Course overview

Learn how to identify and develop targeted treatments for some of the world’s most challenging diseases. You will learn about key aspects of the drug discovery journey. This will cover target identification, through drug synthesis and biological evaluation, all the way to considering intellectual property and clinical treatment. You will then complete an individual research project with a dedicated supervisor supporting your work, alongside researchers who are transforming lives and improving societies.

Accredited by the RSC

This course is accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

This represents a mark of quality for prospective students and for future employers. When you choose an RSC accredited chemistry programme, you can be confident that you are getting a high-quality education, providing the knowledge and key skills you need for a successful future.

Excellence in Teaching and Student Support

Members of our course team have won awards for excellence in teaching and student support. Our small group learning environment can help you settle in quickly and form a lasting network of connections.

Multidisciplinary expertise

You will be taught by experts from both the School of Pharmacy and the School of Life Sciences

Together with colleagues from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, the School of Pharmacy are joint 1st in the UK on Research Environment in the Research Excellence Framework 2021.

Research from both schools is transforming the lives of millions of people across the globe. Some of our recent contributions include:

Local and global pharmaceutical links

Benefit from a range of teaching approaches from experts collaborating the pharmaceutical industry. We have extensive links with local and global pharmaceutical organisations, including Sygnature Discovery, Excellerate Bioscience and GlaxoSmithKline.


Why choose this course?


"The depth and breadth across the course was excellent"

Top 5

A world top 5 university for pharmacy and pharmacology

QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022 and 2021

Academic expertise

from both the School of Pharmacy and the School of Life Sciences.

Honorary Professors

and guest industrial speakers present throughout the year.

Joint 4th place

in the UK for our research quality with our colleagues from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework

Joint 1st place

in the UK for our research environment with our colleagues from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework

Course content

You will learn about:

  • the historical and modern-day drug discovery process
  • computational approaches relevant to drug discovery
  • medicinal chemistry of currently marketed drugs
  • pharmacokinetics and toxicology
  • clinical usage of current drugs
  • pharmacotherapy of major human diseases and disorders
  • disease biology and how it impacts upon human health
  • how and why drugs fail or succeed in the drug discovery process
  • applying solutions to practical problems across disciplines


Core modules

Principles of Drug Discovery 20 credits

This autumn semester module focusses on the drug discovery process and is supported by weekly chemistry workshops covering key concepts such as:

  • Physicochemical properties
  • ADME
  • Drug-target interactions
Drug Targets and Pharmacodynamics 20 credits

This autumn semester module introduces the major molecular targets of clinically used drugs and explores the pharmacodynamic basis of therapeutics used to treat major diseases and disorders. Themes include:

  • Quantitation of Drug Effects
  • The Diversity of Molecular Drug Targets
  • Cell Signalling Modalities and Their Relationship with Tissue and Organismal Behaviours
  • Pharmacotherapy of Major Human Diseases and Disorders
Drug Discovery and Development 20 credits

This spring semester module puts the Principles of Drug Discovery into practice. Themes include:

  • Retrosynthetic analysis
  • Medicinal Chemistry Case Studies
  • Group coursework on 'Designing a SAR Study’
Pharmacokinetics and Toxicology 20 credits

This spring semester module explores how the processes of drug ADME (absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion) and drug transport influence drug plasma concentrations and how this relates to drug efficacy. The module also provides some theoretical training on aspects of toxicology. Themes covered include:

  • The key organs in the body influencing drug pharmacokinetics
  • The influence of pharmacokinetics in the drug discovery process
  • ADME and toxicology
  • In-vitro, in-vivo and in silico methods available for quantitative pharmacokinetics
  • The role of drug transporters in ADME
  • Formulation selection in drug discovery
  • The prediction of human pharmacokinetic parameters and simulation of plasma concentration- time profiles
  • The role of the Regulatory Authorities in drug development
Practical Drug Discovery 40 credits

This module spans both the autumn and spring semesters and provides first-hand research experience and insights into practical drug discovery including in the areas of:

  • Computational chemistry
  • Synthetic organic chemistry
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Quantitative pharmacodynamics
  • Quantitative pharmacokinetics
Individual Research Project 60 credits

In this summer semester module, student will experience an extended period working as part of an existing research group (eg with the Biodiscovery Institute) Students will present their work in the form of a dissertation, as well as through a poster presentation.

