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Pharmaceutical Sciences

Administrative Unit:School of Pharmacy
College/School: School of Pharmacy
Admitting Plans:Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:M.S., Ph.D.
Minors and Certificates:Ph.D. Minor


The Pharmaceutical Sciences Division at the School of Pharmacy offers the doctor of philosophy degree in pharmaceutical sciences. (Students are accepted only for the Ph.D. program; the master of science degree is awarded only under special circumstances). The program provides a rigorous background in a range of scientific disciplines that are critical to the success of modern pharmaceutical scientists. The program’s interdisciplinary design combines pharmaceutically relevant aspects of classical disciplines such as chemistry, biology, and engineering.  Students concentrate in one of three research cores: Drug Discovery, Drug Action, or Drug Delivery. Extensive communication occurs between these research cores, mirroring the importance of interdisciplinary research teams in the pharmaceutical sciences field.

To enhance the required core curriculum, an individualized course of study is planned with a faculty advisor. A list of pharmaceutical sciences graduate faculty and their respective areas of research specialization is available from the division website and related links. The Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Program has educated generations of scientists for challenging positions in industry, academia, and government.

The Drug Discovery Core is focuses on small molecule-based drug discovery and development. The program is driven by modern applications of classical organic synthesis, natural products chemistry, combinatorial methods and rational molecular design to construct unique small molecule scaffolds and chemical libraries. The drug discovery core provides intensive training in modern organic chemistry coupled with a distinctive exposure to modern applications of small molecules within biology and medicine.

The Drug Action Core is directed toward drug mechanism and signal transduction with special emphasis on cellular differentiation, development, and function. Interest is concentrated on drug interaction at the cellular, genetic, molecular, and biochemical levels using diverse model systems including mammalian cells, rodents, zebrafish, crustaceans, Drosophila, and yeast. In some measure, the drug action core draws its identity from the traditional fields of pharmacology, toxicology, cell biology, and genetics.

The Drug Delivery Core emphasizes fundamental principles in physical chemistry, biomaterials, and drug transport, aiming for advances in drug formulation, drug targeting, and multi-modal therapy. Research explores the solid-state chemistry of drugs, nano-pharmacy, biocompatibility, molecular recognition, computational chemistry, drug transport in the brain, and molecular imaging.

Facilities. The Pharmaceutical Sciences Division is housed in Rennebohm Hall, a seven-story, state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2001 and offers 120,000 assignable square feet. Located on the northwest edge of campus, Rennebohm Hall is in close proximity to the Health Sciences Learning Center (home of the UW School of Medicine & Public Health), UW Hospital & Clinics, the Waisman Center, the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research (WIMR), the School of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Nursing and Ebling Library for the Health Sciences. Research facilities and equipment are highlighted by the school's Analytical Instrumentation Center (AIC), comprising mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance, spectroscopy, and spectrophotometry facilities. The AIC's high-tech instrumentation expedites the isolation and full structural elucidation of small molecules. These chemical entities can be subsequently evaluated via high throughput screening toward lead generation, or specifically utilized to prove novel biological phenomenon toward in-depth mechanistic study. The division offers centralized facilities for computer-aided drug and catalyst design, real-time PCR, gene array detectors, gas chromatographs, high-pressure liquid chromatographs, cell culture, ultra-centrifuges, scintallation counters, and animal care for a variety of species.

The school's Lenor Zeeh Pharmaceutical Experiment Station is a not-for-profit center of expertise serving faculty researchers across the UW–Madison campus as well as private-sector drug product development. The station provides laboratory services related to compound physical/chemical characterization and basic formulation development to support pre-clinical development of promising drug candidates and other unmet pharmaceutical-related needs. Pharmaceutical sciences graduate students are eligible to participate in summer internships at the station.

Financial Aid

Financial support is provided to all graduate students in pharmaceutical sciences through a combined mechanism of fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and project assistantships. Funding packages for first-year students in the Ph.D. program are provided by the school and consist of a mixture of fellowships and/or teaching assistant support. In addition, first-year students earn $1500 in flexible funds paid in two installments. After the first academic year, students are supported by their thesis advisor through research assistantship or teaching assistantship appointments. All students receive a stipend (the recommended minimum level for students in the division is $23,000 for 2011–12), full tuition remission, and reasonably priced, comprehensive health insurance.


Accepted graduate students commonly have strong scientific backgrounds, a passion for research, and significant laboratory experience. Students with undergraduate degrees in the physical or biological sciences, engineering, pharmacy, and related fields are encouraged to apply.

Please see Admissions on the program website for the application deadline and required supplemental materials.

For more information: Graduate Program Coordinator, School of Pharmacy, 777 Highland Avenue, Madison WI 53705-2222; 608-262-1200; 608-262-4257; fax 608-262-5345; gradadmissions@pharmacy.wisc.edu; www.pharmacy.wisc.edu/pharmsci/

This page was updated 10/3/12.