MSc Synthetic Chemistry

Academic Year 2019/2020

Graduate Taught (level 9 nfq, credits 90)

This MSc in Synthetic Chemistry is designed for Chemistry graduates who are interested in deepening their knowledge of synthetic chemistry with a view to pursuing a career in either the fine chemical or pharmaceutical industries.  There is a strong demand for these synthetic chemistry skills, e.g. nine of the top ten largest pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the world have major facilities in Ireland, and seven of the ten top best-selling pharmaceutical products are made in Ireland.

Download the course brochure (pdf)

Students will take 60 credits in taught modules focusing on areas such as the synthesis of organic compounds and drug-like substances, techniques for structure determination, and methods for drug discovery.  In addition, there is a 30 credit research project and students will be able to choose research topics in relevant areas, including catalysis, carbohydrate chemistry and asymmetric synthesis.  The UCD School of Chemistry has vibrant research in catalysis and the synthesis of biologically active compounds, and it has strong links with pharmaceutical and fine chemical companies in Ireland and globally.

According to the 2015 QS World University Rankings by Subject, Chemistry at UCD is ranked 2nd in Ireland and in the world top 150.

Careers & Employability

The MSc in Synthetic Chemistry provides a basis for graduates to enter the chemical, pharmaceutical, bio-pharmaceutical and materials industries. Analytical services, environmental protection, and primary and secondary school teaching present other possible opportunities. This course is also a route for some students into a PhD programme.

Curricular information is subject to change


Full Time option suitable for:

Domestic(EEA) applicants: Yes
International (Non EEA) applicants currently residing outside of the EEA Region. Yes

This MSc in Synthetic Chemistry is designed for Chemistry graduates who are interested in deepening their knowledge of synthetic chemistry with a view to pursuing a career in either the fine chemicals or pharmaceutical industry. 

Students will take 60 credits in taught modules focusing on areas such as the synthesis of organic compounds and drug-like substances, techniques for structure determination, and methods for drug discovery.  These taught modules have a particular focus on synthetic chemistry.  They include modules on core principles of the design of synthetic routes to simple structures, progressing to more advanced modules on catalysis and asymmetric catalysis, a module on carbohydrate chemistry and a module on the synthesis of drug-like targets on a laboratory and on a commercial scale.  These are supported by courses on the use of spectroscopic techniques for structure elucidation and analysis, covering techniques such as  Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and mass spectrometry (MS), infrared (IR), near infrared (NIR), Raman, UV-visible, Circular Dichroism and Emission spectroscopy.  Two modules focus on medicinal and biological chemistry, and another addresses the process of protecting and commercialising ideas and inventions.

In addition, there is a 30 credit research project and students will be able to choose research topics in relevant areas, including catalysis, carbohydrate chemistry and asymmetric synthesis.  Students can select the research area from our vibrant research programme in catalysis and the synthesis of biologically active compounds, which is informed by strong links with pharmaceutical and fine chemical companies in Ireland and globally.  Relevant research topics in the School include:

  • Catalysis and new transformations research is directed towards design and discovery of new methodologies for metal-mediated and organic bond making and breaking processes to provide new techniques for building up molecular complexity (cascade processes) and to facilitate challenging reactions under mild conditions. Areas of application are multifaceted, including for example natural product synthesis, energy storage (hydrogen fuel economy, greenhouse gas fixation, water splitting), and greener processes.
  • Carbohydrate chemistry research focuses on developing new synthetic methodologies towards carbohydrates, C- and S-glycosides, and towards oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates, and also includes the evaluation of the biological  activity, specifically as antibiotics, vaccines, and antitumour agents. 
  • New materials for magnetic, medicinal and electronic applications research encompass the fabrication and application of complexes and assemblies for spin crossover (magnetic switches) and as electrochemical sensors.
  • Substantial work is also directed towards the synthesis and application of metal-based drugs for anticancer and antimicrobial application.

