PhD in Pharmacological Sciences

The Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences offers a interdepartmental program leading to a PhD in Pharmacological Sciences. Students can choose from one of three tracks within the program: Pharmaceutical Sciences, Pharmacology or Medicinal Chemistry.

The current areas of study in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department include:

  • Structural and chemical biology
  • Medicinal chemistry
  • Structure-based drug design
  • Molecular neuropharmacology
  • Pharmacology of aging
  • Molecular evolution
  • Synthetic biology
  • Natural product biosynthesis and synthase engineering
  • Cancer prevention and therapy
  • Gene regulation and intercellular signaling
  • Computational biology and bioinformatics
  • Nanomedicine for targeted drug and gene delivery

PhD Student and Alumni Spotlights

David Wych

David Wych

PhD '21
“The school has rotations that are longer than most departments – lasting a full quarter as opposed to a few weeks – which allows you to get a taste for what research is like in the industry and to really figure out what environments are best suitable for you."

Alhassen Siblings

PhD Students
“Family and education have always been the most important things in our lives. And I think the three of us have grown closer because we share a similar passion in the same field of study.”
Diana Carreño

Diana Carreño

PhD Student
Diana Carreño is the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 2021 Graduate Student Awardee for Excellence and Achievement. Her research project focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms of adolescent drug addiction.

About Our PhD Program

The Pharmacological Sciences PhD program is flexible and tailored to the needs of each individual student. Students are actively engaged in research throughout their training: In the first year, laboratory rotations ensure exposure to a variety of techniques and research problems. By the end of their first year students have worked with several faculty members and selected a lab to join. During their third year, students are considered for advancement to PhD candidacy on the basis of academic standing, laboratory performance, and a qualifying examination. After advancement to candidacy, students devote their time to completion of an original research dissertation.

CLICK HERE to view the sample curriculum for the Pharmaceutical Sciences Track.

CLICK HERE to view the sample curriculum for the Pharmacology Track.

CLICK HERE to view the sample curriculum for the Medicinal Chemistry Track.

For more details regarding the required course work, please visit our program’s section in the UCI General Catalogue.

Application Instructions

Complete the Online Application which is submitted to the UCI Graduate Division. When completing the “Degree Program” section of the online application for admission, please make the following selections:

  • School/Department: Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Major/Degree: Pharmacological Sciences-PhD

Students are admitted to the Pharmacological Sciences PhD program on an annual basis in the fall quarter only. The admissions committee screens applications immediately after the application deadline. First round applicants selected to interview will be notified by early January. Admitted applicants can expect to receive an offer of admission in late January through mid-March.

Submit applications by December 1 for full consideration

The online application and supporting materials should be received by December 1 for full consideration, but submissions received up until to January 5 may be considered.

Applicants are required to submit:

  • An official online application including the application fee ($120 for domestic applicants, i.e. US citizens and permanent residents and $140 for international applicants)
  • For application review purposes only, scan and upload copies of transcripts for all institutions attended since high school. In the online application, you will be prompted to upload your scanned documents. Please upload both the front and back sides of the transcript. Uploaded transcripts should be recent and include the following: your name, dates of attendance, grades/marks received, credits and grading legend. Official transcripts will be requested by the Graduate Division if and when you are admitted and decide to attend UCI. Do not send official transcripts until this time.
  • A Statement of Purpose – must include your specific research interest and three possible research advisors you would be interested in working with. You can describe your research interests, career goals, and other related information.
  • A Personal History Statement – this can discuss how your personal background– including any relevant educational, familial, cultural, economic, or social experiences, challenges or opportunities– informs your decision to pursue a Ph.D. in Pharmacological Sciences. If you have overcome socioeconomic or educational challenges, please indicate that you are a diversity candidate and describe your experience in detail. 
  • Three letters of recommendation – uploaded to the online application by your recommender.
  • UCI no longer requires the GRE.
  • International students are also required to submit TOEFL scores (Code: 4859)

Applicants are encouraged to upload the following in their application:

  • Current curriculum vitae or resume
  • List of publications


  • An MS degree is not required for consideration. However, research experience (laboratory or fieldwork) is a primary criterion for acceptance into our graduate programs.
  • Some biology and chemistry courses are required. However, because we are an interdisciplinary program, we admit students from various academic backgrounds, so there are no specific course requirements. Applicants recently admitted to our program have undergraduate degrees in a wide range of disciplines, including molecular biology, psychology, and chemical engineering, as well as chemistry and biology.
  • Minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0.

Admission Statistics

The acceptance rate for the Pharmacological Sciences program is approximately 23%, and admitted applicants from previous cycles had the below characteristics:

  • Average undergraduate GPA: 3.32

Student Funding

Admitted applicants receive funding for tuition, health insurance, and a monthly stipend/salary through a combination departmental or university fellowships and/or teaching assistant (TA) and graduate student researcher (GSR) positions in their first year. In years two through five, students are generally funding by their faculty advisor as GSRs, as well as through a combination of university fellowships, extramural grants/fellowships, and/or TA positions.

Diversity Fellowships

UCI is committed to the recruitment, admission, and retention of a high quality and diverse graduate student population and has several diversity fellowships for new and returning students who qualify.  If you have overcome socioeconomic or educational challenges, please indicate that you are a diversity candidate and describe your experience in detail within the Personal History section of the application.

International Students

TOEFL scores are required for all international applicants.
Exceptions are only granted for students who have:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • Completed a four-year high school degree in the U.S.
  • Citizenship in a country where English is either the primary or dominant language, as approved by UCI Graduate Council.  See list of approved countries here.

For more information regarding admissions requirements for international students, visit the Academic Qualifications webpage.

Teaching Assistant (TA) Eligibility
All international students, including those with Permanent Resident Status, must pass an oral English proficiency exam approved by UCI to serve as a Teaching Assistant.

  • A score of 26 or higher on the speaking component of the TOEFL ibt
  • A score of 8 or higher on the speaking module of the IELTS, or
  • A score of 50 or higher on the TSE.

The only exceptions are for those applicants who have:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • Completed a four-year high school degree in the U.S.
  • Citizenship in a country where English is either the primary or dominant language, as approved by UCI Graduate Council.  See list of approved countries here.

For more information about the English language requirements for TA’s, please visit the English Language Proficiency Requirements for TAs webpage. For additional information about graduate study at UC Irvine, please visit the UCI Graduate Division website.

Information regarding visas, student employment, and any other services to help international students transition into life at UCI is overseen by the UCI International Center