Pharmacology Degrees - Our Programmes - BSc Pharmacology

Information About | Our Programmes | Prospective Students | Current Students | Staff Details | Modules | Teaching Documents

Information about the BSc in Pharmacology

Pharmacology is the science of chemical substances and how they interact with our bodies. It includes the study of medicines, poisons and drugs of abuse. Progress in developing therapeutic drugs and identifying new drug targets is giving rise to fascinating challenges for qualified pharmacologists.

The degree programme is based on the course-unit system. Students normally take a total of four units each year, made up of half or whole units. (Courses of equal unit value are designed to represent equivalent workloads.) As the first year forms the foundation of the degree most courses are compulsory, but, in both the second and third years, students are given some choice. Most courses combine practical and tutorial sessions with a lecture programme. Practical and tutorial work is based on small-group teaching providing opportunities for informal discussion of particular topics.

Throughout the three years, pharmacology students have close contact with students from other departments. Indeed some of the first-year courses are taken by students from a number of other departments in the Faculty of Life Sciences. In the second and third years pharmacology students often attend the same courses as physiology and medicinal chemistry students.

Courses in each of the three years of the degree programme run concurrently under the Common Timetable organization. Lectures and tutorials are usually held in the morning with practical work in the afternoons, although this can vary from module to module.  A 0.5 CU module usually runs over as single term, while 1.0 CU modules often run across two terms.

The progress of all students is carefully monitored by the Pharmacology Programme Tutor (Dr Talvinder Sihra - t.sihra@ucl.ac.uk), who also advises on academic matters such as selection of courses. In addition all students are allocated a Personal Tutor who advises on problems of any kind.
The major means of assessment is by formal written examination, during May. However, most courses will use some in-course assessment, typically providing 20% to 30% of the marks, based on written accounts of practicals, essays or course tests. Progress to the second and third years of the programme requires a satisfactory examination performance at the end of each academic year.

Admission information


Year 1: Dr Guy Moss
Room 237 Medical Science Building
Telephone 020 7679 3752; Email: g.moss@ucl.ac.uk

Year 2: Dr Talvinder Sihra
Room 250/334 Medawar Building
Telephone 020 7679 3296; Email: t.sihra@ucl.ac.uk

Year 3: Dr Martin Stocker
Room 408, LMP Building
Telephone: 020 7679 7244; Email: m.stocker@ucl.ac.uk

Overall: Pharmacology Programme Tutor:
Dr Talvinder Sihra

Back to top

First Year Programme

Students take the following courses, worth 4.0 course-units in total, which are all compulsory:

  • PHAR1001 - An Introduction to Mechanisms of Drug Action (0.5 CU) (Term 1, Blocks E & F; Term 2, Block F)
  • BIOC1001 - Cellular And Molecular Biology (1.0 CU) (Terms 1 & 2, Blocks A & F)
  • CHEM1603 - Chemistry For Biology Students (1.0 CU) (Term 1, Blocks D, G, H; Term 2, Block D)
  • PHOL1001 Mammalian Physiology (1.0 CU) (Terms 1 &2, Blocks C & H)
  • Either STAT6101 Introduction To Statistical Methods And Computing (0.5 CU)STAT6201 Statistical Methods And Computing (0.5 CU) (Term 2, Blocks B)

These courses provide essential background knowledge for the subsequent years of study.

Back to top

Second Year Programme

Students again study courses to the total of 4.0 course-units. The core courses are compulsory with a choice of one optional course.
Core courses

  • PHAR2002 General and Systematic Pharmacology (1.0 CU) (Term 1 & 2, Blocks D & F)
  • PHAR2003 Experimental Pharmacology (1.0 CU) (Term 1 & 2, Blocks B & G; Term 1, Reading week)
  • PHOL2005  Structure And Function Of Nervous Systems (0.5 CU) (Term 1, Blocks C & I; Term 1, Reading week - Fri pm)
  • IMMN2001  Immunity To Infection (0.5 CU) (Term 2, Blocks E & I)
  • Either BIOC2002 General Biochemistry (1.0 CU) (Term 1 & 2, Blocks A) or, *BIOC2003 Further Topics In Biochemistry (0.5 CU) (Term 1 & 2, Blocks A) and Optional Module (0.5 CU)

