Chemistry Coursework The

Department Coursework and Research Overview

To maintain the strength and reputation of our graduates, we have a rigorous set of courses that are designed to hone the student's skills in aspects of pharmacokinetics and biopharmaceutics, physical/organic chemistry, chemical kinetics and equilibrium phenomena, which we consider essential in understanding problems of any origin, including biological processes, on a molecular level. In addition to the didactic component of our training, we view research progress and the nature of the master's thesis project to be of high importance.

Applicant background

It is an expectation that entering students have competence in mathematics that is typically obtained in the physical and biological sciences at the B.S. level, plus a sound background in physical and organic chemistry.

Core Courses

The department requires five core courses, for a total of 14 credit hours, that each student must take and receive a grade of B or better.

  • PHCH 744 Organic Chemistry (3). A consideration of the structural features and driving forces that control the course of chemical reactions.  Topics will include functional group chemistry: electronic structure (from Lewis structures to LCAO molecular orbitals), acid/base properties (Bronsted to Lewis concepts): molecular structure and properties (dipole, strain, and steric effects, inductive and resonance effects); dynamics of reactions (the major organic reaction mechanism, kinetics, energy profiles, isotope effects, linear free energy relationships), solvent effects, stereochemistry and conformation, an introduction to orbital symmetry control; basic thermodynamic and kinetic concepts; and an overview of important classes of mechanisms. 
  • PHCH 863 Pharmaceutical Equilibria (3).  A course on equilibria in aqueous and non-aqueous systems with emphasis on solutions of interest to pharmaceutical technology.  Included are association-dissociation equilibria, complexation, protein binding, calculation of species concentrations, estimation of solubility and ionization constants.  Methods for the determination of chemical potential in solution are presented.3) 
  • PHCH 921 Chemical Kinetics (2). This course provides the principles of kinetic data analysis as applied to problems in pharmaceutical chemistry. Topics include the setup and solution of rate equations related to chemical reactions, simplifications and approximations in complex equation systems, reaction theory, isotope, solvent and salt effects.
  • PHCH 973 Mechanisms of Drug Deterioration and Stabilization (3).  A course dealing with the kinetics and mechanisms of drug deterioration and stabilization with emphasis on solutions.
  • PHCH 731 Biopharmaceutics and Pharmacokinetics (3).  This course will introduce the basic concepts of drug absorption, distribution and elimination processes.  Emphasis will be placed on clearance concepts, pharmacokinetic models appropriate to vascular and extra-vascular drug dosing, aspects of multiple dosage regimens, hepatic and renal clearance, bioavailability and bioequivalence, and adjustment of dosage regimens in clinical environments.

Elective Courses

In addition to the 14 hours of required core courses, student must complete two elective courses from the following list to achieve a total of 19-21 hours of didactic coursework.

  • PHCH 716 Drug Delivery (3).  The course will survey the latest technology for delivering pharmaceuticals and biologicals to reduce side effects and enhance drug efficacy.  The course will survey the latest research in this area and examine more classical delivery methods.  A qualitative and quantitative understanding of drug delivery in practice and theory is the goal.
  • PHCH 726 Molecular Cell Biology (3).  Fundamental and advanced concepts in cell biology and the molecular interactions responsible for cell function, homeostasis and disease will be presented.  Current analytical methods for examining cells and their molecular components will be discussed.  Emphasis will be placed on the chemical and physical properties of individual proteins, nucleic acids and lipids and their assembly into cellular and subcellular structures.
  • PHCH 871 Advanced Pharmaceutical Biotechnology (3).  A course designed to emphasize the important facets of recombinant proteins as pharmaceutical agents. Basics of protein structure and analysis will be introduced, and methods for production, isolation, and purification of recombinant proteins will be described. Potential chemical and physical degradation processes and strategies for circumventing these difficulties will be discussed.
  • PHCH 865 Pharmaceutical Analysis (4). This course is also intended to be a comprehensive treatment of contemporary techniques used to validate analytical methods for the determination of drugs in the bulk form, pharmaceutical formulations, biological samples and other relevant media. The emphasis will be on chromatographic techniques reflecting the preeminent position that those techniques occupy in the field of pharmaceutical and biomedical analysis. Further aspects include discussion of detection technologies, statistical aspects of assay validation, and non-chromatographic methods of analysis that are commonly utilized in bioanalytical applications.  

