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Research training in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy at the Medical University of South Carolina encompasses the understanding of disease mechanisms and drug toxicity, and the design and development of pharmaceutical agents.  Graduate students trained in Pharmaceutical Sciences bring the fundamentals of the physical and biological sciences to health-related research, and can pursue various exciting career options in academia, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, or government agencies upon completion of their degree.  The job market for new PhD's in Pharmaceutical Sciences is one of the best in the physical or biological sciences.

Research efforts in Pharmaceutical Sciences are focused in two areas, Bioorganic/Medicinal Chemistry and Toxicology, which are associated with broad-based research foci of the Medical University as a whole (Structural Biology, Pharmacology, etc.).  Specific areas of research in Bioorganic/Medicinal Chemistry include identification of new drug targets; rational and computer-aided drug design, synthesis and analysis; development of novel delivery systems; drug metabolism; and bioorganic and molecular immunology.  Faculty working primarily in this area include Beeson, Dix, Gumina, Patrick, Smith and Zhong.  Research programs in Toxicology include mechanisms of drug-induced cell injury, death and regeneration; molecular and cellular toxicology; drug transport; nephrotoxicity; and neurotoxicity; with faculty including Beeson, Lemasters, Markowitz, Schnellmann,  Smith, Sweet, Townsend, Wright and Yu. 

The Charleston Campus of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy offers a combined PharmD/PhD Degree program to qualified pharmacy students who are interested in clinical and research education.  This program combines the features of a professional PharmD degree with the advanced training and research of a PhD degree. By carefully structuring the dual degree program, it is possible for students to complete the requirements for both the PharmD and PhD degrees in a shorter time than would be expected if the two degrees were obtained separately. The benefits of a combined PharmD/PhD program are several fold.  First, the students may select graduate courses during the second and third year of the PharmD program that will satisfy requirements for both programs and shorten the length of the program.   Second, the student can develop during her/his initial years in the College of Pharmacy an appreciation of and aptitude in research.  Third, the student can identify a research area and a faculty advisor prior to becoming a full-time PhD student.  Fourth, by tracking into the PharmD/PhD program, the student can better appreciate the importance didactic material presented in professional courses to their area of proposed graduate study and research.

Students who complete the PharmD/PhD program will be uniquely qualified to translate basic pharmaceutical sciences research to clinical applications.  Graduates of the PharmD/PhD program will be well qualified to pursue careers in research and/or teaching in academia, governmental agencies, the pharmaceutical industry, or in a variety of other health-care settings. Additionally, students who complete the combined program will meet all requirements for licensure as a pharmacist

All MUSC graduate students complete a common first-year core curriculum, and then choose their research advisors and programs of study.  During the first year, students can receive exposure to Pharmaceutical Sciences by doing laboratory rotations within the department and/or taking an elective entitled Drug Discovery: Design, Implementation, Transport, and Metabolism.  Students choosing Pharmaceutical Sciences concentrate in either Medicinal Chemistry or Toxicology based on their choice of laboratories and complete the didactic part of their training during their second year.

Second Year Course Requirements for Pharmaceutical Sciences Students




Credit Hours
Advanced Pharmaceutical Analysis (PHMSC 710)3
Physical Organic Chemistry (PHMSC 758)


Bioorganic Chemistry (BMB 753)


Advanced Medicinal Chemistry (PHMSC 726)3
Seminar (PHMSC 780; each semester)1
Research/Dissertation (PHMSC 970/990; each semester)varies



Credit Hours
Chemical Structure, Transport, Metabolism, and Drug Discovery
(PHMSC 712)      
Organ Systems Toxicology (PHMSC 741)


Environmental Stress  Signaling & Cellular Consequences (PHMSC 715)3
Environmental Health and Toxicology (PHMSC 753)3
Seminar (PHMSC 780; each semester)1
Research/Dissertation (PHMSC 970/990; each semester)varies


                         The PhD Program                                          

The Doctor of Philosophy degree is considered the mark of highest achievement in preparation for creative scholarship and research. It is the highest degree conferred by our universities and, by nature and tradition, is a research degree. It is not conferred merely as a certificate of completion of a prescribed course of study and research. Every PhD-offering department has the responsibility to assure that the degree be granted only to candidates who have demonstrated present capability and future promise for scholarly work and independent research - in other words, to be independent and creative thinkers.

The University, the College of Graduate Studies, and PhD-offering departments have defined responsibilities toward their graduate programs and graduate students. Their major responsibility is to provide the most favorable environment possible in which graduate students can develop their potential for creative scholarship and independent research to their maximum ability. This environment comprises the graduate faculty, academic course work, the research facilities, the library resources, and a stimulating group of capable graduate students in each department. The selection and screening process of graduate students is, therefore, a very serious responsibility of our Department. Students who reach the level of PhD candidate should be those who have demonstrated the necessary intellectual ability, motivation, and drive necessary to take maximum advantage of the provided environment in the development of their potential as creative scholars and independent research investigators. It is the objective of our Department to produce the very best research scientists and scholars possible.