Examples of previous research projects include:

  • Development of electroceuticals for treating cancer
  • Visualising cannabinoid receptors in Drosophila
  • Targeting antiretroviral drugs for better treatment of HIV/AIDS
  • Biased Agonism: Mathematical Modelling of Ligand Bias
  • The potential role of pomegranate in altering vascular function
  • Establishing a nanoBRET assay for the multidrug pump ABCG2
  • Predicting propylene glycol CNS concentration with PBPK modelling
The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Monday 03 June 2024.

Due to timetabling availability, there may be restrictions on some module combinations.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Lectures
  • Workshops
  • Seminars
  • Lab sessions
  • Past papers
  • eLearning

Core modules are typically delivered by professors, associate and assistant professors. Our extensive links with the pharmaceutical industry mean we can offer a selection of lectures and workshops which are delivered by external speakers, with field-leading expertise in the area. Some practical laboratory sessions and research projects may be supported by postgraduate research students or postdoctoral research fellows.

We use Moodle, an e-learning package for the core parts of the course. For interactive sessions we use in-class polling platforms e.g. Socrative. We supplement face-to-face teaching with innovative assessment methods.

For the individual research project you will complete a report in the style of a scientific publication and discuss your research in a short viva. You will present your research in the form of a scientific poster.

How you will be assessed

  • Written exam
  • Oral exam
  • Poster presentation
  • Essay
  • Coursework
  • Online workbook
  • Online exams

Assessments will vary in number and styles across each module being studied.

Contact time and study hours

As a guide, one credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. For the taught-stage of the course, you will spend approximately a third of your time (around 400 hours) in lectures, tutorials, workshops, practical classes, including the directed study which is necessary in preparation for workshops/practical classes. Our class sizes stand at approximately 30. The remaining time will be completed as independent study. Tutorial sessions are built into the timetable and there are several group and individual meetings timetabled throughout the year. We hold six tutor meetings throughout the year. Additional meetings can be requested as needed.

The individual research project stage has an initial period of training. You will need to complete several assessment components for the module. There will be an element of independent research. Efficient time management during the project period is essential. For this course, the individual research project represents one third of the entire course (60 credits or approximately 600 hours). We hold a minimum of five formal meetings with your research supervisor throughout the duration of your project.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2025 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 related to biology or chemistry including (but not restricted to) pharmacy, pharmacology, biochemistry, genetics, life sciences, natural sciences, biomedical sciences


Our step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about applying.

How to apply


Qualification MSc
Home / UK £15,800
International £32,400

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may be asked to complete a fee status questionnaire and your answers will be assessed using guidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) .

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

All students will need at least one device to approve security access requests via Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). We also recommend students have a suitable laptop to work both on and off-campus. For more information, please check the equipment advice.

As a student on this course, we do not anticipate any extra significant costs, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.


There are many ways to fund your postgraduate course, from scholarships to government loans.

We also offer a range of international masters scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding


We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

Each year 1,100 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Graduate destinations

We have seen a number of alumni progress into a range of scientific careers, particularly in pharmaceutical industry, academia, other related industries (e.g. scientific writing) or have continued their studies by starting a PhD.

Both Schools work and collaborate with strong industrial links, such as Sygnature Discovery Ltd and GlaxoSmithKline. We have hosted guest lectures with these companies providing an industrial insight to further enhance student's employability. 

Career progression

86% of postgraduate taught students from the Faculty of Science secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £25,985.*

*HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on data from graduates who completed a full-time postgraduate taught degree with home fee status and are working full-time within the UK.

Royal Society of Chemistry

This course is accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
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Dr Shailesh Mistry

Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Course Director

Related courses

This content was last updated on Monday 03 June 2024. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.