Course Sequencing and Availability

It is generally suggested that PHCH 744 (Organic Chemistry) and/or PHCH 731 (Biopharmaceutics and Pharmacokinetics) be taken as the first course if entering the program in a Fall Semester.  It is strongly recommended that the student successfully complete the Organic Chemistry course prior to undertaking PHCH 921 (Chemical Kinetics) and PHCH 973 (Stability), which are offered in the spring semester of each year.  All "core" courses will be offered each fall and spring and all electives will be offered on an alternating year basis.

Research Overview

During the first year of enrollment, students should identify a research project, a supervisor at the industrial site (or collaborating institution) who will provide day to day direction of the research project, and a mentor at the University of Kansas (typically with the assistance of the Director of Distance Learning) who will provide overall supervision of the project and monitor the research progress towards a written thesis. Typically the research will be conducted at the student's place of employment or higher learning. The research component of the program is a primary focus of the degree and research activity is expected as soon as a student starts the program. The student and his/her on-site supervisor must obtain written permission from the company management indicating that the thesis research project can be published without delay.  A proto-type agreement form is available from the KU Pharmaceutical Chemistry Distance Master's Program upon request.

Master's Research Proposal Development

Each Masters degree student is required to take 9-11 credit hours of Masters Thesis (PHCH 898).  When first entering the program, the Director of the Distance Master's Studies will serve as the initial KU academic advisor for all students.  During the first semester of the program, or at the first opportunity when considered in conjunction with company or collaborating institution policy (see degree completion time limit section), the student should enroll in 1 credit hour of Master's Thesis. This initial enrollment should be utilized to develop a written research proposal, which meets the approval of their company or institutional advisor and/or any other checkpoints, i.e., a legal department (Upon request, a guidance document providing an overview of proposal preparation is available). The approved proposal should then be forwarded to the Director of Distance Master's Program at the University of Kansas, for review and assignment to a member of the Pharmaceutical Chemistry faculty member (who may approve, reject or require revision of the proposal) who is appropriate to supervise the proposed research.  This process must be completed to earn credit for the initial Masters Thesis hours.

Master's Research Load and Reporting

To expedite progress through the program, students should register for research credits (PHCH 898) as feasible once their research proposal has received approval (when considered in conjunction with didactic coursework load and sponsor limitations).  For the most ambitious student, without constraints, it is suggested to enroll for up to two (2) credit hours of Masters Thesis per semester, including the summer session.  A written progress report is required for each semester that the student undertakes Master Thesis credits.  The assignment of a grade in these hours is contingent upon receipt of a report by the KU advisor at the end of each term of enrollment.  Enrollment in Master's Thesis must continue until a total of 9-12 credit hours are earned, such that when taken together with didactic coursework, totals 30 hours of graduate coursework.  Please note the KU graduate school program time constraints policy below.

Master's Degree Defense

Each master's degree student is required to submit and defend a thesis resulting from research of sufficient originality and quality for publication in peer reviewed scientific journals. The research is conducted under the supervision and guidance from the student’s advisor, with input from the thesis committee as needed.


Upon falling below a cumulative graduate grade-point average of B, computed with the inclusion of grades earned at KU for all courses acceptable for graduate credit, the student is placed on probation by the Graduate Division of the school or college. The grades of P, S, U, and I, for which no numerical equivalents are defined, are excluded from the computation. If the student’s overall graduate average has been raised to B by the end of the next semester of enrollment after being placed on probation, the student may be returned to regular status. If not, the student is not permitted to re-enroll unless the Graduate Division acts favorably on a departmental recommendation for the student to continue study. If admitted on probation, a student must earn an overall graduate average of at least B during the first semester of enrollment (in which case the student is considered to have achieved regular status) to be permitted to re-enroll. A student admitted on probation who fails to earn a B average in the first semester is not permitted to re-enroll. When the particular circumstances are deemed to justify continuation, and upon the recommendation of the department or program, such a student may be continued on probation by the Graduate Division for one additional semester equivalent of full-time graduate study.