This programme is aimed at students that have completed a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and wish to broaden or deepen their knowledge and skills in synthetic chemistry with a view to pursuing a career in the pharmaceutical or fine chemicals sectors.  Students choose a suite of modules from our graduate school offering, which cover a wide range of topics in drug discovery and the synthesis and characterisation of target molecules.  Immersed in a research-intensive environment, located in state-of-the-art facilities, students will work individually and in teams, and engage in projects that will hone their critical thinking, communications, autonomous learning, and technical skills.  In addition to lectures, laboratory classes and tutorials, we use a range of student-centred, active-learning activities, including workshops, case studies, seminars, and team-based projects, culminating in research projects in which students are embedded in academic research teams to work on cutting-edge problems.  Students can select the research area from our vibrant research programme in catalysis and the synthesis of biologically active compounds, which is informed by strong links with pharmaceutical and fine chemical companies in Ireland and globally.  Both the core material and the transferable skills acquired in the programme are assessed, using a range of authentic techniques, including assessment of critical reviews, of presentations, and of a research thesis, as well as an oral thesis defense and written examinations.

  • Display, to a high level, a systematic and in-depth knowledge of methods for the synthesis of target molecules.
  • Design and implement efficient, safe and sustainable methods for the synthesis of molecules and materials especially drug-like ‘small molecule’ targets.
  • Develop and employ methods for the measurement, characterisation, and analysis of molecular systems.
  • Analyse scientific results and communicate them clearly, both verbally and in written form, according to the conventions of the discipline.
  • Demonstrate the specialised technical knowledge and skills required to work safely in synthetic chemistry laboratories.
  • Be able to use on-line resources for searching the literature and collating and analysing primary research.
  • Understand the nature of scientific research and be able to design, plan and execute research projects.
  • Demonstrate an ability to take significant responsibility, both alone and in groups, and be able to act in a wide variety of professional levels and contexts.
  • Demonstrate the ability to self-evaluate, and take responsibility for self-directed further study or continuous professional development.
  • Analyse scientific results and communicate them clearly, both verbally and in written form, according to the conventions of the discipline.
  • Be able to use on-line resources for searching the literature and collating and analysing primary research.
  • Demonstrate an ability to take significant responsibility, both alone and in groups, and be able to act in a wide variety of professional levels and contexts.
  • Demonstrate the ability to self-evaluate, and take responsibility for self-directed further study or continuous professional development.
  • Demonstrate the specialised technical knowledge and skills required to work safely in synthetic chemistry laboratories.
  • Design and implement efficient, safe and sustainable methods for the synthesis of molecules and materials especially drug-like ‘small molecule’ targets.
  • Develop and employ methods for the measurement, characterisation, and analysis of molecular systems.
  • Display, to a high level, a systematic and in-depth knowledge of methods for the synthesis of target molecules.
  • Understand the nature of scientific research and be able to design, plan and execute research projects.

View All Modules Here

The structure of the programme is as follows:

  • 90 credits taught masters: 60 credits taught modules and 30 credits research project

September - December

  • Organic Synthesis
  • Metals in Biology
  • Topics in Medicinal Chemistry
  • Spectroscopic Techniques
  • Masterclass in Carbohydrate Chemistry

January - May

  • Organic Synthesis 2
  • Modern Methods & Catalysis
  • Chemistry Lab to commercialisation
  • Catalytic Asymmetric Synthesis
  • Advanced NMR & MS
  • Drug Development and Synthesis

May - August

  • Research Project

MSc Synthetic Chemistry (F105) Full Time
EU          fee per year - € 7995
nonEU    fee per year - € 24800

***Fees are subject to change
Tuition fee information is available on the UCD Fees & Grants website. Please note that UCD offers a number of postgraduate scholarships for full-time, selffunding international students, holding an offer of a place on masters programmes. Please visit International Scholarships for further details.

This programme is intended for applicants with a Chemistry degree, or a degree with a significant component of Chemistry. An upper second class honours or international equivalent is required. Applicants whose first language is not English must also demonstrate English language proficiency of IELTS 6.5 (no band less than 6.0 in each element), or equivalent.

The following entry routes are available: