USC School of Pharmacy offers undergraduate pharmacology degree

The new program could give an advantage to students applying for medical, dental or pharmacy schools

October 04, 2017 Michele Keller

The USC School of Pharmacy now offers a Bachelor of Science in pharmacology and drug development.

The new major enables both science and non-science undergraduates at USC to explore all aspects of drug development — from drug origins and composition to toxicology and transformation into therapeutic applications.

“The focus of the program is translating basic discoveries into the clinic, and how our clinical knowledge benefits human health,” said Daryl Davies, the school’s director of undergraduate programs. He notes that the program’s blend of science with clinical applications will give students a competitive advantage over their peers in applying for medical, dental or pharmacy schools or PhD programs.

Delivering coursework to the students using this model gives them a huge head start.

Daryl Davies

“The students start thinking like clinicians in that they learn about how drugs work, what pathways they act on in the human body and how activating or deactivating a biological target in the body leads to the correction of a disease condition and improvement of health in the patient,” he said. “Delivering coursework to the students using this model gives them a huge head start.”

Two targets in one program

USC is one of only a few universities in the nation offering a degree that teaches both pharmacology and drug development within the same program. Together, this combination of coursework provides a firm foundation for undergraduates considering careers in allied health fields as well as biotech, pharmaceutical and biomedical industries. As a result, the new major is already a hit with students.

“In my general biology and chemistry classes, I found it very difficult to see the big picture in terms of the applicability of what I was being taught,” said Annie Xie, who switched to the new program after beginning as a chemistry major.

Although she has only taken two courses in the program so far — “Pharmacology and Sociology of Drug Abuse” and “Neuroimmunity in Health and Disease” — Xie explained that the classes have already put the knowledge gained from other science courses into perspective.

“I have learned about the biological mechanisms of our body in response to drugs,” she said. “And I believe the major will really aid me when I begin my PharmD.”

Student Nahae (Hannah) Kim agreed. “I was originally planning on finishing a biochemistry major and pharmacy minor, so when the new pharmacology and drug development degree came out, I was ecstatic,” she said. “The new major was the perfect solution because it fulfilled all the pre-pharmacy requirements and opened up more room in my schedule. Now, instead of more science upper-division courses, I can explore and learn more about pharmacy.”

The curriculum also aims to keep pace with — and even stay ahead of — rapidly evolving industry trends.

“Our goal is to prepare students for careers in the biomedical and pharmaceutical fields as well as careers in areas that may not even exist yet,” Dean Vassilios Papadopoulos said.