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Requirements for degrees in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry place a strong emphasis on organic and medicinal chemistry with flexibility for additional emphasis in various aspects of biochemistry, pharmacology, or other aspects of the biological sciences.

Foundation (Prerequisite) Courses

Students enter the medicinal chemistry Ph.D. program with a variety of undergraduate backgrounds. All graduate students must present evidence of credit in the following foundation courses. Ideally these courses will have been taken prior to entering the graduate program; if not they must be taken as early in the graduate program as practicable.

Organic Chemistry with Lab
CHEM 624, 625, 626, 627

2 semesters

Physical Chemistry
CHEM 640 or 646

1 semester

* see note below

1 semester

*A one-semester survey course in biochemistry is acceptable if the student received a grade of B or better in the course OR if the student scores a 70 or better on the ACS Biochemistry placement exam given to entering graduate students in the fall (one try only will be allowed). If neither of these applies, the student will take one semester of biochemistry through the Department of Medicinal Chemistry (MDCM 701).

At the end of the first semester, continuance in the program is dependent upon satisfactory academic program progress.

Ph.D. Program Requirements and Typical Scheduling

The curricula presented below represent the minimal programs of required courses for the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees.  Where the student can demonstrate having had comparable coursework experience elsewhere, a waiver can be requested by the student.  The faculty of the department has the option to waive individual requirements at its discretion.

MDCM 710

5 cr.

Chemistry of Drug Action-I

Fall year 1

CHEM 740

3 cr.

Principles of Organic Reactions

Fall year 1

MDCM 801

1 cr

Issues in Scientific Integrity (offered in even years)

Fall year 1 (or 2)

MDCM 790

2 cr.

Chemistry of Drug Action-II

Spring year 1

Elective 1

3 cr

(See the list below, but often Physical Org. Chem.)

Spring year 1

Elective 2

3 cr

(See the list below, but often Organic Synthesis-I)

Spring year 1

CHEM 742

3 cr.


Summer year 1

MDCM 860

3 cr.

Principles and Practice of Chemical Biology

Fall Year 2

Elective 3

3 cr.

(See the list below, but often Organic Synthesis-II)

Fall Year 2

MDCM 980

3 cr.

Literature Seminar & Research Proposal Preparation

Spring Year 2

MDCM 800

1 cr.

Research Seminar

Fall Year 3

Suggested Elective Courses

A minimum of 9 credit hours of electives, composed of any combination of approved elective courses is required.  Listed below are the suggested elective courses for our graduate students.

MDCM 775

3 cr

Chemistry of the Nervous System

Spring (even years)

MDCM 785

2 cr

Natural Products of Medicinal Significance

on demand

MDCM 950

2 cr

Adv. Topics / Industrial Medicinal Chemistry

Spring (odd years)

MDCM 952

3 cr

Introduction to Molecular Modeling

Spring (odd years)

MDCM 816

1 cr

Careers in Chemical Biology

every semester

CHEM 840

3 cr

Physical Organic Chemistry I


CHEM 842

3 cr

Organic Synthesis I


CHEM 942

3 cr

Organic Synthesis II


CHEM 980

2-3 cr

Advanced topics in Organic Chemistry

Fall / Spring

BIOL 688

3 cr

Molecular Biology of Cancer


BIOL 750

3 cr

Advanced Biochemistry


BIOL 809

4 cr

Grad. Molecular Biosci. for Medicinal Chemists


BIOL 818

2 cr

Techniques in Molecular Biosciences


BIOL 918

4 cr

Modern Biochemical and Biophysical Methods

Spring (even years)

PHCH 725

3 cr

Cell Biology


Continuance in the program is dependent upon satisfactory overall progress during the various stages of study. To be in good academic standing, in addition to satisfactory research performance (e.g. research productivity, work ethic, good citizenship etc.), a student must also maintain a minimum overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher throughout the duration of the graduate program.

