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What to Expect

Students of pharmacology are learning to cure what ails us. Grads of these programs work in high-tech drug research.

Thanh-Mai Bui took pharmacology at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (USIP). She liked the smaller class sizes of third and fourth year, when students start choosing their specialty areas.

"The classes are more focused and the professors are there to help you any time," says Bui. "There are no long appointment waits. With the smaller number of students, you also have a better chance picking up a research position with a professor."

Of course, smaller class sizes can affect students in other ways. "You can't get away with sloppy or last-minute work," says Bui. "The professors have high expectations, and because they get to know you and your habits, they'll tell you up front if they feel you're not meeting your potential."

On a typical school day, pharmacology students attend lectures in pharmacology and elective courses. Most students spend time in the lab, even if it's not scheduled, says Mark Hallman. He also studied at USIP.

Some students spend time on research projects with professors, or pick up part-time jobs in labs as assistants, usually setting up and cleaning lab equipment.

Besides the ordinary coursework all university students face, pharmacology students also face unique challenges.

"There is animal handling in the lab in third year, and this is hard on some students," says Bui. "But the experience gained from this is really important in the industry."

How to Prepare

Bui recommends students take any and all science classes in high school, as well as language courses. "Take your advanced placement courses, as the experience lets you get a taste of how a university class might be. If you get good scores, some universities might let you have credit for those courses, which means one less class to worry about.

"In university, you also need to know how to write. Composition and literature courses will prepare you for researching and writing reports and papers, and help you learn how to read and analyze information."

Extracurricular activities can also be very helpful for students planning a science career. "The greatest thing is a speech and debate club," says Bui.

Hallman also recommends participating in any local or regional science fairs and competitions to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills.


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