Undergraduate study - 2024 entry
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MChem Medicinal and Biological Chemistry

UCAS code: FC1R

Duration: 5 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Chemistry

College: Science and Engineering

Study abroad

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.

Through understanding 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:

  • chemistry
  • biology
  • nanotechnology

In addition, you will understand how these advances are helping to create new generations of innovative therapeutics.

The programme provides an understanding of the diverse range of molecules and macromolecules needed to build a living organism, including their:

  • structures
  • properties
  • 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
  • membranes
  • organelles
  • cells
  • tissues

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 programme 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


  • 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 your 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 potentially 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:

  • methods
  • intellectual approaches
  • practical skills
  • associated IT skills

During this year you will also be able to take specialist courses in:

  • biological chemistry
  • medicinal 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 topic.

Year 1

You will spend approximately a third of Year 1 in:

  • chemistry lectures
  • laboratory classes in the new Nucleus building
  • tutorials with a high staff-to-student ratio

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.

Year 2

You will continue with your chemistry course, which will take up about a third of your time.

You will also be required to take:

  • Biological Chemistry 2
  • Chemical Pharmacology 2
  • Data-Driven Chemistry

You will be able to select one optional course in Year 2.

The range of course options available over the first two years provides flexibility. This means you may be able to transfer between different programmes within the College of Science and Engineering.

Year 3

You will study two lecture-based chemistry courses that provide a foundation for the remaining honours years.

You will also take a laboratory course providing you with a high level of practical skills.

Year 4

In your penultimate year, you will take four lecture courses and choose a further course from a range of advanced topics.

You will also take a laboratory-based research training course in preparation for your final year project.

Year 5

You can:

  • work on a project in one of our cutting-edge research groups


  • join a research group in one of our partner universities around the world


  • apply to take a paid industrial placement at one of our industrial partner companies

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on 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.

Programme structure (2023/24)

Our facilities

You will have access to:

  • research laboratories
  • the University's libraries
  • computer facilities

All teaching and labs are based at the King's Buildings campus with Year 1 chemistry labs taking place in the new Nucleus building.

Tour of the Nucleus building

Find out more about the Nucleus Building

The King's Buildings campus is around 15 minutes from central Edinburgh by bus.

Take a virtual tour

You can take a closer look at the School of Chemistry and explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.

Take a virtual tour of the School of Chemistry


You can include a 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 with one of our cutting edge research groups in Edinburgh.

Placements may be in the UK or overseas and include research institutes or companies such as:

  • Unilever
  • Akzo Nobel
  • Glaxo Smith Kline
  • Astra Zeneca
  • Procter and Gamble

Each year, a high proportion of MChem students undertake one of these industrial or year abroad placements.

Study abroad

You can include a year-long placement with one of our partner chemistry departments at a range of universities overseas.

Year abroad locations include:

  • USA
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan
  • Australia
  • South Korea
  • many European countries

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of:

  • lectures
  • laboratory classes
  • problem-solving workshops
  • tutorials with a high staff to student ratio

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 hours to prepare for:

  • tutorials
  • 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 a final year thesis, you will develop skills in:

  • written communication
  • report writing
  • IT
  • 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:

  • coursework
  • reports on laboratory practicals
  • presentations
  • exams
  • reporting on your final year research project

Medicinal and Biological Chemistry graduates find careers in a range of technology sectors and industries like:

  • chemical
  • pharmaceutical
  • biotechnological

Many graduates also find careers in:

  • academia
  • education
  • scientific publishing
  • the research-support sector
  • consultancy

They also use their acute numerical, problem-solving and analytical skills in sectors such as:

  • IT
  • finance
  • marketing
  • advertising

All our programmes include:

  • training, practice, and feedback in communication skills
  • teamwork 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: AAAB by end of S5 or AAAA by end of S6. 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.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

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 (Analysis and approaches only) at 5. SL: English at 5 and Mathematics (Analysis and approaches only) at 6 (if not at HL).

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant 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 (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).

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.


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
  • 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: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.

(Revised 29 August 2023 to remove PTE Academic Online)

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, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

English language requirements

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.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for MChem Medicinal and Biological Chemistry

Additional costs

You will need a white lab coat, which costs £15 in 2022.

You should also buy three core textbooks in Year 1, which cost around £150 in 2022.

If you are on an industrial placement, you may incur travel costs. However, you could receive a salary or stipend from the 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.

Fees and funding

More information

How to apply

School: Chemistry

College: Science and Engineering