MChem Medicinal and Biological Chemistry
UCAS code: FC1R
Duration: 5 years
College: Science and Engineering
Introducing MChem Medicinal and Biological Chemistry
Medicinal and Biological Chemistry is concerned with understanding biological mechanisms and processes at the level of the atoms and molecules involved.
In doing so, alongside the tools of synthetic chemistry and genetic manipulation, we can design and deliver pharmaceutical interventions.
You will learn how breakthroughs in the understanding of the molecular basis of diseases are being combined with cross-disciplinary advances in:
In addition, you will understand how these advances are helping to create new generations of innovative therapeutics.
The programme teaches a thorough understanding of the diverse range of molecules and macromolecules needed to build a living organism, including their:
- syntheses (in the lab and in vivo)
You will learn how biological molecules cooperate in finely tuned networks and pathways or are organised into:
- macromolecular complexes
This degree programme provides the intellectual framework for understanding this topic, building upon a solid foundation in chemistry and cell and molecular biology - from the fundamentals to the frontiers of current research.
The degree focuses strongly on the wide range of analytical and experimental skills necessary to practice the subject. It also provides insight into research via a final-year research project working at the cutting edge of the subject.
You may choose to undertake your project:
- as a member of a research group in the University of Edinburgh
- at one of our partner universities overseas
- or in a company or research institute in the UK or abroad
Studying chemistry at the University of Edinburgh
What do our students think?
The MChem Medicinal and Biological Chemistry degree programme is accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
The MChem degree programme covers topics in all branches of medicinal and biological chemistry, from the fundamentals to the most advanced understanding and application.
In the early years, you will study core courses in chemistry and mathematics. In addition, there is also a flexible curriculum to suit personal interests. This means you can combine courses in other sciences, arts or humanities with your core chemistry and biology content.
This flexibility means you can maintain options to transfer to an alternative degree programme within science or engineering at the end of Year 1.
The extra year of study (compared to the corresponding BSc degree) will expose you to a wider range of advanced knowledge, with a greater emphasis on the skills required to conduct original scientific research, including:
- intellectual approaches
- practical skills
- associated IT skills
During this year you will also be able to take specialist courses in:
- biological chemistry
- biophysical chemistry
- biomedical chemistry
You will foster greater leadership and organisational skills by extensive group-based learning and open-ended projects.
In your final year, you will gain further direct experience of research and undertake an in-depth individual research project with a choice of location and context.
You will spend approximately a third of Year 1 in:
- chemistry lectures
- laboratory classes
- small-group tutorials
You will also take a mathematics course.
You can choose the remainder of your curriculum from a broad range of courses from across the University.
You will continue with your chemistry course, which will take up about a third of your time.
You may be required to take additional or recommended courses for your specific programme such as:
- Environmental Chemistry
- Data-Driven Chemistry
- Chemical Pharmacology
- courses in physics or mathematics
However, most programmes still allow a considerable choice of option subjects at this stage.
The range of option courses available over the first two years provides lots of flexibility. This means you can maintain options to transfer between different programmes within the College of Science and Engineering.
You will study compulsory chemistry courses that provide a foundation for the remaining honours years.
If you are studying the Chemical Physics programme you will take a combination of chemistry and physics courses.
In the final year of your BSc, or the penultimate year of your MChem or MChemPhys, you will take compulsory courses from your programme. You will also choose from a range of other advanced chemistry courses.
If you are on the BSc programmes you will have a choice between a final-year research project or a science education placement with a local school. The school placement provides ideal preparation for future study towards a teaching qualification.
If you are on the MChem/MChemPhys programmes you will take a research training course in preparation for your final year project.
You will undertake a full-year research project and choose one of two paths.
You can remain in Edinburgh to work on projects supervised by a staff member in Chemistry.
Or, you may prefer to seek to secure a place to undertake your project while on placement in:
- a government research institute
- the chemistry department of one of our exchange partner universities around the world
You will have access to research laboratories and the University's libraries and computer facilities.
In Year 1, teaching is based in the University's Central Area and in further years all chemistry teaching and laboratory work is based at the University's King's Buildings campus.
The King's Buildings campus is around 15 minutes from central Edinburgh via bus.
