Molecular Pharmacology


BMS Faculty in Molecular Pharmacology


Training Area Leaders: Alexandra Newton & Tracy Handel

The Molecular Pharmacology Training Area is organized through the Department of Pharmacology, a basic science department serving the School of Medicine and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences (SSPPS). The more than sixty BMS faculty with primary affiliations in this training area are largely those in Pharmacology and SSPPS but faculty from Medicine, Anesthesiology, and Neuroscience also choose Molecular Pharmacology as their primary training area. Pharmacological science, as broadly defined, is a discipline that investigates the effects of chemical interventions on biological systems.

The Molecular Pharmacology program at UCSD is renowned for its strength in elucidating basic cellular and molecular mechanisms of Signal Transduction.  A common interest is in identifying nodal points in signaling pathways that lend themselves to drug target identification and ultimately to therapeutic advances.  Most of the faculty members affiliated with this training area have research efforts that impact directly on human health, supported by NIH grants on inflammatory, cardiovascular, metabolic, neurological diseases, pain regulation, and cancer.  An additional research strength is in the computational area with a focus on Structure-guided Drug Design and Bioinformatics. A cross campus effort in Environmental Health Sciences, which includes many Pharmacology Training Area faculty, is supported by a major NIH grant and has a strong educational training component.  Adjunct faculty at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology and the Sanford Burnam, as well as faculty associated with the local biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, work together with faculty in the Pharmacology track to create a natural bond for cross fertilization and communication that bridges basic science efforts with endeavors in drug discovery.

The Molecular Pharmacology Training Area is supported by an NIH funded Predoctoral Training Grant in Pharmacological Science.  Due to recognized strength of UCSD in Pharmacology training, this is the nation’s largest predoctoral training grant in Pharmacological Sciences and it has been continuously funded for the last 40 years. The grant currently supports 15 trainees in affiliated labs.

Adjunct Faculty in Department of Pharmacology – Other faculty who are affiliated with and involved in educational efforts of the Department of Pharmacology or SSPPS are listed on the web sites of the Pharmacology Department and the Molecular Pharmacology Training Program.

First Year Required Core Courses


Elective Courses

Courses Required for Pharmacological Sciences Trainees 
Quarter Course Number Course Title Units
W PHAR 255A Molecular Basis of Drug Action and Disease Therapy I: (Brunton/Insel) 3
S PHAR 255B Molecular Basis of Drug Action and Disease Therapy II: (Brunton/Brown) 3
W PHAR 275 Seminars in Pharmacology (once) 2



Non-Course Requirements:

Pharmacology Research Discussion (BIOM 295/1 unit): students and postdoctoral fellows present their research every Friday morning in a format that encourages collaboration.

Molecular Pharmacology Journal Club (BIOM 294/1 unit): students run a weekly journal club with thematic topics that change quarterly.