pharmacology education


Discovery: To conduct high-impact research that advances our understanding of drug action – from structures and biological mechanisms to clinical translation – while engaging the next generation of scientists and medical professionals in our discovery efforts.

Education: To convey fundamental principles of pharmacology, as well as contemporary drug-based therapies to treat medical problems, to students in undergraduate, graduate, and professional school programs.

Service: To make meaningful service contributions to the department, college, university, and community, while also serving as critical resources of scientific expertise at the national and international levels.


Jill Siegfried, Ph.D. Jill Siegfried, PhD, Frederick and Alice Stark Endowed Chair and Head of Pharmacology 

Pharmacology explores the mechanisms that drugs use to cause therapeutic effects. The basic principle of pharmacology is that therapeutic agents are effective because they mimic or block molecules that regulate natural processes like blood pressure, organ development, and pain perception.

Pharmacology uses knowledge from many sciences such as cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics to identify new ways to treat disease. Pharmacology also can focus on the toxic effects of chemicals and drugs as well as how individuals differ in their responses to both therapeutic and toxic agents. The interdisciplinary approach of pharmacology allows researchers to integrate different scientific perspectives in the study of how drugs act and how to improve them. Our goal is to identify new druggable targets, and in particular our department focuses on treating neurodegenerative disease, cancer, and drug addiction. We have state-of-the-art facilities to accomplish this.

Our department -- which is part of the Medical School -- is active in both laboratory research and teaching, and we have courses and research opportunities for graduate students, undergraduates, and professional students. As our knowledge of the molecular basis for disease grows, more pathways are discovered that have potential for therapeutic intervention. Drugs are essential to treat and prevent disease, and pharmacologists have growing opportunities to work in academia, industry, hospitals, and government to improve human health. We are preparing students for the biomedical careers of the future.


The graduate faculty are drawn from within our own department, as well as from other departments within the Medical School and the Academic Health Center. In addition to participating in teaching pharmacology to professional students in the Medical School and College of Pharmacy, the graduate faculty are also involved in mentoring pharmacology graduate students.

Graduate and undergraduate programs

The graduate program is primarily structured as a PhD program; however, the department also offers a MS degree and participates in the MD/PhD Program and the Joint Degree (PhD/JD) Program in Law, Health and Life Sciences. Currently, 33 students are enrolled in our PhD graduate program, conducting research on molecular and cellular mechanism of drug actions. Most of our PhD students complete their coursework and graduation requirements within 5 1/2 years, and they are financially supported either by predoctoral fellowships, by two training grants that the graduate faculty participate in, or by individual research grants of the mentors. Graduates of the program typically accept postdoctoral positions at major research universities or industrial positions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

We currently also have 13 students enrolled in our Master's program and 158 students are enrolled in our undergraduate curriculum. Undergraduates at the University of Minnesota can pursue a minor in pharmacology through completion of 12 credits of study designed to educate students in the fundamentals of drug action and the principles of pharmacology. As of Spring 2018, 107 students have declared a minor in pharmacology.