PhD in Pharmacological Sciences

UC Irvine’s PhD in Pharmacological Sciences program provides a unique opportunity for those interested in any scientific discipline represented by the Pharmaceutical Sciences faculty to have a year of broad, interdisciplinary training and extensive lab rotations followed by focused doctoral research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences research group of their choice.

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 ($135 for domestic applicants, i.e. US citizens and permanent residents and $155 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.

English Language Proficiency Requirements


All graduate applicants are required to demonstrate English proficiency for admissions consideration. Applicants are waived from the English Language Proficiency requirement if they have earned an undergraduate degree from an institution at which English was the sole language of instruction according to the World Higher Education Database (WHED). Please see WHED’s instructions on how to search for your institution. If English is not the sole language of instruction listed or if no language is listed at all, the waiver does not apply and the applicant is required to take and pass an approved English proficiency test.  Approved tests and minimum scores are outlined in the next section.  

Please note: Test results that are two years old or older are not acceptable.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If a student will be supported as a Teaching Assistant (TA), please read the English proficiency requirement policy for Teaching Assistantships. Students who have not earned an undergraduate degree from an institution at which English was the sole language of instruction according to WHED are required to demonstrate English language proficiency to serve as a TA when they apply to the program. 


The TOEFL is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

  • Please select institution code 4859 to have your official score sent to UCI. No department code is needed.
  • We only accept scores submitted electronically by ETS.
  • Test results that are two years old or older are not acceptable.
  • We do not accept MyBest scores; you must submit all individual test scores.
  • Results of institutional (non-ETS) administrations of the TOEFL are not acceptable.
  • We will accept the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test.  The same minimum score applies.
  • We do NOT accept the TOEFL ITP Plus test for China or the TOEFL Essentials test.
  • For more information, please visit their website at

TOEFL Score Requirements for Admission Consideration:

  • An overall minimum score of 80 


As an alternative to the TOEFL, you may submit scores from the Academic Modules of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

  • We only accept scores submitted electronically by the IELTS test center. No paper Test Report Forms will be accepted.
  • Test results that are two years old or older are not acceptable.
  • We will accept the IELTS Indicator test.  The same minimum score applies.
  • An institutional code is NOT required. Please contact the test center directly where you took the IELTS test and request that your test scores be sent electronically using the IELTS system. All IELTS test centers worldwide are able to send scores electronically to our institution. 
  • For more information, please visit their website at

IELTS Score Requirements for Admission Consideration:

  • An overall minimum score of 7 for admission, with a score of no less than 6 on any individual module.