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, and applying this understanding along with the tools of synthetic chemistry and genetic manipulation to design and deliver pharmaceutical interventions.
Students learn how breakthroughs in understanding of the molecular basis of diseases are being combined with cross-disciplinary advances in chemistry, biology and nanotechnology to generate new generations of innovative therapeutics.
The programme teaches a thorough understanding of the structures, properties and syntheses (in the lab and in vivo) of the diverse range of molecules and macromolecules needed to build a living organism. It provides understanding of how biological molecules cooperate in finely tuned networks and pathways or are organised into macromolecular complexes, membranes, organelles, cells and tissues.
Building upon an initial solid foundation in chemistry and cell and molecular biology, this degree programme provides the intellectual framework for understanding this topic from the fundamentals to the frontiers of current research.
There is a strong focus on a wide range of analytical and experimental skills. First-hand experience of cutting-edge research is provided via an individual project spanning the whole of the final year. Students may choose to undertake their 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.
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 their fundamentals to the most advanced understanding and application. In the early years, in addition to the core chemistry courses and courses in mathematics, there is a flexible curriculum to suit personal interests, allowing courses in other sciences, arts or humanities to be combined with the core chemistry and biology content.
This flexibility also enables students to maintain options to transfer to an alternative degree programme within science or engineering at the end of the first year. The extra year of study (compared to the corresponding BSc degree) exposes the student to a wider range of advanced knowledge, with a greater emphasis on the methods, intellectual approaches and practical skills required to conduct original scientific research along with associated IT skills. In this year, specialist courses are offered in biological, biophysical and biomedical chemistry. Greater leadership and organisational skills are fostered by extensive group-based learning and open-ended projects. In the final year, direct experience of research is engendered by an in-depth individual research project with a choice of location and context.
You will spend approximately a third of your first year in chemistry lectures, laboratory classes and small-group tutorials. For all students a mathematics course is also required. The remainder of your curriculum can be chosen from a broad range of courses from across the University.
You will continue with your chemistry course, which again takes up about a third of your time. Additional courses such as Environmental Chemistry, Materials Chemistry, Chemical Pharmacology or courses in physics or mathematics may be required or recommended for your specific programme but most programmes still allow considerable choice of option subjects at this stage.
The range of option courses available over the first two years allows real flexibility to maintain options to transfer between different programmes within the College of Science & 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 and will choose from a range of other advanced chemistry courses. Students on the BSc programmes will have a choice between a final-year research project or a science education placement with a local school, the latter providing ideal preparation for future study towards a teaching qualification.
Students on the MChem/MChemPhys programmes will take a research training course in preparation for their final year project.
You will undertake a full-year research project. You will have the choice between remaining in Edinburgh to work on projects supervised by a staff member in Chemistry, or seeking to secure a place to undertake your project while on placement in industry, a government research institute, or in the chemistry department of one of our exchange partner universities around the world.
In modern teaching and research laboratories. In first year your lectures take place in the Central Area and thereafter all chemistry teaching and laboratory work is at the University's King's Buildings campus.
A year-long placement in industry or with one of our partner universities around the world can be included as part of our MChem programme. These placements will form the final year of your programme and be largely comprised of research project work.
Those students who do not undertake one of these options will complete a final year research project in Edinburgh occupying the full year.
Placements may be located in the UK or overseas and include companies such as Unilever, Akzo Nobel, Glaxo Smith Kline, Astra Zeneca and Procter and Gamble, and research institutes.
Each year a very high proportion of MChem students undertake one of these Year Abroad or Industrial Placements.
A year-long placement with one of our partner chemistry departments at a range of universities overseas can be included as part of our MChem programme. These placements will form the final year of your programme and be largely comprised of research project work.
Year Abroad locations include USA, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, South Korea, Russia and many 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 lectures, laboratory classes, workshops and small-group tutorials.
In your first two years you will undertake 20 hours per week of timetabled study. Normally an additional 15 to 20 hours is dedicated to preparing for tutorials, writing lab reports or private study. Later years include more practical learning and research project work.
Acquisition of knowledge and understanding is achieved mainly through lectures, laboratory classes, tutorials/workshops and project work. Lectures are assessed via formal 'unseen' examinations.
In all courses understanding is reinforced by small group tutorials and/or by problem-solving workshops.
Written communication, report writing and IT skills are developed via laboratory reports, posters, essays and project reports.
Oral presentation skills are acquired via formal presentations.
Practical skills and an awareness of the safety aspects of laboratory work and risk-assessment are developed progressively over the first four years of the course and 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 coursework, reports on laboratory practicals, presentations, exams and performance and 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.
A high proportion of our graduates progress to a higher degree, typically a PhD. Others find careers in chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies, or in academia, education, scientific publishing, the research-support sector, or consultancy. Alternatively they will utilise their broadly based numerical and analytical skills in other areas. All the component courses include training and practice in communication skills, team working, and in the technology of scientific information retrieval and organisation.
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. 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.
*(Revised 27 April 2020 to include TOEFL-iBT Special Home Edition.)
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 cost £15 in 2019. You must also purchase three core text books in Year 1, which cost £150 in 2019.
Students on placement may incur travel costs. However, most students on industrial placement will receive a salary or stipend from their host company.
For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.