Master's Degree Programme in Exact Sciences: Chemistry of Drug Development

The Chemistry of Drug Development specialisation track equips you with theoretical and practical skills in drug screening, identification, design, preparation, and targeting.

How to find, identify, design and target new drugs?

The programme provides you with strong knowledge on one or more of the following topics that cover the chemistry of drug development from slightly different perspectives: bioanalytical chemistry, bioorganic chemistry, and radiopharmaceutical chemistry.

In addition, you will learn to master the state-of-the-art methods needed for the full identification of drug molecules and for their quantitation from different types of tissues and metabolite mixtures. Our approach gives you strong hands-on knowledge of medicinal chemistry since practical laboratory work forms the soul of our programme.

The track of Chemistry of Drug Development is one of the six specialisation tracks of the Master’s Degree Programme in Exact Sciences (previously called the MDP in Physical and Chemical Sciences). The other tracks of the programme are

Entry requirements


General Requirement

You are an eligible applicant for Master’s-level studies if

  • you have a nationally recognized first cycle degree – normally a Bachelor’s degree – from an accredited institution of higher education,
  • your degree corresponds to at least 180 ECTS (European credits) or to three years of full-time study,
  • your degree is in a relevant field for the Master’s degree programme that you’re applying to. Please check the section on track-specific admission requirements for detailed degree requirements.

Language Requirements

Applicants must have excellent English language skills and a certificate that proves those skills. You can indicate your language skills by taking one of the internationally recognized English language tests. 

Applicants must reach the minimum required test results to be considered eligible to the University of Turku. No exceptions will be made. Read more about the language requirements here.

Study right

It is not possible to have more than one Bachelor’s or Master’s study right at the same Faculty. Therefore, when accepting an offered study place, the student will lose any previous BSc. or MSc. study right at the Faculty of Science at the University of Turku.


Before you start preparing your application, always read the full admission requirements on the application portal

The degree on the basis of which you are applying to the MDP in Exact Sciences must be in a relevant field of study. For the Chemistry of Drug Development track such fields are

  • chemistry
  • biochemistry
  • biotechnology
  • pharmacology
  • or similar

The applicants should also be familiar with the basics of laboratory practice relevant to the applied track.

You may not apply to more than one specialization track within the same Master’s Degree Programme at the University of Turku. Therefore, you should carefully consider that your educational background is suitable enough for the track that you are applying to.


The decision of admission will be based on

  • the relevance of the applicant’s awarded degree(s)
  • the amount, relevance, and grades of the courses in the degree(s)
  • the language test result (see Language requirements)
  • the motivation letter and your answers to the optional questions included in the application
  • possible interview

In addition to the education diploma and language certificate, you should include testimonials of any relevant work experience in your application. 

The academic evaluation is made only for complete applications that are received during the application period. Any preliminary assessment of suitability or chances for admission will not be given.

Programme in brief


The structure of the programme is modular and each specialization track has three obligatory modules that contain the core material of the field. These include the MSc thesis (30 ECTS), lecture and exercise courses, seminars, laboratory work, internship or project work, details of which depend on the specialization. In addition, there is one thematic module that may be chosen to support your own study plan. The fourth module consists of freely chosen courses and obligatory Finnish language courses (5 ECTS).

The specialisation track Chemistry of Drug Development is a two-year programme of 120 ECTS credits. The curriculum is comprised of:

  • Core Courses (20 ECTS) and laboratory project (20 ECTS) in Chemistry of Drug Development
  • Thematic specialisation in either Bioanalytical Chemistry, Bioorganic Chemistry or Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry (20 ECTS)
  • Master’s thesis and related courses (40 ECTS)
  • Other studies including mandatory language studies and selectable studies in different thematic areas and special themes (20 ECTS)

All students take the same core courses and select one specialisation area with the thematic courses and related laboratory projects. Master’s thesis is made under the same thematic research area.

Each student makes a personal study plan which helps to select the courses that best suit for personal interests and background of the student.




Our approach to Chemistry of Drug Development is a unique combination of research areas that are closely related, but that requires a different type of expertise. All of three options are represented by well-established, top-of-the-line research groups: Bioorganic GroupRadiopharmaceutical Chemistry Group, Bioanalytical Chemistry together with Detection Technology Group, and Natural Chemistry Research Group.

The main target in studies of Bioorganic Chemistry is to master the key concepts of organic reactions, stereochemistry, and physical organic chemistry. This way the student can design and execute organic syntheses and understand chemical biology. The Bioorganic Group is specialized in the synthesis of biopolymers (oligonucleotides, oligosaccharides, and peptides), their interaction mechanisms at the molecular level, and the application of this knowledge to solving medicinal problems.

