PhD Graduate Program

Receive an education in chemistry and biology that prepares you for the evolving multidisciplinary research of the pharmaceutical industry and academia.

Our Medicinal Chemistry graduate program is one of the top-rated in the United States.  We have a diverse group of faculty members, graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows working at the interface of chemistry and biology.

The Medicinal Chemistry Department

Acclaimed programs in biochemistry, neuroscience, pharmacology, virology, immunology, cancer biology, structural biology, and drug design, discovery, development and delivery.

Director of Graduate Studies

A headshot of Dr. Daniel Harki. He is wearing a gray suit jacket and a purple button-up shirt on a blurred gray and blue background.Daniel Harki, PhD
Northrop Professor





The Medicinal Chemistry program welcomes applications from students with pharmacy, chemistry, or biology degrees. Students majoring in other degree programs that encompass chemical, biochemical, or biological fields of study are also encouraged to apply.

  1. A grade point average indicative of a strong undergraduate academic performance is required of all applicants.
  2. All non-US students must submit either a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score or an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score. See the Graduate School about the preferred performance levels.
  3. Please note that the University of Minnesota's institution code 6874 should be used for TOEFL submissions.
  4. Please note that the Department of Medicinal Chemistry no longer requires GRE scores.



  • Applications are only accepted for fall term admission. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. You must fulfill all application requirements, including payment of the application fee, before your application is considered complete. Any inquires about the application fee should be directed to the Graduate School.
  • Applications should be submitted by January 3rd.

Application Checklist

Application Checklist

Complete your application for admission using the Graduate School's online application system.
You will be asked to provide the following:

  1. A statement explaining your interest in Medicinal Chemistry and why the graduate program at the University of Minnesota is a good fit for you.
  2. A brief summary of any prior work or research experience that has influenced your decision to pursue a Medicinal Chemistry PhD.
  3. Resume/CV.
  4. Transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended.
  5. Three letters of recommendations. You will be asked to provide contact information for your references, and they will be asked to submit their letter electronically through the online application system.
  6. An application fee ($75 domestic, $95 foreign students).

Financial Assistance

Financial Assistance

Students who have been accepted into the program with the assurance of financial assistance receive such support in the form of either teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or fellowships. All students on assistantships and fellowships receive a tuition waiver and a comprehensive health care benefits package.  Students do not need to fill out any additional forms when applying to be considered for financial support.  Students are fully supported throughout the duration of their studies as long as satisfactory progress is being made toward a degree.

Policies and Procedures

Policies and Procedures

The policies and procedures are designed to help you become familiar with departmental guidelines and program requirements. Responsibility lies with the graduate student to initiate and carry out the necessary steps essential to the progress and ultimate completion of their respective graduate program.

Students also should consult the General Information section of the Graduate School Catalog or the Graduate School website at for pertinent Graduate School requirements and policies and procedures.

Student Diversity

Student Diversity

The Department of Medicinal Chemistry embraces the University of Minnesota's position that promoting and supporting diversity among the student body is central to the academic mission of the University. A diverse student body enriches graduate education by providing a multiplicity of views and perspectives that enhance research, teaching and the development of new knowledge. A diverse mix of students promotes respect for, and opportunities to learn from, others with the broad range of backgrounds and experiences that constitute modern society. Higher education trains the next generation of leaders of academia and society in general, and such opportunities for leadership should be accessible to all members of society. The Graduate School and Department of Medicinal Chemistry are therefore committed to providing equal access to educational opportunities through recruitment, admission and support programs that promote diversity, foster successful academic experiences and cultivate the leaders of the next generation.

Recruitment Weekends

Prospective students will be invited to our recruitment weekend to interact with faculty and students, tour facilities, the campus, and the Twin Cities. Generally this occurs the first weekend in March.

Admissions Contact Information

Daniel A. Harki, Ph.D.
Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Medicinal Chemistry
2-139 Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building
2231 6th Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

PhD Requirements

    Maintaining Active Status

    The Graduate School requires that students register every Fall and Spring term to maintain active status up through and including the term in which you will complete your degree. Failure to maintain active status will result in discontinuation of student status and require applying for readmission.

    Coursework Requirements

    Students must complete a minimum of 24 credits of required and elective graduate (5000 or 8000) level coursework and 24 Doctoral Thesis Credits (MedC 8888). This coursework and thesis credit requirements are generally completed during the first two years of study. A typical course sequence is illustrated below.

    After Semester One:
    students should register for a maximum of 14 credits of graduate level coursework and/or MedC8888 thesis credits each semester until they have completed their thesis credit requirement. Under no circumstances should a student register for more than 14 credits in a semester without approval from either the DGS or their advisor, as this entails significant additional tuition costs.

