Curriculum

The CPS is a three-year Bachelor´s programme. Each year is divided into four blocks of 10 weeks. Each block you follow one course of 15 ECTS (credits) or two courses of 7.5 ECTS each.

Teaching methods

There are different kinds of teaching methods in the courses you attend. An indication of the proportion of these methods in the first year is as follows:

  • Lectures: 10%
  • Tutorials: 10%
  • Practicals: 20%
  • Group work: 30%
  • Self study: 30%

Educational schedule

The programme consists of four compulsory courses in the first year and three compulsory courses in the second year. The elective courses are planned in parts of the second and third year. In the final half year of the programme you perform an undergraduate drug(related) research project.

Year 1
Block 1
Epidemiology and clinical development
How do we know that drugs are effective and safe? You will learn about epidemiology (the study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why), clinical trials and basic statistics to answer this question.
Block 2
Behaviour of the drug in the human body
You will learn the basics of pharmacokinetics (absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion) and pharmacodynamics (why a drug only works in certain parts of the body). Furthermore, you will learn basic laboratory skills and how to design an experiment. Skills that you can directly apply in the practical group project.
Block 3
The drug and the cell
You will discover how drugs interact with their molecular targets in the cell. In this course, you will become familiarised with the two major types of drugs: ‘small molecule’ drugs (low molecular weight organic compounds) and ‘biopharmaceuticals’ (high molecular weight molecules such as vaccines, therapeutic antibodies and RNAi).
Block 4
The drug molecule
You will learn to understand which chemical properties play a role in the mode of action of drugs and drug-like molecules. Topics that will be discussed include: structure of atoms and molecules, reaction kinetics and thermodynamics, physicochemical properties of drug molecules (logP, logD, pKa), chemical reactivity and organic synthesis, and much more!
Year 2
Block 1
Intercellular communication
In the first 5 weeks of this course you will get insight in the communication of different types of cells with the focus on immunology, neuroscience and hormonal regulation. You will have workshops, lectures, Meet-the-Expert sessions and practical work in the lab. These insights are crucial for the development of new and better drugs for diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, autism, major depression, rheumatoid arthritis, allergy and stress regulation.
Immunopharmacology (elective)
You will write and defend a research proposal on an immunopharmacologic topic under the guidance of PhD students and supported by lectures and a biostatistics workshop. At the end of the course you and your fellow students will organize a debate on animal welfare.
Psychopharmacology (elective)
You will write and defend a research proposal on a psychopharmacologic topic under the guidance of PhD students and supported by lectures and a biostatistics workshop. At the end of the course you and your fellow students will organize a debate on animal welfare.
Block 2
Analytical methods
In this course you will acquire a basic theoretical and practical knowledge on diverse analytical techniques. Unique to this course are sites visits to the Flow cytometry core facility of the UU and the Netherlands Forensic Institute. The project assignment is to “solve” a CSI case with the techniques learned in this course.
Cellular and molecular techniques (elective)
You will have an extended analytical toolbox available compared to ‘Analytical methods’ for the CSI case. The experiments will be focused on immuno/biological analysis.
Chemical techniques (elective)
You will have an extended analytical toolbox available compared to ‘Analytical methods’ for the CSI case. The experiments will be focused on chemical analysis.
Block 3
Pharmaceutical biotechnology
You will learn the basic principles of the application of biotechnology for the production of complex proteins and nucleic acid-based medicines. This course covers the development phase to the regulatory issues regarding the registration of such biopharmaceuticals. In addition you will be trained in growing bacteria and isolating DNA and protein from (bacterial) cells.
Block 4
Organic chemistry II (elective)
This course expands upon the organic chemistry introduced in the first year (block 4). Organic chemistry is the science concerned with the ability to design and synthesise molecules. Such thinking at a molecular level is necessary when developing new drugs or drug-like molecules with medicinal or biological properties.
Bioanalysis (elective)
You will learn to analyse blood and urine for the detection of drugs or the body’s own substances. The experiments will be designed and performed by yourself, with input and feedback by supervisors.
Psychoneuropharmacology (elective)
In this course several psychiatric disorders will be addressed such as depression, anxiety disorders, addiction, schizophrenia and sexual dysfunction. There is a lot of practical work (both animal experiments and research in humans) and supporting lectures by psychiatrists and researchers.
Proteins and disease (elective)
In this course you will study the effect of drug treatment on protein levels in cells to search for proteins that may predict if the treatment will be successful. Ideally, this will permit to discriminate between responding and non-responding patients. You will perform your own research using a cellular cancer model and state-of-the-art equipment.
Year 3
Block 1
Medicinal Chemistry (elective)
This course illustrates the invention, discovery, design, identification and preparation of biologically active compounds. Moreover, their metabolism, mode of action at the molecular level and the structure-activity relationships (SAR) will be studied. As examples the most significant molecules now used in modern medicine will used.
Advanced Immunopharmacology (elective)
In the theoretical part of this course your immunological knowledge will be extended by a group assignment in which you will look at an immune-mediated disease from multiple viewpoints. Apart from inflammatory diseases such as asthma and allergies, the immune system also plays an important role in cancer and atherosclerosis. Through a small research project, you will learn different methods for assaying the immune system.
Research project
In the last year of the programme (semester 1 or 2) you will choose a project that has your interest at one of the many Life Science research groups at Utrecht University or at the University Medical Centre Utrecht. Under the supervision of a scientist, you will perform your own research project.
Block 2
Pharma and Nutrition (elective)
This course is about specific nutrition therapies for (prevention of) several diseases.
Advanced pharmacoepidemiology (elective)
In this course, you will work in small groups and perform a complete cycle of pharmacoepidemiological research. This includes formulating a research question based on current scientific literature, designing a protocol, preparing data, performing statistical analysis, writing a manuscript and giving an oral presentation. The project work will be supported by tutorials and several lectures.
Research project
In the last year of the programme (semester 1 or 2) you will choose a project that has your interest at one of the many Life Science research groups at Utrecht University or at the University Medical Centre Utrecht. Under the supervision of a scientist, you will perform your own research project.
Block 3
Research project
In the last year of the programme (semester 1 or 2) you will choose a project that has your interest at one of the many Life Science research groups at Utrecht University or at the University Medical Centre Utrecht. Under the supervision of a scientist, you will perform your own research project.
Block 4
Research project
In the last year of the programme (semester 1 or 2) you will choose a project that has your interest at one of the many Life Science research groups at Utrecht University or at the University Medical Centre Utrecht. Under the supervision of a scientist, you will perform your own research project.

