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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:Doctoral Minor


The Pharmaceutical Sciences Division at the School of Pharmacy offers the doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) 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 cores, mirroring the importance of interdisciplinary research teams in the pharmaceutical 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.

Research in Drug Discovery focuses on areas related to medicinal chemistry, such as small molecule development, natural products isolation and characterization, organic synthesis, chemical biology, and rational drug design.

Drug Action focuses on areas related to pharmacology, toxicology, cellular differentiation, development, and disease.  Interests include the impact of drugs and toxins on biological systems, mechanisms of normal biology, and mechanisms of disease. These are studies at the cellular, genetic, molecular, and biochemical levels using diverse model systems.

Drug Delivery emphasizes principles in physical chemistry, biomaterials, and drug transport, aiming for advances in formulation, drug targeting, and multi-modal therapy. Delivery research includes the solid-state chemistry of drugs, nano-pharmacy, biocompatibility, molecular recognition, computational chemistry, pharmacokinetics, 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. The Pharmaceutical Sciences Division comprises floors 4 to 7 of  Rennebohm Hall and features 36 laboratories. 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 and Public Health), UW Hospital and 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. Many researchers affiliated with Wisconsin's Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center work within these adjacent facilities.

Exceptional 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, self-sustaining 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 of Pharmacy and consist of a mixture of fellowships and/or teaching assistant support. In addition, first-year students earn $1500 in flexible funds to aid in the transition to Madison. 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 $24,000 for 2014–15), full tuition remission (waiver), 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.

Post-graduate Information

Recent program graduates have found employment in a variety of industrial, academic, and regulatory positions. These vary from research and development for pharmaceutical, chemical, and scientific equipment companies to academic research positions; some graduates eventually achieve faculty positions at small colleges or at larger research institutions. By partnering with other career services units on campus, the program has increased career services such that students can sharpen their professional and communication skills and reach a larger network of potential employers. The program graduated 41 Ph.D.s from 2009 to 2013; over 90 percent of these recent alumni were professionally placed within six months of graduation. For more information on first professional placement following graduation, see Employers of Recent Pharmsci Graduates on the program website. Faculty and the school's graduate programs coordinator can be consulted for specific career information.

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