Minimum Enrollment

Minimum enrollment for the Fall and Spring semesters is 9 credit hours each, with a minimum of 6 hours being required in the summer. It is emphasized that these are minimum enrollment figures. Students are expected to take all courses stated in the departmental curriculum even if that means taking more than the minimum hours a given term. In particular each student must be continuously enrolled in at least 1 hour of thesis or dissertation research each term (MDCM 895 or 999), regardless of other coursework, throughout his or her tenure in the graduate program.

Comprehensive Written Examination

Based on all the coursework from the year 1 in the program (Fall-Spring-Summer), the students are required to take a comprehensive written examination, administered immediately at the end of year 1 summer.  A score of <50% is considered a failing grade, resulting in immediate dismissal from the program.  A score of 50–70% qualifies the student for one additional attempt, which must occur before the beginning of the fall semester (of year 2).  A score of 70% or above is deemed passing and qualifies the student to continue in the program.


The program requirement includes the preparation and presentation of two seminars in the departmental seminar series. The first seminar, presented during the first-half of the Spring semester of year 2, is a literature based seminar and is part of the ‘Literature Seminar & Research Proposal Preparation’ course (MDCM 980). The students are required to suggest three topics of contemporary medicinal chemical significance, from which the course coordinator selects and assigns an appropriate topic to the student for the seminar presentation. The second seminar is a research seminar (MDCM 800) presented during the Fall semester of Year 3, and is based on the research progress of the student.

Comprehensive Oral Examination

Upon successful completion of the first two years of coursework and other related requirements, a faculty committee comprised of four Department faculty and one outside member conducts a comprehensive oral examination of the student. Successful completion of the oral examination results in the student attaining the ‘doctoral candidacy’ status. To be eligible to serve in the examination committee, all the members must hold graduate faculty status (regular/dissertation/special/ad hoc), as stipulated by the Graduate Studies.

Original Research Proposal

As part of the ‘Literature Seminar and Proposal Preparation’ course (MDCM 980), during the second-half of the Spring semester of year 2, the students are also required to prepare an original research proposal (NIH format), and submit to the faculty for evaluation. The students prepare the research proposal based on the same topic of their literature seminar (please see under the heading ‘Seminars’ above).   

Research, Research Group Rotations, and Research Advisor Assignment

Our graduate degrees (M.S. and Ph.D.) in Medicinal Chemistry are research-based degrees, and a fundamental requirement for these are significant in-depth contributions to new knowledge. In addition to the program-related coursework, from the beginning of their study, the students are expected to devote significant time performing research, as the results of these studies forms the basis of their thesis or dissertation.

  • All incoming graduate students are required to perform two research rotations during the first semester.  If any student enrolls for the preceding summer session (optional), a third rotation can be completed.
  • Assignment of research advisors, both for rotations and the final research group assignment, are done taking into consideration the student’s preference of research advisor, as well as the availability of funding and research space in the groups of choice.

Student Self-Assessment

All students in their 3rd year or later are required to complete a yearly self-assessment of their goals and progress toward meeting them. This document helps to guide students who are no longer taking classes and assists Departmental Faculty to track progress in the graduate program.

Safety Training

Students must complete appropriate training before they are allowed to begin laboratory work. In addition, they are expected to comply with all EHS-required and Departmentally – mandated training, that may take the form of research seminars, hands-on training, and/or online training.

Ph.D. Degree

The final requirements for the Ph.D. degree are the preparation and defense of a dissertation based upon the original laboratory research conducted by the student. The average time needed for graduation is about five years. A non-thesis M.S. degree is automatically awarded to all students after the successful completion of their oral comprehensive examination. In certain circumstances, an M.S. degree involving the preparation and defense of an original thesis can be offered.

Doctoral Program Profiles

The University of Kansas is a major public research and teaching institution with a number of doctoral degree programs. Visit the profiles page which provides summary data for Lawrence-campus doctoral programs as one-page doctoral program profiles.

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