A program that focuses on the scientific study of the biochemical and biophysical characteristics of drugs at the molecular level and their interaction with, and effects on, biological macromolecules and cellular structures and processes. Includes instruction in molecular biology and biophysics; pharmacology of signal transduction, transmitters, and protein synthesis and release; receptors, protein interaction and binding; drug discovery and recognition; molecular toxicology; drug design; pharmacodynamics; developmental genetics; and studies of therapeutic strategies.

Molecular pharmacologists apply principles of molecular biochemistry to the development of new drugs or therapies.

Sometimes, you have to think small; rather than observing the full-body effects of pharmaceutical drugs, molecular pharmacologists focus on actions at the molecular level. Molecules are tiny groups of atoms held together by chemical bonds, and it's possible to manipulate these bonds with the strategic deployment of chemicals. Pharmacologists synthesize chemical compounds, determine the best way to deliver them, and introduce them to subjects. For molecular pharmacologists, the subjects are often individual cells or even smaller structures, and they are constantly coming up with interesting ways to cure them.

Some molecular pharmacologists interfere with signal proteins in order to interrupt a hostile process; others design compounds that train cells to develop resistances to external invaders. As technologies advance, molecular pharmacology has grown, with scientists using specialized computer programs to visualize macromolecules and using new techniques to explore the molecular world.

Work in molecular biology may include...

  • Using specialized software or equipment to view molecular activity
  • Observing the interactions between drugs and biomatter
  • Designing chemical solutions to various diseases
  • Developing targeted therapeutic methods
  • Conducting tests on samples, subjects, and specimens

Most molecular pharmacologists work for pharmaceutical companies or in medical research labs. Those in academia conduct research, write, or teach, and those in clinical settings may design trials or administer experimental treatments.

Becoming a molecular pharmacologist requires an undergraduate degree in molecular biology. Students should complete coursework in biochemistry, immunology, and genetics. Some universities offer special pharmacology programs that allow students to earn a degree in molecular pharmacology and continue on to professional and graduate training, culminating in a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. This can be a great option for students who want to streamline their studies; however, many students elect to pursue Master's degrees or PhD programs after finishing their Bachelor's studies. These tracks involve a lot of independent research and allow students to narrow their scope of study down to a particular subject.

If you want to do small-scale work with a big impact, a career in molecular pharmacology might be what you've been looking for.

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