MSc in Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Sciences


Program Description

Gain knowledge in all aspects of drug discovery. Our teaching spans chemistry, biology and drug metabolism/pharmacokinetics.

  • Year of entry: 2020
  • Duration: 1 year full-time
  • Mode of study: Full-time
  • Entry requirements: 2:1 (or international equivalent) related to biology or chemistry including (but not restricted to) pharmacy, pharmacology, biochemistry, genetics, life sciences, natural sciences, biomedical sciences
  • IELTS: 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each element
  • UK/EU fees: £12060
  • International fees: £26955
  • Start date: September
  • Course location: University Park
  • School/Department: Science, Pharmacy
  • Accreditation: Royal Society of Chemistry


The overall aim of the course is to develop knowledge and understanding, cognitive skills, and practical and professional skills in the area of drug discovery and pharmaceutical science.

The drug discovery process from ‘concept to clinic’ provides the reference point for the education and training delivered in the more specific scientific and regulatory aspects.

This course will give you:

  • A critical understanding of the disease/disorder biology and how it impacts upon human health
  • Knowledge in normal and abnormal pharmacology and bodily function, with an understanding of how and why drugs are either rejected or taken forward for future development
  • Skills in physicochemical and pharmacological principles alongside the regulatory processes necessary for new medicine discovery and entry into the clinic
  • Knowledge of the process of drug design and development so you apply to practical problems in pharmacology, drug discovery and pharmaceutical science

By taking this course, you will:

  • Benefit from a course accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Join a pharmacy school ranked in the world top 10 (QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2019)
  • Be taught by academics from the School of Pharmacy and the School of Life Sciences, providing you with expertise from both disciplines
  • Engage with influential scientists from the pharmaceutical industry

Individual research project

As a masters student, you will work alongside researchers who are transforming lives and improving societies. In the Research Excellence Framework 2014, we were the only school of pharmacy to have 100% of our research graded as 4* in the ‘Impact on Society’ category. This is the highest grade and means our work is world-leading.

Our portfolio of multidisciplinary research is focussed on understanding and developing treatments for some of the most complex and challenging diseases of our time. We work globally to achieve this. By joining us, you will have the opportunity to undertake your own research project, supported by a supervisor from the School of Pharmacy or the School of Life Sciences.

Previous topics have included:

  • Designing and making new antimicrobial agents to overcome existing antimicrobial resistance
  • Using molecular modelling to understand how ligands interact with a chemokine receptor in a novel manner
  • Developing new fluorescence and bioluminescence-based assays to measure the binding of ligands at different receptor targets.
  • In vitro, ex vivo and in vivo pharmacokinetic characterisation of anticancer compounds and their prodrugs designed for targeting the intestinal lymphatic system

Projects last for 12 weeks and are worth 60 credits. You can work in our laboratories and they encourage the practical application of the theory taught on the course.

Meet your Course Directors

"I am a UK-registered Pharmacist with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and an Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry. Within the School of Pharmacy, I am responsible for directing and developing our postgraduate taught programmes, which include this course and MSc Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

My research focusses on trying to understand complex proteins called G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) through their interaction with small molecules. GPCRs are found embedded in the membrane of cells and convert extracellular stimuli into a range of intracellular signals. These proteins are targeted by over one-third of all drugs in the clinic and regulate a vast array of processes in the body."

Dr Shailesh Mistry, Course Director

"I am an Associate Professor of Molecular Pharmacology within the School of Life Sciences. I am also Chair of the Nomenclature Committee of the International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (NC-IUPHAR), a Senior Editor of the British Journal of Pharmacology (BJP) and an Editor of the Concise Guide to Pharmacology (CGTP). For a number of years, I have featured in a list of the most highly-cited researchers.

My research focusses on Cannabis-related medicines, primarily understanding, quantifying and developing assays to screen ligands acting at the molecular targets of cannabinoids, and the enzymes involved in synthesising and metabolising endogenous cannabinoids."

Dr Stephen Alexander, Course Director

MSc Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Sciences (two-years)

We also offer a two-year masters which includes a year working in the industry. In the second year, fees are reduced to half those of the first year, as you focus on your industrial training. This unique course is a great opportunity to gain experience working in the pharmaceutical industry and build your network for your future career.

Course structure


  • The Fundamentals of Drug Discovery
  • Drug Targets and Pharmacodynamics
  • Drug Discovery and Development 1
  • Drug Discovery and Development 2
  • Research Project

The above is a sample of the typical modules that 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. This course page may be updated over the duration of the course, as modules may change due to developments in the curriculum or in the research interests of staff.

Teaching methods and assessment

In addition to self-directed learning activities, our face-to-face teaching is a blend of lectures, workshops and laboratory classes.

Assessment will vary in number and style across each module being studied, typically you will have:

  • Computer-based and written exams
  • Oral and poster presentations
  • Essay-style or workbook coursework

For the research project, there is the opportunity to write your report in the style of a scientific publication and you will also discuss your research in a short viva.

We embrace technology to support your learning. We use e-learning packages to supplement face-to-face teaching and innovative assessment methods. All students have the option to borrow an iPad for the duration of their studies, through which you can access all the relevant materials for your studies, including lecture notes, library e-books, past papers for exams and a range of internet-based resources.

Careers and professional development


This course is accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry.


Graduates can expect to move into a range of scientific careers, particularly with global pharmaceutical companies and pharmaceutical SMEs. Strong industrial links to the course will further enhance students’ employability.

The MSc also provides a strong grounding for students subsequently wishing to study for a PhD in a related subject area.

Average starting salary and career progression

100% of postgraduates from the School of Pharmacy secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £30,000 with the highest being £35,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates who were available for employment, 2016/17. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Careers support and advice

We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students whatever your course, mode of study or future career plans.

You can access our Careers and Employability Service during your studies and after you graduate. Expert staff will help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

More than 1,500 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

Fees and funding

Additional costs

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 which you would need to factor into your budget.

We also offer an iPad for the year and have a supply of laptops which are offered to students on loan.

Scholarships and bursaries

Government loans for masters courses

Masters student loans of up to £10,906 are available for taught and research masters courses. Applicants must ordinarily live in the UK or EU.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure you apply for your course with enough time.


This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

Last updated Jan 2020

About the School

The Faculty of Science undertakes world-class research spanning wide-ranging topics including quantum physics, plant genomics, human imaging, sustainable chemistry, neuroscience, mathematical modellin ... Read More

The Faculty of Science undertakes world-class research spanning wide-ranging topics including quantum physics, plant genomics, human imaging, sustainable chemistry, neuroscience, mathematical modelling and beyond. We work closely with industry on the training of the next generation of scientists and collaborate worldwide to ensure our research has a major societal impact. The Faculty of Science comprises seven schools and has strong links with the School of Life Sciences and School of Veterinary Medicine and Science. Schools from within the faculty also collaborate with those from the University's other faculties to form various research centres and research institutes. Read less
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