Pharmacology and Toxicology

Undergraduate Programs

Pharmacology and Toxicology are integrative biological sciences that examine the properties of chemical compounds and their interactions with living systems. They provide the scientific basis for the study of chemical actions in the health sciences, the use of drugs as therapeutic agents or as tools in scientific research, the development and control of pharmaceutical products, and the investigation and control of pollutants and poisons in natural and social environments.

The Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology offers four Specialist and two Major undergraduate programs of study that are jointly sponsored by the Faculties of Arts and Science and Medicine. To receive an Honours B.Sc. degree in the Faculty of Arts and Science, students must complete either: one Specialist program, two Major programs, or one Major program and two Minor programs. 

A Specialist program in pharmacology and/or toxicology has more required courses and is intended to give students a greater depth of study in the subject area. 

Major programs are intended for undergraduate students who want to have a solid knowledge of pharmacology or toxicology, allowing students to combine different and complementary areas of expertise in life sciences. This approach contributes to a broader multi-disciplinary undergraduate training that is particularly relevant for students interested in pursuing further studies in professional health sciences programs.

Undergraduate Specialist Programs

Students who intend to pursue graduate research and/or careers in pharmacology or toxicology are encouraged to apply to one of our Specialist programs because of the opportunities for additional experiential learning.

Senior Specialist students work with a faculty member on a research project for eight-months during the school year or in the summer. This research may be conducted on campus or locally at one of the participating hospitals or research institutes.

Students may also apply to participate in a professional experience year between their third and fourth years of study. Students selected for positions in this program work full-time for a 12-16 month period rather than taking courses and they are paid by their employer (e.g., a pharmaceutical company, governmental agency, etc.).

Pharmacology Specialist

The Pharmacology Specialist program aims to provide students with an understanding of the therapeutic properties and clinical uses of externally administered chemical substances in the whole body, as well as the mechanisms of their actions and interactions with molecular, cellular and tissue targets. Students learn about both basic and clinical pharmacology through lectures, tutorials, laboratories and independent research projects. The senior research project course enables students to gain valuable research experience while working under the supervision of an individual faculty member in either a laboratory-based or a non-laboratory-based setting.

This understanding prepares students for a variety of either research-based or non-research-based careers, including positions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, in government agencies, in research institutes and in universities. Pharmacology (and its application in clinical therapeutics) plays a prominent role in society, and a comprehension of drug mechanisms and uses is fundamental to career success in the fields of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing. While some students take the Pharmacology Specialist program in preparation for these professional programs, students are advised to contact the respective Faculties directly for questions related to transfer credits.

Biomedical Toxicology Specialist

Biomedical toxicology has emerged as an important science addressing drug safety and the adverse consequences of chemical exposure. This program examines the harmful effects of chemicals on the health and behaviour of individuals and society. The safety/toxicity of a wide array of chemicals is examined including pharmaceutical preparations, herbal products, natural toxins and environmental contaminants, with a focus on their effects on human health. Students learn about basic and clinical toxicology and related areas through lectures, tutorials, laboratories, and independent research projects. The senior research project course enables students to gain valuable research experience while working under the supervision of an individual faculty member in either a laboratory-based or a non-laboratory-based setting.

This program emphasizes the application of toxicological knowledge and risk assessment and prepares students for a variety of job opportunities following its completion as well as for further study in graduate research or professional programs such as Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmacy (students interested in professional programs should contact the respective faculties to inquire about specific transfer credits). Many graduates of the Biomedical Toxicology Specialist program pursue careers in scientific research, forensic science, nutrition and food sciences, governmental agencies, consulting agencies, and industrial settings including the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

Joint Pharmacology and Biomedical Toxicology Specialist

Pharmacology and Biomedical Toxicology are complementary sciences, and the Pharmacology and Biomedical Toxicology Specialist combines the requirements of the two distinct specialist programs. The Specialist program integrates knowledge of pharmacology – the understanding of the therapeutic properties and clinical applications of externally administered chemical substances in the whole body and the mechanisms of their actions and interactions with their intended targets, while biomedical toxicology examines the harmful effects of exogenous chemicals on the health and behaviour of individuals and society, addressing drug safety and the adverse consequences of chemical exposure. Biomedical toxicology includes understanding the safety/toxicity of a wide array of chemicals (pharmaceutical preparations, herbal products, natural toxins and environmental contaminants) with a focus on their effects and adverse consequences on human health.

