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College of Pharmacy

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Graduate Programs

Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences Track

Ph.D. candidates in the Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences track embark on research training which encompasses the understanding of disease mechanisms and drug toxicity and the design and development of pharmaceutical and anti-cancer agents.


Graduate students at the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy are exposed to interdisciplinary training and education in pursuit of an advanced degree in the pharmaceutical sciences.  The Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences track of the Pharmaceutical Sciences doctorate program is offered by the College of Pharmacy's Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences.

Candidates embark on research training which encompasses the understanding of disease mechanisms and drug toxicity and the design and development of pharmaceutical and anti-cancer agents. This training in the physical and biological sciences applies to health-related research, enabling degree holders to pursue careers in academia, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, or government agencies.

The Graduate Admissions Committee in the Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences reviews all applicants to the Ph.D. program.

The following are the basic requirements for admission:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university, comparable in standard to that awarded at South Carolina. Students should have satisfactorily completed the following undergraduate courses: one year each of general and organic chemistry, physics, and calculus. 
  2. Satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)
  3. Intellectual promise, including evaluation of grade point averages
    (GPA) that indicates an ability to do acceptable graduate work
  4. Strong personal qualifications, including good moral character

Credentials for admission must include a complete record of all previous college or university work. An undergraduate degree in pharmacy or in the supporting sciences, such as chemistry or biology, is recommended.

Candidates may apply for admission at any time during the year; however, notification of acceptance will normally be made only in March/April for matriculation the following Fall semester.

All students must be admitted by the Dean of the Graduate School, following the recommendation of the appropriate school or college. Information regarding programs, policies, and admission processes is available on the Graduate School website

Admission is for the specific purpose stated by the Graduate School and the student must reapply in order to pursue further study or change the degree sought.  Non-degree students must also be admitted to the Graduate School.  

International Students

Students whose native language is not English must take a diagnostic test to assess their capabilities in English shortly after arrival on campus. English speaking capability will be assessed in a mandatory workshop held by the Graduate School in August or January of each year.  Those students found to be deficient in writing, reading or speaking English are provided opportunities for further study. 

The average length of time to complete a Ph.D. at the USC College of Pharmacy is five to six years. All graduate students, in consultation with their major advisor and advisory committee, must develop an individualized program of study by the end of their second year.

General Requirements

All students must successfully complete at least 60 hours of graduate course work. Ph.D. candidates are required to complete four departmental seminar courses (PHAR 712A-D) for a maximum of 4 credit hours. 

An average grade of “B” or better is required in all courses within a student’s program of study and grades below "C" are considered as failure. See the Graduate Student Handbook [pdf] for required and elective courses.

Research Activity

Every graduate student in Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences is expected to maintain a vigorous research program. This is demonstrated through the submission of abstracts and presentation of posters and talks at national and international meetings, as well as participation in the preparation of manuscripts submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.


All students are required to submit a dissertation based upon original research, meeting all requirements of the Graduate School, and at least one manuscript for publication prior to award of the degree. 

The following is a brief outline of the steps required during the completion of the Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program: 

  1. Completion of all required coursework by the end of the degree program. The core curriculum should be completed by the end of the second year.
  2. Selection of a research advisor should occur by the beginning of the second year. 
  3. Selection of a graduate committee must occur by the beginning of the second year. The student must notify the graduate director of the committee’s composition in writing using the G-DCA Doctoral Committee Appointment Request form [pdf]
  4. Submission and defense of initial research proposal (IRP) must be completed by the end of the second year. The proposal topic is the student’s planned Ph.D. research project and is written in the style of an NIH proposal. The student must then orally present the IRP to their graduate committee.
  5. The Ph.D. program of study must be completed by the end of the second year. Students must use the Graduate School's  DPOS Doctoral Degree Program form [pdf]

  6. The comprehensive written/oral examination must be taken no later than the end of the third year in the student's degree program.

  7. It is highly recommended that the committee be convened for an update and discussion of target completion date of dissertation approximately six months prior to the target graduation date. This meeting will provide a framework of understanding for the advisor and student regarding aspects of the project that need to be completed in order to graduate from the program.

  8. Completed copies of the dissertation should be given to all graduate committee members at least 10 days prior to the defense of the dissertation. All dissertations are submitted online to the Graduate School and should follow department requirements and suggestions for formatting. 

  9. A dissertation seminar and defense must be completed within eight years of the start of the Ph.D. program. The dissertation seminar will normally be 40-60 minutes in length with appropriate visual aids and will be open to the general public as well as to all College of Pharmacy students, faculty and scientific staff. Following the dissertation seminar, the student will reconvene with the graduate committee for the defense of the dissertation. An affirmative vote of at least 75% of the graduate committee in attendance will constitute a passing performance pending any minor changes in the dissertation required by the committee.

The College of Pharmacy awards a number of instructional and/or research assistantships to graduate students. Visit the Graduate School website to learn more about paying for graduate school


Get in Touch

Douglas Pittman, Ph.D., Director of Graduate Studies

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