B.Sc. in Chemistry of Pharmaceutical Compounds

Objectives Eligibility Course Structure Overview

A  multi-disciplinary degree programme in the Chemistry of Pharmaceutical Compounds commenced in October 1998. This programme is designed to produce high-calibre graduates equipped with the multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills in areas of biological and chemical sciences relevant to the field of pharmaceutical chemistry and the pharmaceutical industry which is heavily concentrated in the Munster region. Modules covering the following areas are included:



The objectives of the programme are twofold:

  1. To give an integrated introduction to fundamental aspects of the relevant subjects (see above) with particular emphasis on Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Biochemistry.
  2. To use this knowledge to study the rationale behind the design and development of pharmaceutical agents exploring synthetic, metabolic and toxicological aspects.

Practical work forms a central component of this programme.


Students from the Biological and Chemical Sciences stream (CK402 entry) who pass First Science are eligible to apply for entry to this programme. There are twenty places available each year. Students who apply for entry will be offered places in order of merit based on their First Year examination results in the module CM1000.

Course structure

Second Year Third Year Fourth Year


Second Year

Students will take modules common to the second year degree programme in Chemistry encompassing the basic elements of Inorganic, Organic and Physical Chemistry. Four other modules are taken from the Biological Sciences including modules in Biochemistry. Molecular Biology, and Physiology.


CM2001 Main Group and Transition Element Chemistry: An Introduction
CM2002 Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry
CM2003 Energetics and Kinetics
CM2004 States of Matter
CM2005 Structures and reactions of Main Group Compounds
CM2006 Aromatics, Carbonyls and Alkenes
CM2007 Spectroscopy
CM2008 Structure, Bonding and Quantum Mechanics


BC2001 Biomolecules
BC2002 Principles of Metabolic Pathways

Molecular Biology

ML2001 Introductory Molecular Biology


PL2010 Introductory Physiology

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Third Year

Twelve modules are taken in the third year; the course is equally divided between Chemistry and the Biological Sciences. The six Chemistry modules include Organic, Analytical, and introductory Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Among the Biological Sciences modules are Pharmacology, Toxicology including industrial and occupational aspects, and further Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.


CM3001 Organic Synthesis, Intermediates and Heterocycles
CM3004 Structure and Reactivity of Organic Compounds
CM3007 Principles and Practice of Analytical Chemistry
CM3101 Natural Products and Reaction Mechanisms
CM3102 Introduction to Pharmaceutical Chemistry 
CM3107 Bioanalytical and Pharmaceutical Analysis


PT3001 Introduction to Pharmacology
PT3002 Introduction to Toxicology
PT3004 Industrial & Occupational Toxicology
PT3005 Molecular Pharmacology/Toxicology 1


BC3001 Structural Biochemistry
BC3006 Molecular Biology


Fourth Year

The fourth year involves a work placement module and eigth taught modules and a further 10 credits comprising two research projects from the core areas of the programme, Chemistry, and Pharmacology or Biochemistry. Five of the taught modules are Chemistry-based, covering advanced Organic, Bioinorganic, and Pharmaceutical Chemistry. The other taught modules, from the Biological Sciences, include Pharmacology and Toxicology, aspects of drug testing and safety evaluation, and Biochemistry, in particular protein structure and enzymology.


CM4204 Work Placement
CM4001 Advanced Organic Structure and Reactivity
CM4101 Physical Organic Chemistry
CM4103 Heterocycles, Biosynthesis and Asymmetric Synthesis
CM4108 Advanced Pharmaceutical Chemistry
CM4109 Pharmaceutical Chemistry: Drug Design and Development


PT4005 Neuropharmacology
PT4002 Drug Testing Safety Evaluation


BC4002 Advanced Enzymology


One project in Chemistry, and one in either Pharmacology or Biochemistry (3 modules)

This programme does not result in a qualification to practise as a pharmacist.

Industrial placements are made during the vacation between the third and final years of the programme.

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A new four year multidisciplinary degree programme, the first of its kind in Ireland, leading to a B.Sc. Honours degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry has recently been designed incorporating modules of chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, biochemistry, physiology, molecular biology and statistics . This programme builds on existing individual departmental programmes in these areas, and, by linking the disciplines, provides a well-balanced degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, incorporating relevant modules from the various departments. This degree commenced in 1998 at second year level.

Scientific and technological developments over the past twenty years have had dramatic influences on many scientific disciplines. Areas such as Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Microbiology and Pharmacology which were traditionally identified as separate disciplines are now much more closely linked and the borders between these areas are becoming increasingly less well defined. Major research projects in many areas of critical importance e.g. AIDS research, require multidisciplinary groups to ensure rapid progress - teams of scientists including chemists, biochemists, pharmacologists, clinicians and microbiologists collaborate to tackle complementary aspects of a large research project.

Design and discovery of new pharmaceutical compounds requires a multidisciplinary team - chemists for synthesis and structure determination, biochemists and pharmacologists for testing and biological investigation including toxicology studies, and clinicians for for evaluation of drug efficacy. While traditional Chemistry graduates from UCC and other universities in Ireland are highly trained in chemical skills, they usually have little or no training in biological areas and therefore communication with personnel in other areas is limited. Graduates from this new multidisciplinary programme are  ideally trained to work as part of an interdisciplinary team.

Pharmaceutical and fine chemical production is one of the most important and most successful industrial sectors in Ireland. Graduates with experience in synthetic organic chemistry, structural characterisation by spectroscopic techniques, and familiarity with chromatography are essential for this industrial sector.

UCC has identified this area as a strategic development designed to service the needs of this rapidly developing sector which is particularly clustered in the Munster region within ready access of UCC.

Indeed the pharmaceutical industry internationally is one of the most vibrant and active areas of technology based industry. Developments have depended largely on formation of interdisciplinary teams involving chemists (to prepare new drug candidates), life scientists (for compound testing and evaluation), pharmacologists ( to test bioactivity and toxicity profiles) and clinicians (to evaluate drug performance). As a result, graduates with a multidisciplinary background, familiar with chemistry but also with the biochemical basis for drug action, will be particularly valuable in interacting with scientists from different backgrounds on multidisciplinary teams and may act as the liaison between process development groups and life scientists in pharmaceutical companies. Recognising this aspect, the degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry has been constructed using an interdepartmental group drawing on the expertise available in various areas such as chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, biochemistry and physiology.

To ensure that this programme will meet the needs of industry and will adapt as industrial requirements and prioirties develop with time, regular contact with the pharmaceutical industry is envisaged, both within Ireland and on an international level. As a key step in this development, industrial placements  form an integral part of the degree programme to ensure regular contact between industrial chemists and both the students and staff involved in the degree programme. Exposure to the industrial environment during their degree programme is very useful to the students in preparing them for future careers.

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