A program that focuses on the scientific study of drug interactions on biological systems and organisms and the sources, chemical properties, biological effects, and therapeutic uses of drugs. Includes instruction in pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, toxicology, drug therapeutics, drug action, bodily responses to drug events, biochemical proliferation and differentiation, apoptosis, cell biology, medicinal chemistry, and studies of specific drugs and drug interactions.

Pharmacologists work to understand how living organisms interact with drugs and vice versa.

Drugs of all kinds produce chemical reactions in the body that can have a variety of observable effects; pharmacologists (not to be confused with pharmacists) study this dynamic, working to understand both the body's reaction to chemical interference and the way it processes external compounds. They follow a drug's journey through a body or cell, from the initial intake to the first breakdown through the absorption process and spread, as well as the exit of any remaining material.

Pharmacology is often studied alongside toxicology, and in many ways they are two sides of the same coin. However, while toxicology is concerned with the harmful effects chemicals can have on bodies, pharmacology centers on the positives and possibilities of pharmaceuticals. They often tinker with the composition of drugs in order to achieve better results, with the aim of minimizing side effects. Not all developments in pharmacology are strictly chemical - the field has seen discoveries in gene therapy, nanotechnology, and bioengineering and is constantly looking for new ways to cure all kinds of issues.

Work in pharmacology may include...

  • Observing a drug's absorption process
  • Researching the effects of drugs
  • Developing new drug therapies
  • Monitoring the body's response to drug intake
  • Conducting tests on cell and tissue samples

Most pharmacologists work in research, development, production, and regulation for various drugs and medications. In medical research labs and hospitals, pharmacologists may be involved with clinical trials, whereas university research tends to be less patient-focused and more discovery oriented. Pharmaceutical companies employ pharmacologists to do all kinds of work, from chemical refinement and manufacturing to regulation and management. Some pharmacologists find work in drug marketing or as consultants in legal settings, and others may write or teach.

It isn't always possible to study pharmacology as an undergraduate, but in the absence of a formal program, a biology or chemistry major will suffice. Coursework should include molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, and physiology. Many students opt for combination degrees from pharmacy schools, which offer focused tracks consisting of both undergraduate and professional study. These special programs can take eight to ten years in total and earn graduates the title Doctor of Pharmacy. Students with a Bachelor's degree sometimes opt for Master's programs upon graduation, sometimes as entry points to PhD programs and sometimes in their own right. It's not uncommon for a practicing pharmacologist to hold multiple degrees in the subject, and various combinations can be found throughout the field.

If you want to find chemical solutions for all sorts of problems, a career in pharmacology might be right for you.

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