This course is no longer accepting applications for 2024 entry.

Course overview

Learn how to identify and develop targeted treatments for some of the world’s most challenging diseases. You will learn about key parts of the drug discovery journey: from target identification, through drug synthesis and biological evaluation, all the way to considering intellectual property and clinical treatment.

Gain practical experience

This a two year version of the standard MSc in which your autumn and spring semesters will be identical to the one-year Drug Discovery MSc.

However, you will spend your second year training with our pharmaceutical industrial partners such as Sygnature Discovery (based in Nottingham) or national partner GlaxoSmithKline. This provides a unique opportunity to gain work-place experiences such as transferable leadership skills.

Your research portfolio forms part of your second year training. It is designed around the Registered Scientist (RSci) qualification. This gives you the opportunity to independently submit your portfolio towards the application.

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.

Joint collaboration

You will establish practical and professional skills from both the School of Pharmacy and the School of Life Sciences. You'll learn:

  • to communicate complex ideas through a variety of formats, such as a simulated pitch to drug discovery investors for funding
  • core practical skills in key areas that underpin drug discovery, such as synthesis of drugs, and in vitro and in vivo analysis

Local and global pharmaceutical links

You will benefit from a range of teaching approaches from experts collaborating with the pharmaceutical industry through our links with local and global pharmaceutical organisations, including Sygnature Discovery, Excellerate Bioscience and GlaxoSmithKline.

Listen to our masters drug discovery alumna, Rhianna explain why she chose this course and how the small group learning helped her reinforce her studies.

Why choose this course?

Top 5

A world top 5 university for pharmacy and pharmacology

QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022 and 2021

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

Industrial placement

with one of our highly reputed placement providers like Sygnature Discovery Ltd or GlaxoSmithKline.

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

Honorary Professors

and guest industrial speakers present throughout the year.

Academic expertise

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

Course content

You will learn about:

  • the historical and modern-day drug discovery process
  • computational approaches relevant to drug discovery
  • organic/medicinal chemistry relating to currently marketed drugs
  • drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK)
  • clinical usage of current drugs
  • pharmacotherapy of major human diseases and disorders
  • an understanding of disease biology and how it impacts upon human health
  • an understanding of how and why drugs fail or succeed in the drug discovery process
  • apply solutions to practical problems in medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, and drug discovery


Core modules

Principles of Drug Discovery 20 credits

This autumn semester module is supported by weekly chemistry workshops covering key concepts such as physicochemical properties, ADME, and drug-target interactions. Themes include:

  • The Drug Discovery Process
  • Target Identification and Validation
  • Hit and Lead Identification
  • Screening Compound Libraries
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:

  • Synthetic Toolkit
  • Drug-Target Interactions and the Pharmacophore
  • Lead Optimisation
  • Developing a Drug from an Optimised Lead
  • Case studies of successful drugs

Students will also complete coursework including a semester-long group project and interpretation of real chemical patents.

Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics 20 credits

This spring semester module explores the relationship between drug plasma concentrations and efficacy through the study of pharmacokinetics and drug metabolism. Themes include:

  • The key organs in the body influencing drug pharmacokinetics
  • The influence of pharmacokinetics in the drug discovery process
  • In-vitro and in-vivo methods available for quantitative pharmacokinetics
  • Compartmental and non-compartmental approaches to estimating pharmacokinetic parameters
  • 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
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 Tuesday 19 March 2024.

Core module

You will spend your second year on placement with one of our industrial partners.

Industrial Research Project with training in Scientific Research

Drug discovery is a practical topic – this module provides an extensive opportunity to experience the industrial research environment, over the course of an academic year. You will further develop skills and techniques within the chosen area of your placement.

Alongside the practical elements, the research project report provides a platform to enhance a number of transferable skills (literature surveying, database mining, critical analysis and problem solving), which you will evidence by keeping an assessed competency portfolio. You will also develop your presentation skills through the construction of a research poster and in preparation for a viva voce towards the end of the module.  

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 Tuesday 19 March 2024.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Lectures
  • Workshops
  • Seminars
  • eLearning
  • Past papers

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 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.

Year two

During your placement-based research project you will complete a project report, oral presentation and discuss your research in a short viva. You will also complete a competency portfolio.

You will have both an industrial and academic supervisor for the duration of your placement.

How you will be assessed

  • Written exam
  • Oral exam
  • Poster presentation
  • Computer-based exercises
  • Coursework

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. In the first year of your studies, 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 during both years.

Year two

The research or 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 research project and placement in industry represents half of the entire course (120 credits or approximately 1200 hours). 

You will be allocated an academic supervisor and a placement supervisor throughout your project. The academic supervisor will visit you twice a year at your placement location. Alongside virtual monthly meetings. Formal meetings will take place between you and your placement supervisor.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2024 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 (or international equivalent) with significant chemistry content; example first degrees include (but are not restricted to) chemistry, biochemistry, natural sciences, pharmacology, life sciences, pharmacy; applicants will also need to supply a full transcript of completed modules


Application process

Deadline to apply will be confirmed in due course. Please check back again soon.

Applicants who meet the eligibility criteria will be shortlisted for interview based on their whole application, including the personal statement. Your personal statement should include:

  • Why you are applying for this course, and why to the University of Nottingham in particular
  • Why you wish to pursue a career in drug discovery
  • How this course will help you achieve your long-term career goals, and why the industrial placement is key to this
  • What makes you suitable for this course compared to other applicants
  • What type of placement you would like to be considered for out of Biosciences, Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics (DMPK), or Synthetic Organic Chemistry. If you want to do a chemistry placement, you will need an undergraduate level degree in chemistry

The interview will include a technical component, which will involve questions relating to your selected placement preference(s). In the case of a synthetic organic chemistry placement, questions will focus on theoretical organic chemistry, synthesis and retrosynthesis.

To secure your place, you will need to pay a £2000 deposit. This will form part of your conditional offer as there are a limited number of placements offered in advance by providers. Once the deposit is paid and any other offer conditions are met, your place on the course is guaranteed. The deposit will be used to offset your tuition fee for the first year.

If you are unable to secure a place on the two-year course, after meeting initial eligibility criteria, you will be guaranteed an offer for the one-year course (accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry).

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

How to apply


Qualification MSc
Home / UK £11,760 - the fee is for year one of the course; the fee for year two will be 50% of the year one fee applicable in the year that year two is taken.
International £24,160 - the fee is for year one of the course; the fee for year two will be 50% of the year one fee applicable in the year that year two is taken.

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. 

You should be able to access most of the books you’ll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies. A list of recommended books will be provided at the start of your course. New paper-back copies vary in price from £20.00 to £100.00 depending on the supplier.

It is beneficial to have your own laptop or PC to have access to our virtual learning environment and complete and submit coursework. Prices vary depending on what model you buy. We recommend you read our minimum equipment specifications, to help you purchase the right model.

Any accommodation or travel costs associated with the industrial year will need to be considered.


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.

Current and past students have been on their industrial training with local and national pharmaceutical companies such as Sygnature Discovery Ltd and GlaxoSmithKline.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
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Dr Shailesh Mistry DD MSc 2-year course

Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Course Director

Related courses

This content was last updated on Tuesday 19 March 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.