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Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

About the Program

This course, as part of the Experimental Study Group Seminar Series, offers students the opportunity to participate in a small discussion-based class taught by an MIT upperclassman under the guidance of a faculty supervisor. Seminars taught in this format are all graded Pass / Fail and receive 1/2 of the academic credit assigned to regular academic classes.


This seminar will introduce students to the science of pharmacology, the study of drugs. The class is suitable for students from all majors and with any level of prior experience. We will start by covering the basics, and that foundation will enable us to work up to more complex topics. The subject matter will focus heavily on drugs that act at the synapse, such as psychiatric, neurological, and recreational drugs. Students will learn about all of the most studied neurotransmitters, including their functions, their involvement in diseases, and the drugs that mimic, block, or modulate each neurotransmitter.

This class will be multidisciplinary. Some days we will talk about individual molecules, other days we will talk about whole societies. We will talk about the comparative physics of cigarette and crack smoking, the history of herbs and pharmaceuticals, and the art inspired by drugs.

The style and topics of this class will be dictated by the students' desires. Please come in with suggestions of drugs, diseases, studies, news stories, and other things that interest you. Don't hesitate to tell us if you are bored of hearing about chemistry or biology.

Grading and Assignments

This seminar is graded pass/fail and is worth 6 units of general elective credit. Here are the requirements for passing:

  • You may not miss more than two seminar sessions. For each additional absence after the first two, you must write a 3-page paper about a topic that you missed.
  • You are required to make one oral presentation to the class about a topic of your choice. It should be about 10 minutes long. Please email your proposed topic to us as soon as possible, so that we can approve it and schedule a time. Please don't hesitate to ask for advice or help.
  • You are required to participate in discussions.
  • Homework: You will be given short reading assignments from time to time, you may be asked to research things on Google, Wikipedia, and PubMed, and you should post to the blog at least occasionally.