Optional Modules

  • IMMN2002 Medical Microbiology (0.5 CU)
  • PHOL2006 Cellular Neurophysiology (0.5 CU)
  • ANAT2008 Developmental Neurobiology (0.5 CU)
  • CHEM2601 Chemistry of Biologically Important Molecules (0.5 CU)
  • HMED3004 History of Medicine - Madness in Society (0.5 CU)
  • MSIN7001 Management Informatin and Control (0.5 CU)
  • COMP6008 Internet and New Media (0,5 CU)
  • LANG Modern Languages At Various Levels (0.5 CU)
  • HPSC2002 Science In The Mass Media (0.5 CU)
  • PHOL2001 Animal And Human Physiology - Maintenance And Regulatory Mechanisms (0.5 CU) 
  • ANAT2009 Neuroanatomy (0.5 CU)

In addition, other optional courses are available in Biology, Anthropology, Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Physiology, Chemistry, Science and Technology Studies, and Psychology.
Use of computers, presentation skills and teamwork form a part of the second-year teaching programme.

*Selection of this alternative will require consultation with the Programme Tutor to discuss potential options.

Back to top

Third Year Programme

Students take courses to a total of 4.0 course-units, of which only the one taught module is "core" and therefore compulsory. Students must also do either a Laboratory or Library project. of their choice.


  • PHAR3003 Molecular Pharmacology (0.5 CU)


  • Either PHAR3010 Laboratory Research Project (1.5 CU) or PHAR3009 Library Research Project (1.0 CU)


  • Either PHAR3001 Neuropharmacology (1.0 CU) or PHAR3002 Neuropharmacology (0.5 CU)
  • PHAR3004 Receptor Mechanisms (0.5 CU)

  • Either PHAR3005 Immunopharmacology (1.0 CU) or PHAR3031 Immunopharmacology (0.5 CU)
  • PHAR3006 Drug Design And Development (0.5 CU)
  • PHAR3008 Psychopharmacology (0.5 CU)
  • PHAR3011 Synaptic Pharmacology: The Synapse, A Major Site Of Disease And Drug Action (0.5 CU)

OTHER OPTIONAL MODULES** offered under other programme boards:

  • ANAT3042 Pain (0.5 CU)
  • IMMN3001 Immunobiology (0.5 CU) 
  • BIOC3011 Biochemistry of Health and Disease (0.5)
  • PHOL3003 Fetal And Neonatal Physiology (1.0 CU)
  • PHOL3009 Space Medicine And Extreme Environment Physiology (1.0 CU)
  • ANAT3028 The Neurobiology Of Neurodegenerative Disease (0.5 CU)
  • BIOC3012 Sex, Genes And Evolution (0.5 CU)
  • HMED3004 Madness And Society (0.5 CU)
  • HMED3001 Man's Place In Nature: The Debate In Britain (0.5 CU)
  • HMED3014 Medicine In Asia (0.5 CU)
  • HMED3009 Colonial And Empire Medicine (0.5 CU)

Back to top

Project (1.5 CU - Laboratory or 1.0 CU - Library/Reading)

It is usual to carry out a special project in the third year where students investigate problems of their own choice. This takes the place of a formal taught course.

A 1.5-unit project gives students the opportunity to join a research team for nine weeks, and carry out their own experimental project in a research area of pharmacology that interests them. An initial period of library work is followed by a programme of experimental research, in which the student is responsible for the planning, execution and analysis of experiments. This gives students a chance to experience laboratory research first hand. Many students find this extremely helpful in deciding on their future career, especially in respect of whether to opt for a PhD or research career in the pharmaceutical industry.

A 1.0-unit project lasts for six weeks and comprises a library-based dissertation. The topics are usually agreed after discussions with potential supervisors, who will be aware of questions in their field of expertise which are both interesting and can be reasonably tackled within the time available.

In both cases, a written report is prepared and is assessed as part of the final examination. For either type of project, the student discusses his or her work with an appointed supervisor, who offers general guidance on planning and the final written report.

Back to top

A Fourth Year?
Students are encouraged to consider taking a 'year out' between their second and third year of study at UCL. Usually, this is spent in the pharmaceutical industry but other, pharmacology-related, activities are acceptable. These are organised on an ad hoc basis but the numerous contacts between the departmental staff and colleagues in industry are often helpful. In most cases, students compete for placements with undergraduates from other universities, and so a sound performance in the first-year examinations is usually essential.

Back to top

Page last modified on 27 sep 09 18:15 by Talvinder S Sihra