You can include a year-long placement in industry or with one of our partner universities around the world as part of your MChem programme.
Your placement will form the final year of your programme and be largely comprised of research project work.
If you do not undertake one of these options, you will complete a final year research project in Edinburgh (occupying the full year).
Placements may be located in the UK or overseas and include research institutes or companies such as:
- Akzo Nobel
- Glaxo Smith Kline
- Astra Zeneca
- Procter and Gamble
Each year a very high proportion of MChem students undertake one of these Industrial or Year Abroad placements.
You can include a year-long placement with one of our partner chemistry departments at a range of universities overseas.
These placements will form the final year of your programme and be largely comprised of research project work.
Year Abroad locations include:
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- many other European countries
Each year a very high proportion of MChem students undertake one of these Year Abroad or Industrial Placements.
How will I learn?
You will be taught through a combination of:
- laboratory classes
- problem-solving workshops
- small-group tutorials
How long should I study?
In your first two years, you will undertake 20 hours per week of timetabled study.
Normally, you should also dedicate an additional 15 to 20 hours to prepare for:
- writing lab reports
- private study
In later years you will undertake more practical learning and research project work.
What skills will I gain?
As you produce posters, reports and essays you will develop skills in:
- written communication
- report writing
- oral presentation skills (from formal presentations)
You will also develop practical skills and an awareness of the safety aspects of laboratory work and risk-assessment throughout the programme. You will build these skills further through a substantial research project in the final year (conducted either in an academic or industrial context).
How will I be assessed?
You will be assessed through a combination of:
- reports on laboratory practicals
- exams and performance
- reporting on your final year research project
Find out more about this programme's aims, what you will learn, how you will be assessed and what skills and knowledge you will develop.
To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.
Medicinal and Biological Chemistry graduates find careers in a range of technology sectors and industries like:
Many graduates also find careers in:
- scientific publishing
- the research-support sector
They also utilise their acute numerical, problem-solving and analytical skills in sectors such as:
All our programmes include:
- training, practice, and feedback in communication skills
- team working and collaboration
- exposure to the latest technology of scientific information retrieval and organisation
A high proportion of our graduates progress to a higher degree, typically a PhD.
Standard entry requirement
The standard entry requirement is:
- SQA Highers: AAAA - AAAB (achievement by end of S5 preferred). BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
- A Levels: AAA - ABB.
- IB: 37 points with 666 at HL - 32 points with 555 at HL.
Minimum entry requirement
The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:
- SQA Highers: AABB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
- A Levels: ABB.
- IB: 32 points with 555 at HL.
The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:
- SQA: Highers: Mathematics at A and Chemistry at B. Higher Applications of Mathematics is not accepted in place of Higher Mathematics. Advanced Higher Mathematics and Chemistry are recommended. National 5s: English at C.
- A Levels: Chemistry and Mathematics at B. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
- IB: HL: Chemistry and Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only) at 5. SL: English at 5 and Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only) at 6 (if not at HL).
We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.
For direct entry to second year the standard requirements must be exceeded, including the following:
- SQA Advanced Highers: AAB to include Chemistry and Mathematics; or AA in Chemistry and Mathematics, plus at least BB in two further Highers.
- A Levels: A*AA in one set of exams to include Chemistry and Mathematics, or AAA in one set of exams to include Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics.
- IB: 38 points with 666 at HL to include Chemistry and Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only) at 6.
Other entry pathways
Entry to many degrees in Science & Engineering is possible via other qualifications (eg HNC/D, Access, SWAP).
You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.
SQA, GCSE and IB
For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:
- SQA National 5 at C
- SQA Standard Grade at 3
- SQA Intermediate 1 at A
- SQA Intermediate 2 at C
- GCSE at C or 4
- Level 2 Certificate at C
- IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)
English language tests
We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:
- IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component
- TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
- Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component
- Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components
We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.
English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.
This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.
It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.
Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.
You will require a white lab coat, which costs £15 in 2020.
You must also purchase three core textbooks in Year 1, which cost £150 in 2020.
If you are on placement you may incur travel costs. However, you could receive a salary or stipend from the host company on an industrial placement.
For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.