PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences

At CU Pharmacy, we’re training scientists who make an impact. Our doctoral program in pharmaceutical sciences is focused on solving problems. In particular, the program covers the formulation, synthesis, manufacturing, development, stability, biophysical analysis, characterization, delivery, and biodistribution of small molecules and biopharmaceutical agents.

Our goals are to provide the best training for students interested in pursuing careers in biopharmaceutical drug development; conduct high-quality research relevant to pharmaceutical biotechnology; offer innovative educational programs; and to support the biopharmaceutical industry, especially in Colorado.

Here, you’ll have access to a wide range of researchers and research equipment; cross-training with chemical engineers; essential non-scientific training in regulatory affairs, business topics and pharmacoeconomics; experience with real world compounds and research and development problems; and interaction with industry scientists.

We have a strong track record of setting our students up for success. Graduates of our program have advanced into successful careers as senior scientists in the pharmaceutical industry and academia. We’re here to make sure you have the training you need to pursue a career in drug and biopharmaceutical discovery, development or clinical optimization.

As part of the CU Anschutz Graduate School, all PhD students in good academic standing are guaranteed financial support.

All regular full-time departmental faculty in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences are formal members of the pharmaceutical sciences graduate program and can take students into their laboratories if appropriate.

On average, students in this program earn their PhDs in 5.5 years.

Applications for all doctoral programs are submitted electronically through the Graduate School of the University of Colorado Denver. After signing up for an account, select 'PhD' under the 'Academic Interests' menu and scroll down to 'Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences' and select "PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences."

Application requirements are:

  • A completed Graduate School application and $50.00 application fee (Domestic) $75.00 application fee (International)
  • A baccalaureate degree of arts or science from an accredited college or university with a minimum GPA of 3.0.** One (1) official transcript of all academic work completed to date with awarded baccalaureate degree. University transcripts from other countries must include a transcript evaluation from World Education Services (WES). Applicants who complete a transcript evaluation with WES will have their application fee waived automatically.
  • All applicants for the program should complete a year of study in the following subjects: general chemistry, organic chemistry, calculus, biology, English and physics. In addition, courses in the following subjects are highly recommended to supplement the student's background: physiology, biochemistry, statistics, cell biology, physical chemistry, and computer science.
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation from professors or research supervisors familiar with your aptitude for graduate study


  • The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is not required but is optional.
  • The TOEFL is required of applicants for whom English is not their first language, Duolingo and IELTS also accepted (more information on this here)
  • Please use 4875 as the Institution Code so that the test results will be sent directly to our institution
  • Under special circumstances, deficiencies in important areas may be made up within the first year after entrance into the program. Normally, admission to the program will be based on an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better. However, applicants' recommendations, research experience and additional individual accomplishments will also be considered in the admissions process.

Application opens September 1, 2023. Applications will not be reviewed until all required materials have been received. The application deadline for Fall 2024 admission is December 1, 2023 for all students.

Admission to the program includes financial support via a stipend awarded on a 12-month basis. Based on the rules of the CU Anschutz Graduate School, all PhD students in good academic standing are guaranteed financial support.

Although a priority of the School of Pharmacy is to provide financial support to our graduate students, payment of stipend, tuition and any fees by the School of Pharmacy or by grants, contracts or gifts to the School of Pharmacy faculty is contingent upon satisfactory academic progress (as defined by the graduate school’s Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Student Handbook) and completion of required teaching duties, core courses, research rotations, seminars, and examinations (as listed on the progress report form). We also reserve the right to review and adjust our funding policies at any time. All students are expected to work full-time toward program requirements for 12 months of the year.

Required Pharmaceutical Sciences Program Courses

PHSC 7310Fundamentals of Pharmaceutical Sciences3 credits
PHSC 7320Physical Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences3 credits
PHSC 7400Ethical Issues in Toxicology and Pharmaceutical Sciences1 credit
PHSC 7650Research Rotation in Pharmaceutical Sciences (two required)1 credit
PHSC 7568Seminar in Pharmaceutical Sciences (each semester)1 credit
PHSC 7330Development of Drugs and Biologics2 credits
PHSC 8990Doctoral Thesis≥30 credits

Representative Elective Courses

PHSC 7608Molecular Interactions3 credits
PHSC 7609Biophysics and Spectroscopy2 credits
PHSC 7651/CHEN 5838Pharmaceutical Biotechnology3 credits
PHSC 7345Nanotechnology and Drug Delivery2 credits
PHSC 7353Protein Formulation2 credits
PHSC 7660Liposome-based Drug Delivery2 credits
PHSC 7665Pharmacokinetic Principles and Applications3 credits

Through the pharmaceutical sciences graduate program, our goal is to educate pre-doctoral students to develop independent research careers in pharmaceutical sciences with a basic, clinical or pharmaceutical outcomes emphasis. Upon completion of the graduate program, our students use their training to make a difference in academia, industry or government. The learning objectives for the graduate program are:

  1. Demonstrate a basic knowledge of central concepts in the biomedical sciences.
  2. Understand the current concepts in basic and clinical pharmaceutical sciences.
  3. Read and critically evaluate the scientific literature.
  4. Formulate hypotheses based on current concepts in the field and design, conduct, and interpret their own research projects.
  5. Present research results in peer-reviewed publications and in a dissertation.
  6. Communicate research results effectively through oral presentations at scientific seminars, conferences, and other venues.

School of Pharmacy Graduate Degree Requirements

The following are specific rules approved by the graduate faculty of the School of Pharmacy for graduate studies leading to doctor of philosophy degree in toxicology. All other requirements for these degrees will follow the guidelines of the Graduate School, which can be found in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Student Handbook. The student carries the major responsibility of meeting the rules of the School of Pharmacy and the Graduate School. Failure to meet the following rules and guidelines may result in delay of graduation. ​

Rajesh Agarwal PhD

Professor Cancer Prevention and Control Program Co-Leader

Christina Aquilante PharmD

Professor Director of Pharmacogenomics for the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine

John Carpenter PhD

Emeritus Professor Director of Business Development, University of Colorado Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology Co-Founder and Co-Director

Melanie Joy PharmD, PhD

Professor Director of Innovation and Commercialization, Director of Entrepreneurship Education, SPARK/REACH Program, Director of the Center of Excellence Program for Model Informed Drug Development

Uday Kompella PhD, FARVO, FAAPS

Colorado Center for Nanomedicine and Nanosafety Co-Director and Co-founder Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ophthalmology, and Bioengineering

Daniel LaBarbera PhD

Professor Director CU AMC Center for Drug Discovery, Co-Director, Drug Discovery and Development Shared Resource (D3SR)

Krishna Mallela PhD

Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Program Associate Director

Philip Reigan PhD

Associate Professor Computational Chemistry and Biology Core Facility Director

Nichole Reisdorph PhD

Professor Mass Spectrometry Facility Director

Laura Saba PhD

Associate Professor Director

Dmitri Simberg PhD

Professor Colorado Center for Nanomedicine and Nanosafety Co-Director

For questions regarding graduate school programs contact:

Isabella Jaramillo
Phone: 303.724.7263

Laura Saba PhD

Associate Professor Director

Krishna Mallela PhD

Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Program Associate Director
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