Composite image of student in lab and various scientific imagery

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Medicinal Chemistry

The KU Department of Medicinal Chemistry provides Ph.D. students a strong foundation in organic and medicinal chemistry with flexibility for additional emphasis in aspects of biochemistry, pharmacology and other biological sciences.

Apply for Ph.D.

Ph.D. Program Overview

Standard KU Graduate Admission Requirements

Students must meet all requirements for Graduate Admissions.


Previous Degree Requirement

B.S. or M.S. degree in pharmacy, medicinal chemistry, chemistry, biochemistry, or a closely-related field

Grade Point Average (GPA)

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. 

Graduate Record Exam (GRE) Scores

  • GRE General Test is recommended but not required.
  • GRE scores should be sent directly to the University of Kansas and to the Department of Medicinal Chemistry (codes: KU-6871, Medicinal Chemistry - 0621). 
  • Although not mandatory, applicants are encouraged to also take the subject test in chemistry.

English Proficiency Requirements

Non-native English speakers must demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing and listening via English Proficiency Scores from the TOEFL, IELTS or PTE test. See KU's English Proficiency Requirements for detailed information, including minimum score requirements. Request that the testing agency send your official scores directly to KU (codes: KU-6871, Pharmacy-47).

Time to Complete

The program typically takes five years to complete. Required core graduate courses for students who meet standard requirements can be completed within the first two years of study. Students attend year-round with time off for holidays and vacations.

Minimum Enrollment

Students enroll in at least 9 credit hours in both the fall and spring semesters and 6 hours in the summer. Students must take all required courses, even if that requires more than the minimum hours a given term. Students must be enrolled in at least 1 hour of thesis or dissertation research each term (MDCM 895 or 999), regardless of other coursework.

Foundational Prerequisite Courses

One year of organic chemistry with laboratory (equivalent to CHEM 624, 625, 626, 627) and at least one course in physical chemistry (equivalent to CHEM 640, 646) and one course biochemistry (see note below).

Note About Biochemistry
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).


See Courses - Ph.D. for details about required coursework, safety training and academic standing.

Research Requirements

Graduate degrees in medicinal chemistry are research-based and awarded only after a student has made a significant, in-depth contribution of new knowledge to the field in the form of research publications and the M.S. Thesis or the Doctoral Dissertation.

Academic Standing

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

Comprehensive Written Examination

After the spring semester of year one, students take a comprehensive written examination and must score 70% or higher. A score of 50%-69% qualifies students for one additional attempt, which must occur before fall semester of year two. A score below 50% will typically result in dismissal.

Comprehensive Oral Examination

Students take a comprehensive oral exam after the first two years of coursework. Successful completion results in the student attaining the status of doctoral candidate. A non-thesis M.S. degree is automatically awarded to all students after the successful completion of their oral comprehensive examination.

Seminar Presentations

Students must prepare and present two seminars in the departmental seminar series. The first is the Literature Seminar (MDCM 798) and presented during the spring semester of year two. The second seminar is the research seminar (MDCM 799), during the fall semester of year four and highlights research progress.

Original Research Proposal

As part of the “Proposal Preparation” course (MDCM 980), during the fall semester of year three, students prepare an original proposal (NIH format), and submit it to the faculty for evaluation. This proposal is based on the same topic as their literature seminar.  

Research Rotations

Students perform two research rotations during the first semester and are assigned a research advisor, both for rotations and the final research group assignment. Assignments are based on student’s preference as well as the availability of funding and research space.

Student Self-Assessment

Starting in the third year, students are required to complete a yearly self-assessment of their goals and progress toward those goals.

Dissertation Defense

The final requirements for the Ph.D. degree are the preparation and defense of a dissertation based on the original laboratory research conducted by the student.

Safety Training

Students must comply with training required by the KU Department of Environment, Health and Safety and the Department of Medicinal Chemistry. Training can include research seminars, hands-on training and online training. Safety training specific to assigned labs must also be completed before students are allowed to begin laboratory work.


Director of Graduate Studies Course
Mark Farrell
Assistant Professor

Graduate Student Recruiting Application

KU Graduate Admissions