Students of Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry can specialize in radiosynthetic chemistry and applications of short-lived, isotopically labeled positron-emitting radiotracers. These tracers are used in positron emission tomography (PET) which enables imaging of biochemical processes in vivo in both health and disease. The synthesis of radiotracers involves both low molecular weight small molecules as well as macromolecules, typically peptides, proteins, and their fragments. The teaching of radiopharmaceutical chemistry takes place in close collaboration with the Turku PET Centre, a National Institute jointly owned by the University of Turku, the Åbo Akademi University, and the Hospital District of Southwestern Finland.

Students of Bioanalytical Chemistry will learn the most prominent (bio)analytical detection and separation techniques and are capable of applying the techniques to medicinal chemistry and drug discovery. The student knows how to design bioanalytical assays and separation methods for the identification, quantification, and property mapping of potential drugs and target molecules – also in practice. Courses are provided by the Natural Chemistry and the Detection Technology Research Groups. The content of the courses is considered to meet the needs of the neighboring industries for bioanalytical chemistry.

The facilities of Chemistry of Drug Development are state-of-the-art. We have direct access to the Turku PET Centre preclinical and clinical groups. The PET Centre has four cyclotrons for radionuclide production and 25 hot cells for radiotracer synthesis. At the Department of Chemistry, we have recently updated NMR facilities with modern 500 and 600 MHz magnets with cryo-probes that facilitate operation at low drug concentrations. We have direct access to UPLC-MS/MS instruments with both triple quadrupole and high-resolution mass spectrometry detectors. An efficient ECD spectrometer complements the equipment needed for the accurate identification of the produced and purified drug candidates. To know how to master this equipment and techniques is a true advantage to the chemist who graduates from our programme.


The Thesis Project will form the basis for your Master’s Thesis. This laboratory project is a part of a true research project taking place in the department and made under the guidance of a supervisor. The Master’s thesis will be written based on the results from the laboratory project and a review of relevant background literature.

It is possible to conduct the laboratory project in some other University or in the industry as well.

Examples of thesis topics:

  • Fluorescent oligonucleotide probes for screening high-affinity nucleobase surrogates
  • Solution-phase synthesis of short oligo-2′-deoxyribonucleotides using clustered nucleosides as a soluble support
  • Synthesis of 11C- and 18F-labelled radiopharmaceuticals
  • New quantitation methods for and screening of anthocyanin-tannin adducts in 300 red wine varieties
  • Enhancement of anthelmintic activities of plant metabolites by chemical modifications

Career prospects


After completing the studies, depending on your specialisation, you will

  • know how to design and execute multistep synthesis routes to produce organic compounds
  • know the special requirements to work in the radiopharmaceutical chemistry laboratory
  • know the basics of bioimaging
  • know how to design and execute synthesis routes for compounds used in bioimaging
  • know how to isolate and purify organic compounds
  • know how to characterize structures of organic compounds
  • understand how reactivity and bioactivity is related both to the structure and reaction conditions
  • know the chemical properties, functionality and biological significance of biopolymers and their structural units
  • know the classes of plant bioactive compounds, their biosynthesis routes and chemical properties and their most important structure/activity-relationships
  • be able to use and develop liquid chromatographic and mass spectrometric methods
  • know how to measure different types of bioactivities for pure compounds and compound mixtures, and to develop new types of activity methods
  • develop diagnostic and drug discovery methods for protein and cell-based targets
  • understand the basics of widely applied methods such as luminescence techniques in high throughput screening

Chemistry of Drug Development track has close connections to the pharma industry at the Turku region and international collaborative networks. These provide the students with opportunities to do the Master’s Laboratory Project in their facilities or in collaboration. They may offer internships and job opportunities for graduates as well.

You will be equipped with skills that provide you with multiple career options. You will be able to join the industry in Finland or abroad, or to enter the public sector, for example, in various authoritative duties.

The studies in Chemistry of Drug Development provide excellent possibilities for a career in life sciences. For example, you can:

  • continue as a postgraduate student to pursue a career as a scientist
  • work in the industry as a researcher or quality manager
  • work in a core facility management taking care of e.g. the mass spectrometers
  • work in science administration nationally or internationally
  • work in hospital research laboratories
  • be a product manager or a project coordinator

The Master of Science degree completed in the Programme qualifies the graduates for Ph.D. studies in Turku, elsewhere in Finland, or in universities worldwide.

Graduates from the programme are eligible to apply for a position at the University of Turku Graduate School, UTUGS.  The Graduate School consists of doctoral programmes, which cover all disciplines and doctoral candidates of the University.

Together with the doctoral programmes, the Graduate School provides systematic and high-quality doctoral training. UTUGS aims to train highly qualified experts with the skills required for both professional careers in research and other positions of expertise.

Several doctoral programmes at the University of Turku are available for graduates: