Started in fall 2013, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy offers the Ph.D. in pharmaceutical science with an emphasis on pharmacoengineering, an emerging discipline that integrates engineering methods with pharmaceutical sciences.

Pharmacoengineers apply the latest experimental approaches from life sciences, chemistry, and physics in conjunction with theoretical and quantitative methods from engineering, mathematics, and computer science to solve problems in medicine and drug therapies. Our program — a joint effort between the School’s Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics and the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University — prepares students to work at the interface of engineering and pharmaceutical sciences to develop safer and more effective medicine and medical technologies.

Our program is among the first of its kind in the country. It provides students not only with a strong knowledge base in both pharmaceutical sciences and engineering, but also a highly interdisciplinary research experience. Students have the flexibility to work with any of more than two dozen outstanding faculty members with expertise in a variety of fields within pharmacy and engineering.

Our proximity to the Research Triangle Park offers ample research collaboration and employment opportunities for our students. Many of the research projects undertaken by students are highly collaborative, often involving joint work between pharmacy and engineering faculty and colleagues at the UNC School of Medicine, the UNC Department of Chemistry, or one of the many pharmaceutical companies and institutions in the RTP, such as GlaxoSmithKline, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology.

If you are interested in the pharmacoengineering curriculum, you can apply through one of the following programs:

Note: Prospective students can apply to this program through either the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy or the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering. Upon completing the program, they will receive a Ph.D. from whichever program they applied to.

  • Minimum of 24 credits of coursework including elective courses, but excluding 1 credit for seminar.
  • Participate in weekly seminar each semester. Students in their 3rd year have the opportunity to give a seminar each year. The final defense fulfills this requirement in the last year of study
  • Research credit (i.e. lab rotation) or dissertation credit of at least 3 hours per semester
  • Doctoral written and oral exam. The Qualifying Exam process (i.e, written and oral exam) is designed to assess the extent of the student’s knowledge acquired from course work in pharmaceutical science and test his or her ability to integrate and apply knowledge  to practical problems.
  • Dissertation and final defense

We believe in the importance of in-depth training of students both in pharmaceutical sciences and modern engineering, mathematics, and computer science, as well as in the conduct of original research leading to the doctoral dissertation. Thus, we have designed the curriculum to offer rigorous and comprehensive training in the key principles of pharmaceutical sciences and engineering, yet maintain a high degree of flexibility for students to tailor the coursework to their specific interests suitable to their research projects.

Core Courses

MOPH 864 Pharmacoengineering in Drug Delivery 3 credits
BMME 890 Bio Transport 3 credits

Pharmaceutical Sciences

DPET 855 Principles of Pharmacokinetics 3 credits
MOPH 862 Advanced Pharmaceutics 3 credits

Engineering Emphasis

MATH Math/Applied Math Elective (Chose from list below) 3 credits
BMME Engineering Elective 1 (Chose from list below) 3 credits


BIOS 550 Basic Elements of Probability and Statistical Inference 3 credits
DPET 831 Design and Analysis of Clinical Drug Trials 3 credits

General Electives

General Elective 1 3 credits
General Elective 2 3 credits
Arranged with research adviser; to be specific for research area


BMME 890 BME Graduate Seminar (every semester) 1 credit
MOPH 899 Molecular Pharmaceutics Seminar 1 credit


CTRC Responsible Conduct of Research (choose one) 1 credit
GRAD 721; Research Ethics
PHCY 801: Ethical Dilemmas in Research

Dissertation Research

MOPH/BMME Doctoral Dissertation variable


Math/Applied Math Electives

BMME 515 Biomathematical Modeling
BMME 530 Digital Signal Processing I
BMME 775 Image Processing and Analysis
BMME 730 Digital Signal Processing II
BMME 860 Numerical Methods for Biomedical Engineering
MATH 528 Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences
MATH 535 Introduction to Probability
MATH 547 Linear Algebra for Applications
MATH 564 Math Modeling
MATH 566 Introduction to Numerical Analysis
MATH 577 Linear Algebra
MATH 661 Scientific Computation
MATH 768 Mathematical Modeling I

Engineering Electives

BMME 465 Biomedical Instrumentation I
BMME 532 Microelectrode Techniques
BMME 530 Digital Signal Processing
COMP 665 Images, Graphics and Vision
BMME 550 Medical Imaging: Ultrasound, MRI and Optical
BMME 560 Medical Imaging: X-ray, CT and Nuclear
BMME 551 Medical Device Design
BMME 580 Microcontroller Applications I
BMME 515 Introduction to Systems Biology
BMME 510 Biomaterials
BMME 505 Biomechanics
GNET 711-717 (3 x 1 credit) Bioinformatics


Other courses can fulfill these electives upon petition by the student and approval by the director of graduate studies or the student’s Ph.D. advisory committee.

There is growing interest and need worldwide for Ph.D.s at the cutting edge of this exciting discipline, in academic institutions as well as the biomedical, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical industries. Data from the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, the primary national organization for the pharmaceutical sciences, indicate that at least three thousand positions exist for scientists with a Ph.D. in the subspecialties represented by pharmacoengineering, and the demand for such scientists and engineers are rapidly expanding. In addition, graduates from the Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics have traditionally been highly sought after — primarily by industry — and often receive offers of employment well in advance of finishing their degree.