    After Two Years:
    Some students may be in a situation where they have completed all of their course requirements and they need less than 6 credits to complete their thesis requirements. In this situation, students will need to register for 6 credits of MedC 8888 thesis credits to retain their full-time status. Once students have completed their thesis credit requirement and have met the other advanced doctoral student status requirements, they will begin in the following semester to register for a specific one-credit registration (MedC 8444) that certifies the student as full-time. Until the student has a research advisor, the Director of Graduate Study will approve all registrations. It is a program requirement that before registering each semester students must consult with and obtain the approval of either their advisor or the Director of Graduate Studies.


    Program Coursework

    The following are required courses for the doctoral program in Medicinal Chemistry:

    • MedC 8001 | General Principles of Medicinal Chemistry I | 3 cr
    • MedC 8002 | General Principles of Medicinal Chemistry II | 3 cr
    • MedC 8050 | Mechanistic Organic Chemistry | 2 cr
    • MedC 8435 | BioAssays | 1 cr
    • MedC 8100 | Seminar | 1 cr
    • Chem 8066 | Professional Conduct of Chemical Research | 1 cr
    • Chem 8321 | Organic Synthesis | 4 cr
    • MedC 8888 | Doctoral Thesis | 24 cr

    Students are required to take three additional courses, two of which must be from the list below:

    • MedC 8070 | Chemistry and Biology of Infectious Diseases | 3 cr
    • MedC 8401 | The Chemistry of Counterterrorism | 3 cr
    • MedC 8413 | Chemistry of Nucleic Acids | 3 cr
    • MedC 8420 | Natural Products Chemistry | 3 cr
    • MedC 8461 | Design of Cancer Immunotherapeutics | 3 cr
    • MedC 8471 | High Throughput Drug Discovery | 3 cr
    • MedC 8753 | Molecular Targets of Drug Discovery | 3 cr
    • MedC 8700 | Advanced Concepts in Medicinal Chemistry | 2 cr

    Below is a list of approved courses to satisfy the biochemistry requirement. Students may use other courses not listed here to complete their biochemistry requirement with the approval of the DGS and their advisor:

    • BioC 8005 | Biochemistry: Structure and Catalysis  | 2 cr
    • BioC 8006 | Biochemistry: Metabolism and Control  | 2 cr
    • BioC 5535 |  Intro to Modern Structural Biology-Diffraction |  2 cr
    • BioC 5528 |  Spectroscopy and Kinetics | 4 cr
    • GCD 8151 | Cell Structure & Function  | 3 cr
    • Chem 8411 | Intro to Chemical Biology  | 4 cr 

    Remedial Coursework

    Sometimes a student is admitted to the Medicinal Chemistry graduate program with specific course deficiencies. Such deficiencies need be made up as soon as possible, preferably during the first year of residence. For example, if the deficiency is physical chemistry, the student will take Chem 4501 (3 cr) or its equivalent. In the case of other course deficiencies, the Director of Graduate Studies will determine the appropriate course to fulfill the deficiency.

    Research Interests

    Department research interests include antiviral and anticancer drug design, cancer chemoprevention, chemical biology, chemical carcinogenesis, drug metabolism, gene therapy, molecular recognition, natural products chemistry, neuroscience, peptidomimetics, receptor modeling, and NMR and X-ray crystallography.

    Aldrich Research Group

    Aldrich Research GroupThe Aldrich lab focuses on the synthesis and evaluation of new small molecules for the treatment and study of M. tuberculosis. Our lab does almost everything from making molecules to testing in mouse models.



    Carlson Research Group

    Erin CarlsonTo meet the challenges of antibiotic resistance and specter of a post-antibiotic era, the Carlson lab is pursuing the discovery of the master regulators of bacterial growth and communication and ultimately, the identification of new antibiotics through the application of diverse tools at the interface of chemistry and biology.

    Duerfeldt Research Group

    Adam Duerfeldt seated with bookshelf behind himThe team at Duerfeldt Labs is a highly collaborative medicinal chemistry group focused on 1) the development of chemical tools that can be utilized to enhance our understanding of disease mechanisms and 2) the development of new therapeutic leads for bacterial infections and ocular diseases. Their approach integrates synthetic chemistry, chemical and structural biology, and computational methods to provide innovative solutions to important scientific problems.

    Georg Research Group

    Georg Research GroupThe Georg research group research interests are heavily interdisciplinary, involving medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, pharmaceutical chemistry, and reproductive biology. We are currently involved in many therapeutic areas, including male and female contraception and cancer.


    Haskell-Luevano Research Group

    Haskell-Luevano GroupThe Haskell-Luevano research group is interested in the understanding of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and their involvement in feeding behavior, exercise, diabetes, and obesity. We utilize multidisciplinary approaches including organic chemistry, chemical biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, pharmacology, physiology, animal studies, and neuroscience to study endocrine systems. 