Both Pharmacology and Biomedical Toxicology are integrative life sciences which build on the core foundational disciplines of the basic life sciences and the prominent role each science plays in society. Students learn about both basic and clinical pharmacology and biomedical toxicology through lectures, tutorials, small group sessions, laboratories and independent research projects. The senior research project course enables students to gain valuable research experience while working under the supervision of an individual faculty member in either a laboratory-based or a non-laboratory-based setting.

The Specialist program prepares students for a variety of job opportunities following its completion as well as for further study in graduate research or professional programs. A comprehension of biological mechanisms of action and potential uses of chemicals are key to career success in the fields of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing (students interested in professional programs should contact the respective faculties to inquire about specific transfer credits). Graduates of this rigorous program will have access to an impressive variety of job opportunities in either research-based or non-research-based careers, including scientific research in research institutes and in universities, positions in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and chemical industries, forensic science, nutrition and food sciences, government or consulting agencies.

Environment and Toxicology Specialist

This interdisciplinary program is jointly sponsored by the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology and the Centre for Environment. It spans the social, physical and life sciences and integrates study of the effects of chemicals not only on the health and behaviour of human beings but on whole ecosystems as the adverse effects associated with therapeutic and environmental chemicals are discussed. Students learn to integrate basic environmental and life science with particular aspects of clinical toxicology and related areas through lectures, tutorials, and laboratory and independent research project experience. The senior independent research project course enables students to gain valuable research experience while working under the supervision of an individual faculty member in either a laboratory-based or a non-laboratory-based setting.

This program emphasizes the application of knowledge of environmental toxicology and risk assessment and prepares students for a variety of job opportunities following its completion. Graduates of the Environment and Toxicology program may pursue careers in scientific research, environmental science, conservation science, governmental agencies, consulting agencies, and within chemical, manufacturing or agriculture industries.

Undergraduate Major Programs

Students wishing to enroll in the Biomedical Toxicology Major or in the Pharmacology Major will initially apply to a general departmental Major and then after completion of first year pre-requisite courses and during the spring of their second year of study (and completion of PCL201H1) will select the focus for their future studies (Biomedical Toxicology or Pharmacology).

Pharmacology Major

Pharmacology is an integrative medical science that builds upon the core foundational disciplines of the basic life sciences. This program is intended for students who want to gain knowledge in Pharmacology in combination with a separate and complementary area of study and is designed for students interested in broad, multidisciplinary training. The Pharmacology Major program is designed to provide students with a broad understanding of the therapeutic properties and clinical uses of externally administered chemical substances in the whole body, as well as the mechanisms of their actions and interactions with molecular, cellular and tissue targets. Students learn about both basic and clinical pharmacology through lectures, tutorials and small group sessions.

This understanding prepares students for a variety of either research-based or non-research-based careers, including positions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, in government agencies, in research institutes and in universities. Pharmacology (and its application in clinical therapeutics) plays a prominent role in society, and a comprehension of drug mechanisms and uses is fundamental to career success in the fields of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing. While some students take the Pharmacology Major program in preparation for these professional programs, students are advised to contact the respective Faculties directly for questions related to transfer credits.

Biomedical Toxicology Major

Biomedical toxicology has emerged as an important science addressing drug safety and the adverse consequences of chemical exposure. The Biomedical Toxicology Major program examines the harmful effects of chemicals on the health and behaviour of individuals and society. The safety/toxicity of a wide array of chemicals is examined including pharmaceutical preparations, herbal products, natural toxins, and environmental contaminants, with a focus on their effects on human health. Students learn about basic and clinical toxicology and related areas through lectures, tutorials and class discussions/debates.

This program includes the application of toxicological knowledge and risk assessment and prepares students for a variety of job opportunities following its completion as well as for further study in graduate research or professional programs such as Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmacy. Students interested in professional programs should contact the respective faculties to inquire about specific transfer credits. Many graduates of the Biomedical Toxicology major program pursue careers in scientific research, forensic science, nutrition and food sciences, governmental agencies, consulting agencies, and industrial settings including the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

Professional Experience Year Co-op

The Professional Experience Year Co-op (PEY Co-op) internship program is a 12-16 month paid employment placement within pharmaceutical/biotechnology/chemical companies, university research laboratories, university-affiliated organizations, consulting companies or government research agencies. The PEY Co-op internship provides an excellent opportunity for real-world experience in drug development, project management, client relations, basic and clinical research, information management and regulatory affairs.

The PEY takes place between the 3rd and 4th years of undergraduate study and is open to Specialists in Pharmacology, Biomedical Toxicology and Environment and Toxicology who have a cGPA of at least 3.0. Students who participate in this program agree to return to their specialist program within the Department to complete their 4th year and degree program as enrolled prior.

Learn more about PEY