Program Objectives

The primary area of research training of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences is in the molecular aspects of the in vitro and in vivo interaction of pharmaceutical agents with other chemicals, both biological and nonbiological. Studies in this field include, for example, the delineation of the metabolic profiles of drugs or foreign substances in man and animals, the factors (environmental, disease, etc.) which affect these profiles, the nature and catalytic properties (molecular mechanisms and the relationship of structure to biological effect and function) of the enzymes responsible for metabolic reactions, and the delineation and modification of the factors involved in the in vitro and in vivo stability of pharmaceutical chemicals. Research in these areas requires a strong integration and understanding of chemical and biological approaches to pharmaceutical problems. These are the key disciplines around which other expertise revolves and serve as the foundation for rigorous research endeavors in the field.

Graduates of the program must possess the necessary skills to develop quantitative and qualitative methodologies to pursue studies to elucidate and evaluate the chemical transformations and interactions which occur in vitro and in vivo. These skills include the synthesis, purification, and structural determination of organic compounds, the isolation and quantitation of compounds in biological matrices, and the development, formulation, and analysis of drug delivery systems. Scholars with these skills bridge the key interface between the more traditional physical sciences and the health-related biological sciences.

Program Requirements

Graduate students of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences are members of the MUSC Graduate School and as such must satisfy both the requirements of the Graduate School and those of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The pertinent requirements of the Graduate School are listed in the General Catalog of the University and are summarized in the Graduate Student Handbook available from the College of Graduate Studies. These requirements deal with scholarship, residence, supervisory committees, research dissertations, examinations (general and final), etc. Departmental requirements invariably exceed those listed by the Graduate School because programs of study for graduate degrees are the responsibility of departments in which the training occurs. The Graduate School and Departmental requirements for the PhD degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences are as follows:

Residence: A minimum of three academic years of resident study is required for the PhD degree; two of these must be at MUSC. Residence requires 15 credit hours per semester. The thesis research must be conducted at MUSC unless the research is of a collaborative nature requiring off-campus facilities.

Credits and Scholarship:   A minimum of 45 credits of course work, exclusive of thesis and non-thesis research, must be satisfied. Graduate students must maintain better than a cumulative 3.00 GPA. Any grade of less than a 2.00 is grounds for dismissal from the program. Credits earned for a master's degree may be applied towards the doctoral degree.

Teaching Experience:   A minimum of one semester of teaching assistantship experience is a required component of the training for the PhD degree.

All students are required to attend the weekly formal departmental seminars each semester in residence except summer semester. In addition, they will be required to prepare and present one of these seminars every year that they are in the program past their first year.

All students will be encouraged to carry an average of 16 units per semester. They will also be encouraged to include in this didactic training at least 9 credits (total) of electives exclusive of the core and specialty curriculum. The nature of the electives will depend upon the student's interest, needs, and recommendations of their research supervisor. For example, additional advanced courses in biochemistry, chemistry, immunology, mathematics, pharmacology, or pharmacokinetics could be highly appropriate.

Financial Assistance

Financial support is available in two stages. During the first 14 months, a student will be supported either through a competitive stipend from the Graduate School or from the Pharmaceutical Sciences Dept. After the first 14 months, a student will be supported either from a grant through his/her research supervisor, from outside fellowships such as those from the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education, or by departmental support. No student will be guaranteed funding after five years in the program.

Students receiving financial support are expected to maintain good academic standing and make normal progress toward completion of their degree requirements in order to remain competitive. Students in this category can usually anticipate financial assistance throughout their normal graduate career. Since support is intended to allow the student to pursue their degree full-time, employment outside of the department is strongly discouraged, and may result in loss of departmental support.

Qualifying Examination

Students will take a qualifying exam at the beginning of the Summer directly following the completion of their 2nd year coursework.  The exam consists of two components:

Written Component.  The exam will be comprehensive and largely based on the second year curriculum.

Oral Component.  The student will be given a peer-reviewed journal paper selected by the faculty.  The student has 2 hours to study the paper and then will present a brief (10-15 minute) critical synopsis of the paper to faculty who will also ask questions about the paper (1-2 hours).

Students failing either the written or oral examination may retake the exams no more than 30 days after the initial failure. A second failure is grounds for dismissal from the PhD program. Upon successful completion of components of the Qualifying Examination, the student will assemble an Advisory Committee  with the aid of the proposed advisor and develop a research plan written in a proposal format.  The research plan will be given to the Advisory Committee at the end of the Summer and the student will present the proposal in a seminar format as part of the Candidacy Exam in the beginning of the Fall semester. A final examintion, the thesis proposal defense, is required for the degree.

Student Advisory Committee

The Student Advisory Committee for each trainee will consist of at least five members; at least three from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and at least two from outside the department.  The chairperson (advisor) and at least three additional faculty  must be members of the graduate faculty of the MUSC College of Graduate Studies. One of the outside members must be from the Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Columbia Campus of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy. The names will be forwarded through the departmental Graduate Coordinator for approval by the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies.  All members of the committee must be free of all potential conflicts of interest or personal relationships with the candidate.  The advisor will be responsible for coordinating the activity of the Student Advisory Committee and ensuring compliance with graduate school regulations.  The student must meet at least annually with his/her Advisory Committee from the time of appointment of the committee until completion of the requirements for the degree.  The departmental Graduate Coordinator and the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies must be notified in writing that the annual meeting has taken place and a copy of the report must be placed in the student's departmental program file.

Participants in the ESSCC Training Grant.   For students wishing to participate in the departmental Training Grant there is the additional requirement that at least three Advisory Committee members are from the ESSCC Training Faculty.  The Student Advisory Committee will be chosen by the student with the proposed dissertation advisor, and the names will be forwarded through the ESSCC Advisory Committee and the departmental Graduate Coordinator for approval by the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies.  In addition to the departmental Graduate Coordinator and the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, the ESSCC Program Director must be notified in writing of the annual committee meetings by the chairperson of the Advisory Committee.  A detailed letter of evaluation of student progress in the program, whether from the Mentor or the ESSCC Advisory Committee, must be written to the student with a copy placed in the student's departmental program file.

Plan of Research

Written Research Plan.  The student will develop a thesis research plan written in NIH proposal format under the guidance of the thesis advisor.  The proposal should be about 10 pages, not including references.  The complete research plan is to be submitted to the Advisory Committee at least two weeks prior to the oral presentation of his or her research plan.  At this time, the student will submit to the Advisory Committee and the Graduate School a tentative title and topic of his or her research project.  If necessary, this title may be revised, but any revision must be made at least three months prior to the degree being conferred.

Candidacy Exam.  The student will present his or her thesis research plan in a seminar format to a general audience.  A closed session, oral exam with the Advisory Committee will immediately follow the seminar presentation.  If the student fails the exam, he/she must retake the exam within a timeline dictated by the Advisory Committee.  It is the discretion of the Advisory Committee to decide whether both sessions are to be repeated or whether only the closed session is to be repeated.  If the student fails the second exam, he or she will be dismissed from the Training Program.  It requires an action by the Graduate Council to determine whether the student should then enter a Master’s Program or be asked to withdraw from the Graduate School.

Research Progress.  Students will meet with their Advisory Committee at least once per year to informally present their research progress.  For ESSCC trainees the chair of the committee will provide a written report to the ESSCC Program committee, which will meet to evaluate the report for each trainee.  If the research progress is deemed unsatisfactory, then the student will meet with the Program committee who will then provide a recommended corrective plan to the student’s advisory committee.

Dissertation and Final Examination

The final examination will consist of two parts: presentation of the thesis dissertation in a seminar format in an open session and a closed oral examination by the Advisory Committee.  The Advisory Committee will have primary responsibility for evaluating the student's research, including the written dissertation and the formal oral presentation.  Approval by the Advisory Committee, with no more than one dissenting vote, is necessary for recommendation for awarding the degree.  The decision of the Advisory Committee will be forwarded to the dean of the Graduate School.  The graduate faculty has the authority, which it has delegated to the dean, for final approval of the candidate for the awarding of the degree.  In the event of disapproval, the candidate may be permitted to retake the examination in not less than six months and not more than two years from the time this decision was made.  Only one opportunity for reexamination is given.  Any candidate who is granted this privilege shall retain the status and obligations of a graduate student until the time of such re-examination.  In the event that all work is not completed within four years following the qualifying examination, a second qualifying examination will be required.

 The PharmD/PhD Program

The PharmD/PhD program is designed for highly motivated and qualified individuals who are seeking a combination program in the clinical and basic sciences.  Enrollment into the PharmD/PhD program at the Medical University of South Carolina is restricted to accepted and currently enrolled PharmD students.  There are two possible times for a student to apply for entry into the dual degree program.  Upon seeking admission to the College of Pharmacy, the student may request entry into the PharmD/PhD program.  Secondly, the student may also apply during the first or second year of the PharmD program.

All students in the PharmD/PhD program will receive a stipend while completing the PhD requirements. Students will receive a stipend for research conducted in the summers. The full-time stipend will begin when the students become full-time graduate students, approximately the spring semester of the 4th year.  The stipend will be consistent with the College of Graduate Studies policy.

General Requirements for Completion of the PharmD/PhD Program

A. Completion of all requirements for PharmD program
B. Complete all required coursework for PhD program
C. Pass a comprehensive written and oral examination at the end of all PhD coursework.
D. Complete a written dissertation based on his/her laboratory work an
E.  Pass a final examination (Dissertation defense)

Integrated curriculum for PharmD/PhD program

Unlike the PharmD component with its fixed curriculum, the PhD is a research degree so it is impossible to put a firm timetable on the duration of the program. Typically, PhD students require five years to complete the requirements for their degree.  However, the efficiencies built into the PharmD/PhD program should shorten the time required to approximately 7 years when compared to completing each degree separately would require approximately 9 years. 

Contact Information
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences
280 Calhoun Street
Charleston SC 29425
Sandy Spence 843-792-3117