    Hoye Research Group

    Thomas HoyeSynthetic and structural organic chemistry lie at the heart of most of the projects being studied in the Hoye Research Group. These include problems in mechanistic organic chemistry, natural product synthesis, synthetic applications of organometallic chemistry, sustainable polymer synthesis, and many applications of NMR spectroscopy.

    Pierre Research Group

    Valerie C. PierreThe Pierre Research Group employs coordination and supramolecular chemistry to solve medical and environmental problems. We exploit siderophores, natural products synthesized by bacteria to chelate iron, as new diagnostic and theranostic tools for bacterial infections. We design and synthesize analogues of these natural products that can rapidly detect, quantify and identify bacteria in complex media. We also design new antimicrobial agents that function via novel mechanisms.

    Portoghese Research Group

    Philip PortogheseThe Portoghese Research Group is focused on the design and synthesis of compounds that target opioid receptors, both as pharmacologic tools and as agents for treatment of pain. Novel concepts and approaches are employed for development of analgesics that are highly selective for different types of opioid receptors.



    Tretyakova Research Group

    Tretyakova Research GroupThe Tretyakova research group employs the tools of chemical biology, analytical chemistry, and biochemistry to investigate the mechanisms of cancer initiation by exogenous and endogenous chemicals, to determine the modes of action of anti-tumor drugs, and to develop novel nucleoside analogs as molecular probes and biologically active compounds. Our research program is on the interface of nucleic acid chemistry, chemical carcinogenesis,and bioanalytical chemistry.

    Wagner Research Group

    Wagner Research GroupThe goal of our multidisciplanary laboratory is to apply the principles of chemical biology, medicinal chemistry, nanotechnology and biomaterial engineering to enable the development of new targets for viral diseases, cancer and pain, enable the development of new nanotechnology based immunotherapies for cancer, enable the development of new enzyme activatable biomaterials for regenerative medicine and drug delivery.

    Ambrose Research Group

    Elizabeth A AmbroseThe Ambrose laboratory’s research program focuses on CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high explosive) agent mitigation, particularly Bacillus anthracis (the causative agent of anthrax), the ricin toxin, and organophosphate nerve gases such as sarin, soman, and VX.


    Distefano Research Group

    mark distefanoThe Distefano Research Group uses synthetic organic chemistry in conjunction with a wide variety of biochemical, spectroscopic and computational techniques to study interesting problems at the interface of chemistry and biology.


    Ferguson Research Group

    Ferguson Research GroupThe Ferguson lab studies the relationships between molecular structure and biological function (typically small molecule – large molecular interactions) to rationalize the design of improved therapeutics using SAR studies, biochemical assays, and structural analyses (including X-ray crystallography, molecular modeling, and spectroscopy).

    Harki Research Group

    Harki Research GroupResearch in the Harki laboratory focuses on the design, synthesis and biological characterization of novel small molecules, peptides, and oligonucleotides that influence cellular function. Applications for these molecules range from anticancer drug discovery to new tools for modern biotechnology research.

    Hecht Research Group

    Stephen HechtThe goal of the Hecht Research Group is to understand mechanisms of metabolic activation and DNA modification by carcinogens in tobacco products and the human environment, and apply this knowledge to cancer prevention. The laboratory focuses on the properties of carcinogenic nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and aldehydes.

    Peterson Research Group

    Lisa PetersonThe Peterson Research Group focuses on mechanisms by which tobacco smoke chemicals initiate cancer. Organic, biological and analytical chemical methods are employed to study this problem.




    Pomerantz Research Group

    William PomerantzThe Pomerantz interdisciplinary research encompasses a wide range of topics including organic synthesis, bioanalytical chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology for studying the function of transcription factors involved in disease. Our primary goal is to discover small molecules which we can synthesize in the laboratory to modulate the function of transcription factor-protein interactions, with the ultimate goal of developing new chemical probes for understanding the biology of these proteins.

    Remmel Research Group

    Rory RemmelThe Remmel Research Group research interests include drug metabolism and disposition, development of prodrugs of carbapenems for tuberculosis, metabolism, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacogenomics of antiepileptic agents, kinetics of UDP-glucuronosyl transferases, and the effect of obesity on drug metabolism and disposition.

    Turesky Research Group

    Robert TureskyThe Turesky Research Group is focused on biochemical mechanisms by which hazardous chemicals undergo metabolism and bioactivation to form protein and DNA adducts, which are implicated in toxicity and the onset of cancer.  The long-term objective is to implement chemical markers of these genotoxicants for employment in molecular epidemiology studies that seek to understand the origin of human cancer for which an environmental cause is suspected.