Program Time Constraints

Masters degree students are allowed seven years for completion of all degree requirements. In cases in which compelling reasons or circumstances recommend a one-year extension, the Graduate Division, on recommendation of the department/committee, has authority to grant the extension. In cases where more than eight years are requested, the appropriate appeals body of the school or division considers petitions for further extensions and, where evidence of continuous progress, currency of knowledge, and other reasons are compelling, may grant them. Some departments may have more stringent rulings about time restrictions. Students should ask about the policy in effect in the department in which they plan to study.

KU Graduate Catalog

Consult the KU Graduate Catalog for overall policy and general aspects of graduate studies.


The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers a graduate program of study leading to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Medicinal Biochemistry.

You will need to complete 56 credit hours with a B average (GPA = 3.0) to graduate. If you have an assistantship, you will need to maintain a GPA of 3.0 at all times to keep the assistantship. To complete the program in 4-5 years, you will need to take 6-9 credit hours in each semester, excluding summer. You do not need to register for any courses during the summer semester, unless you graduate during the summer.  If you intend to graduate in summer, you must register for one credit of dissertation (CHE 799). All 56 credits must be completed within seven years.

Required Core Courses:  Two of the following courses (6 credits)

CHE 651 Advanced Medicinal Chemistry (3 credits)
CHE 656 Enzyme Mechanisms (3 credits)
CHE 659 Receptor Biochemistry (3 credits)
CHE 658 Nucleic Acid Biochemistry (3 credits)
CHE 660 Biochemical Pharmacology and Disease Targets (3 credits)

Research Techniques (25-37 credits)

Students take CHE 691 before beginning research. Students must carry out research project(s) under the supervision of a graduate faculty member and register CHE 780 for credits. Upon passing the comprehensive examination (see below), students will be qualified to register for CHE 799.

CHE 691 Introduction to Graduate Research (1 credit)
CHE 780 Research Problems in Chemistry and Biochemistry (12-18 credits)
CHE 799 Dissertation (12-18 credits)

Seminars (2 credits)

Students must present two seminars, the first on a literature topic that is not directly related to their dissertation (CHE 751) and the second on their dissertation research (CHE 752). The first seminar is typically presented in the first or second year of study, and second seminar is typically presented during the last semester of study.

CHE 751 Literature Seminar (1 credit)
CHE 752 Dissertation Seminar (1 credit)

Electives (12 hours minimum)

Up to 12 credits may be earned from graduate courses in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, mathematics or physics. The student’s coursework plan must be approved by the departmental Graduate Studies Committee and the student’s  Dissertation Committee.

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination consists of a written research proposal and oral presentation based on the student’s dissertation research.  The written proposal is typically prepared using NIH guidelines, and should includ­e a literature review, hypothesis, specific aims, preliminary data, research design and methods, timeline and references. Following a public oral presentation of the proposal, each student must defend their proposal in front of their dissertation committee. Each Ph.D. student must pass the comprehensive examinations (both written and oral) before the end of their second year. After successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, students may begin enrolling for dissertation research, CHE 799.

Other Requirements

Directed dissertation research: Students will choose a research advisor and should begin their dissertation research within the first 3 months of joining the program.

Seminar: Students are required to attend all departmental seminars.

Dissertation Committee: Students must choose a dissertation committee prior to the completion of 18 credit hours in the program. The committee must consist of 4 members of graduate faculty, two of which must be full members. One of the committee members is the student’s research advisor, who serves as the chair of the committee and must be a graduate faculty member of the home department.

Dissertation: Students must complete a written research dissertation and give a public oral presentation of their completed work while registered for CHE 752 seminar. In addition, the student must defend the dissertation orally in front of his/her dissertation committee. The seminar and dissertation defense should occur in the same semester that the student applies for graduation. If the research work in his/her dissertation have involved the contributions from other students and/or research collaborators both inside and outside the Department, the contributions from each person must be clearly defined.

Annual Evaluation: Each year students will be required to give an oral annual presentation to the graduate faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  This presentation will provide an opportunity to review and evaluate progress in the program, and to ensure that all important milestones have been completed. Participation in the annual evaluation is mandatory for all Ph.D. students enrolled in the program.  Unsatisfactory evaluation may lead to the termination of the student’s assistantship.

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