unizeit Schriftzug

Pharmacy with a thirst for research

People who study pharmacy often work in a pharmacy later on. And in up to 20 percent of the cases also in science and research. Kiel University offers a special course of study for this target group.

Two persons in a laboratory.
© Martin Geist

Lea Petersen and Patrick Indorf at work in the lab. This is the most important place for Master's students of drug research in their second semester.

Pharmacy students in this country generally still take a state examination. However, the corresponding studies are strongly regulated by law and leave relatively little room for research, explains Professor Eric Beitz from the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. For this reason, Kiel University was one of the few universities in Germany to create a diploma course in pharmaceutical research many years ago in order to promote the drive for research. In the winter semester 2014/15, this became a master's degree course.

In some respects, there is something exotic about this course of study, which is chosen by a good 15 students per year at Kiel University. While in almost all other disciplines the path to a master's degree takes four semesters, in drug research there are only two. Access is also much more strictly regulated than usual: Only those who have already passed the second state examination in pharmacy can be admitted. And the situation after the successful completion of the master's degree is much more specific.

Almost all those who manage this step also take the third state examination, which is linked to a practical year in the pharmacy, because this degree alone means a license to practice as a pharmacist.

According to Beitz, the degree in drug research is therefore nothing more than an "extended professional qualification". The example of Lea Petersen shows that this degree can also have other useful aspects. "I want to find out whether I want to do a doctorate," said the student describing her motivation. Working meticulously on a scientific question over a long period of time, often enough alone in a quiet little room, is not something that everyone is made for. Like all drug research students, Lea Petersen devoted her first semester to the important techniques of scientific work and also learned English for science. Now, in her second semester, she is well equipped for this and is preferably to be found in the laboratory. In malaria research, she wants to find out whether a single protein is responsible for the fact that sufferers sometimes do not respond to certain drugs.

Patrick Indorf is already a little further along. He has just completed his master's degree and is very pleased with his decision. "This makes the transition to research a little easier," says the pharmacist, for whom it was clear from the outset that he wanted to do a doctorate. This path, which usually takes three to four years, is now open to him. And Indorf has a good feeling because, thanks to his master's degree, he already knows exactly what he is getting into.

This also makes Patrick Indorf a very typical master's student, because in Eric Beitz' experience almost all graduates do well when they finish their doctorates. But what happens after that is really very different. Some of the doctoral students stay in the scientific research department of a university, others change to industry or work in a pharmacy. According to Beitz, the young pharmacists all have one thing in common: "Nobody has to worry about their professional future."

Author: Martin Geist