student holding pipette

The PhD degree in Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry (MNPC) is based on interdisciplinary study in courses offered by the disciplines of Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry, Biochemistry, Toxicology and Pharmacology. Students complete the majority of coursework during the first two years while simultaneously gaining research experience in the laboratory. The PhD is granted only after completing and defending an original research-based thesis project, typically in five years.

The Division of MNPC requires students to complete 24 credits of didactic coursework, of which a minimum of 15 credits must be divisional courses. The remaining credits may be fulfilled by selecting from the list of interdisciplinary elective courses. Entering students who do not have basic knowledge in all subjects will be advised to complete one or more prerequisite electives during years 1 and 2. Most students will be advised to follow the plan of study indicated below to complete the divisional requirements during the first two years.

Many of the MNPC faculty and their students are also affiliated with various interdisciplinary degree and training programs including Toxicology, Biotechnology and Pharmacological Sciences

First Year

Fall Term Spring Term
Perspectives in MNPC Research (1 sh) MNPC Divisional Courses (3-6 sh)
MNPC Divisional Courses (3-6 sh) Interdisciplinary Electives (3-6 sh)
Interdisciplinary Electives (3-6 sh) MNPC Research (1-3 sh)
Principles of Scholarly Integrity (1sh) MNPC Seminar (1sh)
MNPC Research (1-3 sh)  
MNPC Seminar (1 sh)  
Total: 9-12 sh Total: 9-12 sh


Second Year

Fall Term Spring Term
MNPC Divisional Courses (3-6 sh) MNPC Divisional Courses (3-6 sh)
Interdisciplinary Electives (3-6 sh) Interdisciplinary Electives (3-6 sh)
MNPC Research (1-3 sh) MNPC Research (1-2 sh)
MNPC Seminar (1 sh) MNPC Seminar (1 sh)
Total: 9-12 credits Total: 9-12 credits


MNPC Divisional Courses

Course Offering Schedule
PHAR:5515 Perspectives in MNPC Research (2) (Staff): Contemporary research in medicinal chemistry and natural products. Fall, every year
PHAR:5537 Enzymatic Basis of Drug Metabolism (3) (Duffel): Current literature on catalytic and physical properties, distribution, and substrate specificity of enzymes involved in mammalian drug metabolism. Spring 2018, 2020, 2022
PHAR:5550 Synthetic Strategies in Medicinal Chemistry (3 ) (Olivo): Modern chemical methods for construction of carbon-carbon bonds commonly used in synthesis of natural products; strategic disconnections for the syntheses of these molecules. Fall 2018, 2020, 2022
PHAR:5512 Drug Discovery and Mechanisms (3) (Roman): Process of modern drug discovery, focus on high throughput screening strategies, target validation, pharmacological characterization of new compounds; mechanism of drugs targeting G protein coupled receptors, ion channels and transporters, targets in biological systems. Fall 2017, 2019, 2021
PHAR:5541 Total Synthesis of Natural Products (3) (Jin): Total synthesis of natural products; use of strategies, tactics, efficiency, selectivity, synthetic maneuvering. Consent of instructor required. Spring 2019, 2021, 2023
PHAR:6501 Principles and Mechanisms of Chemical Toxicology (1) (Doorn): Principles and mechanisms of chemical toxicology related to drugs and environmental agents. Modern methods used to conduct toxicological research. Fall 2017, 2019, 2021
PHAR:6502 Toxic Agents and Concepts in Toxicology (1) (Doorn): Specific classes of toxicants and non‑organ directed toxicity, including chemical carcinogenesis, oxidative stress, teratogenesis; clinical toxicology, antidotes, methods and models in toxicology. Fall 2017, 2019, 2021
PHAR:6503 Target-Organ Toxicity (1) (Doorn): Role of drugs/toxicants in systems toxicity (target organ); hepatotoxicity, neurotoxicity, cardiotoxicity, and toxic responses of immune system. Fall 2017, 2019, 2021
PHAR:5545 Current Medicinal Chemistry (3) (Kerns): Modern techniques used in drug discovery; important drug classes, their chemical mechanism of action. Fall 2018, 2020, 2022
PHAR:5549 Analytical Biochemistry (3) (Rice): Application of modern chromatographic and detection methods used to isolate, characterize, and quantify drugs and macromolecules. Spring 2019, 2021, 2023
PHAR:5542 Enzyme Kinetics and Enzyme Mechanisms (1) (Spies): Examination of chemical mechanisms of pharmaceutically relevant enzymes. In addition to classical methods for elucidating enzyme chemical mechanisms, the course material also incorporates principles of structure-based and computer-aided drug design and discovery. Spring, every year

PHAR:5521 High Throughput Screening for Biomed Sci (1) (Wu): Broad introduction to high throughput screening (HTS) and its application in pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences; HTS as a modern technology platform integrated with robust detection systems and robotic liquid handling instruments; use of HTS platforms to identify biologically active small organic molecules to validate drug targets, screen compound libraries; identification of biologically active small molecules for use as probes, tool compounds, drug leads; systematic, unbiased, and/or focused hypothesis‑based approaches for mechanistic studies in biological and medical sciences. Recommendations: bachelor degree in biochemistry, chemistry, molecular biology, pharmacology, or equivalent.

Spring, every year
PHAR:5510 Medicinal & Natural Products Chemistry Seminar (1,2) (Roman): MNPC Seminar is a 1 or 2 semester hour (s.h.) required course for all students, including first-year students. Attendance is required.  It meets once per week (usually on Tuesday).  Every week there is a different guest speaker.  Guest speakers come from both on-campus and off-campus and include professors from other institutions, previous students (alumni), and industry professionals.  Second-year students give a literature review and presentation and will register for 2 s.h. To prepare students for seminar by guest speakers, a journal club meeting is offered during the prior week. Fall, Spring, every year