PhD in Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry

Chemical biology and medicinal chemistry is a dynamic, multifaceted graduate program of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. CBMC is dedicated to improving human health through research leading to new concepts for the design and development of therapeutic and diagnostic agents.

The CBMC graduate program seamlessly blends chemistry and biology, which distinguishes it from traditional graduate programs. We develop and exploit novel chemical tools relevant to the fields of biochemistry, biology, pharmacology, and medicine. Research in CBMC is directed toward biomedical and pharmaceutical discovery by applying both chemical and biological principles to interactions between molecular structure and biological activity.

Our program’s degree recipients are well prepared for scientific careers in academia, industry, government, and research institutes. All of our graduates have been successful in finding desirable positions. An important measure of the success of our program is whether students are obtaining their first-choice postdoctoral positions. To a large extent, our recent graduates are receiving multiple offers from top labs. Our recent graduates have taken postdoctoral positions in prestigious labs at Harvard, Duke, Scripps, and MIT, to name a few.

Historically, the majority of our graduates have taken positions in the pharmaceutical industry. In recent years, as the pharmaceutical industry has changed and biotech and biopharma companies have emerged, there has been a growing demand for our graduates in the latter. In addition, our graduates are increasingly considering careers in academia.

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  • Generally, each student takes seven courses. Each of these courses emphasizes concepts, unsolved (or partially solved) problems and novel technology along with an understanding how and why chemical approaches can drive new experiments and deliver novel insight. Didactic coursework facilitates both breadth and depth in each student’s fund of knowledge. The course breakdown:
    • Three courses in medicinal chemistry (one of which emphasizes molecular modeling)
    • One course in pharmacology
    • One course in organic chemistry
    • Two electives in the student’s area of specialization
  • There are a series of monthly examinations on current research topics from the literature. These exams are designed to help students initiate the process of self-education and to encourage them to read the current literature.
  • Students participate in two one-semester laboratory rotations to help learn techniques and find a mentor and research home.
  • Each student has the opportunity to present three seminars to the faculty and students and to prepare a written research proposal (in the NIH postdoctoral fellowship-style) to help develop her or his communication skills.
Topic/Course Credits Typically Taken
CBMC 807 Molecular Foundations in Chemical Biology Prerequisites: CHEM 262 or equivalent or permission from instructor. Emphasizes the elements of organic chemistry required for the design of synthesis of biologically active compounds, e.g. drugs 3 Fall of first year
CBMC 805 Molecular Modeling Prerequisites: MATH 231 – 232, CHEM 481 and permission from instructor. Introduction to Computer Assisted Molecular Design (CAMD) of small molecules. Emphases on the practical use of molecular modeling software. Two lecture hours and three to four laboratory hours each week. 3 Fall of first year
Biology Core Course (PHCO 701, BIOL 631, or CBIO 643, CBIO 893) 2 – 4 Fall of first year
PHRS 801 1 Fall of first year
CHEM 701 (Introduction to Laboratory Safety) 1 Fall of first year
PHRS 899 Seminar 1 Fall of first year
PHRS Rotation (PHRS 991 – 406) Fall of first year
CBMC 804a Prerequisites: CHEM 466, BIOC 505 or 601, and PHCO 643, or permission from instructor. Emphasizes the elements of biochemistry, bioorganic chemistry and molecular biology required for the design and synthesis of biologically active compounds. 3 Spring of first year
CBMC 804b Co-requisite: enrollment in CBMC 804. Seminar that runs in concert with 804a. Students will present journal articles and interact with seminar speakers. 1 Spring of first year
PHRS 899 Seminar 1 Spring of first year
PHRS 991  406 Rotation 1 – 5 Spring of first year
CBMC Proposal Writing Develops student’s ability to write effective research proposals. Fall and Spring of second year
PHRS 899 Seminar 1 Fall and Spring of second year
PHRS 991 Research 1 – 5 Fall and Spring of second year
Elective(s) varies Spring of first year, Fall and Spring of second year
TOTAL 20 – 30

You can begin your graduate studies in biological or biomedical sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill without initially committing to a specific program through the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program. Within the School, this option is available to students interested in the Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry or the Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics.

Learn more about BBSP at UNC

Our application information includes instructions on applying through the BBSP.