exams” on current research topics from the literature that begin after the 2nd semester of graduate school. Students must accumulate 24 points within 18 months, which are scored as: high pass = 4, pass = 3, low pass = 1. For DPMP, part 1 is a one-week take-home exam that begins in early January. For both concentrations, part 2 is a 15-page research proposal patterned in the format of an NIH grant proposal. For CBMC, the proposal constitutes a prospectus of the student’s dissertation research; for DPMP, the proposal must cover a topic that is judged by 3-member ad hoc exam committee to be unrelated to any projects of the student’s research advisor. For students in both concentrations, the written exams are typically completed by the end of the fourth academic semester.

Committee Meetings and Oral Examination: Students form their committees from members of the faculty and have their first committee meetings by the end of their second year. For students in both CBMC and DPMP, the oral qualifying exam is an oral defense of the written research proposal. The oral exam is administered by a Faculty committee and provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their ability to discuss the fields of science related to the proposal, as well as their ability to analyze problems and design experiments. The oral examination must be completed before the end of the fifth academic semester. After passing their oral examination, students will have one committee meeting per year until graduation.


Additional Requirements

TA requirement
Students may have the opportunity to serve as teaching assistants for graduate or professional course in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy for one or two semesters.

Students attend weekly seminars in the area of their concentration. Students concentrating in CBMC present two public seminars, one out of field and the second a research report. Students in the DPMP concentration present their research after year two.