The first year

In the first year you will be introduced to the various phases of drug development, the so-called drug pipeline. You will start with a course on the use and effect of drugs in large groups of people (‘Use’). The second course is on the route of drugs in the human body: the absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (‘Delivery’). The third course is on the binding of drugs to their target and their effect on the cell (‘Target’). In the last course you will learn how to synthesise new drugs and which molecular properties make them suitable as drugs.

Electives

In the first and second year you are introduced to disciplines such as pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, analytical chemistry, biopharmaceutics, epidemiology and toxicology. In the last period of the second year and in one of the semesters of the third year you can choose elective courses in one or more subjects or fields that interest you.

Undergraduate research

Unique of this bachelor programme is that you will do an undergraduate research project in one of the semesters of the third year. You will choose a  project that has your interest at one of the many Life Science research groups at Utrecht University or UMCU. Under the supervision of a scientist, you will perform your own research project. You will apply and continue to develop everything that you have learned in the previous years.

The video below gives you an impression of the fascinating research by cell biologist and cancer researcher Celia Berkers. As a CPS graduate you can also end up in these research areas after following a suitable master.

Binding study advice

At the end of the first year, you will know whether the programme was the right choice for you. To continue your studies, you need to have obtained at least 45 of the possible total of 60 ECTS study points in the first year.