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Department of Pharmacology


Course Organiser

Dr David Bulmer
Telephone: +44 (0)1233 3 34047 / Lab 3 34021


Undergraduate Administrator

Mrs Christine Roberts
E-Mail: /
Telephone: +44 (0)1223 334000


Why choose Pharmacology?

  • Pharmacology lies at the heart of drug discovery.
  • Pharmacology has enormous impact on clinical and veterinary medicine.
  • Pharmacology is a vital approach to understanding biology.

Pharmacology is the study of the mechanism of action of drugs on biological systems, whether the drug is synthetic, natural or endogenous.

Pharmacologists can use this information to reveal how the biological system itself works.

Pharmacology is a multi-disciplinary field, encompassing every level of biological organisation, from atomic structures, signalling pathways, cells, tissues and organisms, to entire populations.


Ways to study Pharmacology in Part II

There are two ways to study Pharmacology at Part II level. They share the same core teaching. The difference is that Part II Pharmacology includes a practical research project whereas Part II BBS (Biological and Biomedical Sciences) includes a dissertation and an additional single-paper Minor Subject chosen from a wide range.

Both courses are equally rewarding and equally demanding. However, if you are considering postgraduate laboratory-based research (PhD or MB/PhD), you are strongly advised to take Part II Pharmacology with its practical research project.

Examples of recent research projects

Examples of recent BBS dissertations


The Pharmacology course

The course aims:

  • To provide a wide-ranging, balanced and critical treatment of pharmacology as it relates to understanding mechanisms of drug action
  • To equip you with a range of skills for your future career, whether it is in life sciences research, medicine, veterinary medicine, drug discovery, or other careers not directly related to pharmacology

By the end of the course, you can expect to be able to:

  • Think critically and with an appropriate level of knowledge across a wide range of pharmacological topics.
  • Find, critically assess and integrate information from the scientific literature.
  • Critically assess different methods to solve pharmacological problems.
  • Communicate effectively with a scientific audience in oral presentations, written reports or dissertations, and essays.

The course is taught through lectures, tech talks, discussion groups, supervisions, case studies, study skills workshops and tea talks. All of these are shared between Part II Pharmacology and Part II BBS.

The teaching in delivered by staff from the Department of Pharmacology who are all actively engaged in research and committed to teaching excellence, complemented by visitors from other departments and pharmaceutical companies. You can expect to encounter the most recent research and the controversies surrounding it.

Lectures are at the core of the course. Lectures take place in Michaelmas and Lent Terms, and are timetabled to allow you to attend them all. They are grouped into Systems Pharmacology, and Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology. In reality, there is a seamless continuity between the two. The 2019-20 lecture courses are shown below. Each year there may be some changes to accommodate staff changes and sabbatical leave.


Tech talks provide overviews of a variety of advanced techniques used in pharmacology research. They are usually given by senior researchers with first-hand expertise in the techniques.

Discussion groups, each of 5-6 students and 1 member of staff, meet throughout the year. They aim to develop your presentation skills and your ability to critically evaluate scientific research.

All lecturers will provide supervisions, to answer your questions, give feedback on essays, and discuss the topic in greater detail.

Study skills workshops provide practical guidance on a range of key skills, including essay writing, reading the scientific literature and statistics.

Drug Case Studies in Michaelmas Term explore examples of how drugs are developed, how they work – and how we know.

Tea talks are held weekly during term and a mix of external and internal speakers talking about their most recent research. They are followed by drinks and nibbles, providing a relaxed chance to catch up with the speaker and everyone else in the department.


Research projects (Part II Pharmacology only)

Research projects are the best way to get a real taste of scientific research. Most of the projects are based in the research labs of the department, although a few projects are based elsewhere (e.g. Clinical Pharmacology). Example of recent research projects can be found here.

The research projects take place in Lent Term. You will spend approximately 3 days/weeks working in the lab on your project. The project is submitted as a written report and presented as a talk to the examiners in Easter Term. Our Part II students can become valued member of their lab and have a real impact on its research. It is not uncommon for work arising from a Part II project to be published or presented at a scientific meeting.


Dissertations (BBS only)

Dissertations provide an opportunity to explore an area of interest in considerable depth. You can choose a dissertation title from lists provided by either your Major of Minor Subjects. Most of our students choose a title from the pharmacology list (click here for examples of recently offered titles). Prospective supervisors will be available to discuss titles before you make your final decision.

Your supervisor will provide guidance on your dissertation topic throughout Lent Term.


Applying for Pharmacology

The maximum number of students allowed onto the Part II Pharmacology course is 30, and determined by the number of research projects available. There are up to 20 places for BBS Pharmacology. Our selection policy is to accept students with the best overall performance in Part IB examinations. Students from MVST and NST are treated identically.

There are no interviews and no application need be made other than on the list of Part II preferences submitted through your College. Prospective applicants are invited to contact Dr Bulmer or any of the teaching staff if they have any queries about the courses.