What is Pharmacology?


Jaehyung (Gus) Cho, PhD

Associate Professor

Director of Graduate Studies


Yulia Komarova, PhD

Associate Professor

Co-Director of Graduate Studies


What is Pharmacology?

Broadly defined, pharmacology is a discipline that deals with mechanisms of action of naturally occurring mediators and drugs at the level of the whole organism and the cell. Often confused with pharmacology, pharmacy is a separate discipline in the health sciences. Pharmacy uses the knowledge derived from pharmacology to achieve optimal theraputic outcomes through the appropriate preparation and dispensing of medicines.

Pharmacology is an integrative science, encompassing a variety of disciplines ranging from genetics to molecular biology to biochemistry to physiology. The major objective of the pharmacological sciences is the molecular understanding of signal transduction and signal transmission events that regulate and interfere with specific cell functions. Another important objective of our research programs is to develop new therapies and strategies for treatment of various disease processes; for example, by interfering with specific cell surface receptor and signaling mechanisms and by the use of novel gene-directed approaches. The importance of discoveries in pharmacological research has frequently been recognized by the Nobel Committee. For example, in recent years, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to scientists doing pharmacological research five times: in 1994, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2012.

After obtaining the PhD degree, a pharmacologist can pursue many career paths; for example, in academic research at a medical school, in the pharmaceutical industry, or in biotechnology companies. A more detailed explanation of the field of Pharmacology and job opportunities can be found in the following publication from the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics: 

Click here.

Progress in life sciences during the past decade has brought new opportunities and challenges to pharmacology. For example, the completion of the human genome sequence has greatly accelerated research in pharmacogenetics, allowing better understanding of human genetic factors involved in the variability of responses to drugs. The scope of pharmacological training opens a wide range of employment opportunities in academic, industrial and government organizations. It is an exciting, challenging time to become a pharmacologist.