Pharmacology (MCDB)

Pharmacology is a subject that integrates knowledge of biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, physiology and chemistry to study the relationship between biological processes and therapeutic agents. Pharmacologists investigate the effects and mechanism of action of drugs and chemical agents with living organisms. The areas of pharmacology are many and diverse, and include the therapeutic and toxicological actions of drugs on humans, animals and microorganisms, the influence of chemicals upon the environment and biological ecosystems, and the use of drugs as research tools for the elucidation of molecular and biochemical mechanisms.

The Major

In 1974, UCSB became the first campus in the nation to offer an undergraduate pharmacological sciences curriculum. In contrast to professional programs in medicine, nursing, and pharmacy, which emphasize the therapeutic principles and applications of pharmacology, UCSB emphasizes pharmacology as a basic science. UCSB's Pharmacology major is designed for students with research interests in all areas of the health sciences and is not related to pharmacy training.

Students planning to major in pharmacology enter as a biological sciences premajor and take a common core curriculum of introductory biology, general chemistry, mathematics, physics, and organic chemistry. Students should complete this preparatory coursework in their freshman and sophomore years. Following successful completion of seven of these courses, students may advance from biology premajor to full major status. The pharmacology major requires completion of upper division coursework in biochemistry, pharmacology, molecular biology, and genetics. Students round out their degree by selecting electives in molecular and cellular biology, neurobiology, biochemical pharmacology, physiology and developmental biology. Students should review the full requirement sheet for the major they intend to declare and plan their schedules accordingly

Supplemental Programs

The "Colloquia on Pharmacological Sciences" and the Pharmacology Industrial Affiliates Program (industrial internships) are two supplemental programs associated with UCSB's pharmacology program. These programs are designed to enhance students' preparation in the field of pharmacology, both from an academic and industrial point of view.

The Colloquia are a series of seminars delivered by distinguished visiting pharmacologists from academia and the pharmaceutical industry and is designed to familiarize students with the current "state of the art" of pharmacology. The industrial internships serve as powerful stimuli to students preparing for graduation and allow students to test their newly acquired skills in the work, as opposed to classroom, environment. In some cases, these internships have motivated students to pursue advanced degrees in pharmacology, or to pursue medical school and other areas of the health sciences. In other cases, the internships have become full time positions. Currently, participating companies include Amgen, Allergan and Syntex in California; Merck Sharp and Dohme, Sandoz, Anaquest and Wyeth-Ayerst in New Jersey; The Upjohn Company in Michigan; Bristol-Myers Squibb Research in New York; OsteoArthritis Sciences in Massachusetts; SmithKline Beecham in Pennsylvania; Whitby Research in Virginia; Abbott Lab in Illinois; Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals in Connecticut; Zeneca in England; and Sandoz in Switzerland.

Careers in Pharmacology

UCSB's Pharmacology students have been highly successful in their chosen fields. The Pharmacology major, combined with experiences gained through the colloquia and internships, prepares students for a wide range of pharmacology related careers. These include careers in private, state, and federally funded drug research laboratories, drug and chemical regulatory agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and environmental toxicology. Many students pursue graduate study in pharmacology and/or toxicology. The demand for graduates continues both within the pharmaceutical industry and university Pharmacology departments nationwide. Recent advances in pharmacology are occurring at a very rapid pace due to the latest developments in genetic engineering. This new scientific activity has greatly increased the number of research positions available to pharmacologists in the biotechnology industry.

The Pharmacology major can prepare students for graduate study and professional programs leading ultimately to careers in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and other health sciences. Students interested in the health sciences and related professions can take advantage of the University's excellent health science advisory system located in Cheadle Hall. They can seek advice and support from the beginning of their studies in biology to their entrance into health sciences graduate programs and professional schools.

Students interested in teaching biological sciences and conducting research at the university level should plan to complete the Ph.D. degree. Students interested in teaching at a community college should pursue graduate work at least through the master's degree. Teaching at the junior high or high school (secondary) level requires the California single subject teaching credential. Students considering this last option should discuss their plans with the credential advisor in UCSB's Graduate School of Education early in their academic careers.

High School Preparation

Recommended as part of or in addition to the UC admission requirements:

  • One year of biology
  • One year of chemistry
  • Mathematics through trigonometry
  • One year of physics

Transfer Preparation

To make normal progress in the major, complete the following courses in your first two years:

  • One year sequence of general chemistry with laboratory
  • One year sequence of biology with laboratory
  • One year sequence of organic chemistry with laboratory
  • One year sequence of calculus
  • One year sequence of physics with laboratory

Please see the UCSB General Catalog or your high school or community college counselor for more information on course preparation.


Additional Information

For further information on Pharmacology at UCSB, please contact the Biology Advising Office.

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Undergraduate Program in Biology - University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106