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Introduction to Pharmaceutical Science


Disciplines | Primers | Career Testimonials 

Do you know the difference between a pharmacist and a pharmaceutical scientist? Pharmacists work with existing drugs, patients, and other healthcare practitioners to optimize patient care and drug use. On the other hand, pharmaceutical scientists are typically involved in the development of new drugs. They spend most of their time doing research in a laboratory or office setting. 

Learn more about pharmaceutical science below, including introductory presentations, information on the different disciplines of pharmaceutical science, interviews with scientists in different fields, and webcasts of scientists in different pharmaceutical careers.

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Disciplines of Pharmaceutical Science

There are many difference disciplines that contribute to the discovery and development of new drugs and therapies. The following breakdown, which is how AAPS members choose to align themselves in our sections, loosely defines the categories of pharmaceutical science, with many specialties in each category.

  • Analysis and Pharmaceutical Quality—analytical techniques, quality control, and quality assurance.
  • Biotechnology—research, development, and commercialization of biotechnology-based pharmaceuticals, including genes and gene delivery.
  • Clinical Pharmacology and Translational Research—the clinical research dimension within the pharmaceutical sciences, focused on the therapeutic benefits and clinical assessment of drugs and biologicals.
  • Drug Discovery and Development Interface—medicinal, natural products, molecular and structural chemistry, and drug design and discovery.
  • Formulation Design and Development—formulation design, research and development; a multidisciplinary field drawing upon the physical, chemical, biological, and engineering sciences.
  • Manufacturing Science and Engineering—the application and advancement of science and technology as it relates to process development and manufacture of pharmaceutical and pharmaceutically related products including medical devices and active pharmaceutical ingredients.
  • Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics, and Drug Metabolism—the effect of drugs and metabolites on the body and the effect of the body on drugs.
  • Physical Pharmacy and Biopharmaceutics—focuses on preformulation, biopharmaceutics, drug absorption, nanotechnology, and drug delivery systems design and performance including targeted drug delivery.
  • Regulatory Sciences—the strategic compilation of multidisciplinary information on product performance as it pertains to safety, efficacy, and quality. 

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Pharmaceutical Science Primers

These primers provide a glimpse into the daily activities of pharmaceutical scientists and showcase the newest trends in the field.

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Career Testimonials

Listen to testimonials from AAPS members in academia, industry, contract research organizations (CROs), government, and graduate school, with an introduction from 2008 AAPS President Karen Habucky, to learn more about the pharmaceutical sciences.

habucky_karenIntroduction (WMV) »

"Pharmaceutical scientists truly have the opportunity to positively impact the health and well-being of patients." —Karen Habucky, Ph.D., 2008 AAPS president


wildfong_peterAcademia (WMV) »

"In terms of research, you're afforded the opportunity to pursue your own ideas and questions." —Peter Wildfong, Ph.D., Duquesne University, Mylan School of Pharmacy


joshi_amitaIndustry (WMV) »

"... I am responsible for exploring what the human body does to a medication that is being ingested or even by injection. I look at where the medicine goes, how much is present in the blood, how fast it is metabolized, how it is broken down, and how soon it is cleared from the body." —Amita Joshi, Ph.D., Genentech Inc.


nowatzke_williamCROs (WMV) »

"The most important distinction about working at a [contract research organization] is that you are a servide provider. These services include managing clinical trials and providing bioanalytical support for innovator in generic pharmaceutical companies." —William Nowatzke, Ph.D., CEDRA Corporation


zhao_hongGovernment (WMV) »

"... we serve to protect and promote the health of all Americans through regulatory decision making that ensures the safety of food, cosmetics, drugs, biologics, and medical devices." —Hong Zhao, Ph.D., Food and Drug Administration


jackson_patriceGraduate School (WMV) »

"The most challenging aspect of being a doctoral candidate is the research. In my field, out of 10,000 synthesized chemical entities, there is the possibility that only one will make it to the drug market. It can be a challenge to stay self-motivated in the face of disappointing results, but just having the opportunity to be a part of the drug discovery and drug development process is something that I relish and that is very attractive to prospective students." —Patrice Jackson, Howard University doctoral candidate

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