About the Drug Research Academy

Picture of buildings at UP2

Drug Research Academy (DRA) is an interdisciplinary graduate programme in pharmaceutical sciences located at the Department of Pharmacy and Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology under the Graduate School of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

147 PhD students are affiliated with DRA (October 2023).

Here you can read and download the DRA leaflet - short information about DRA and the Danish PhD programme.








The Head of programme is Professor Petrine Wellendorph.

The Steering Committee consists of the deputy heads of department for research at the Department of Pharmacy and the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology and the head of programme.

The Steering Committee has the following members:

  • Petrine Wellendorph - Head of programme, Drug Research Academy
  • Jette Sandholm Kastrup - Deputy Head of Department for research, Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology
  • Martin Malmsten - Deputy Head of Department for research, Department of Pharmacy
  • PhD student(s) are involved ad hoc

Consultants are the representatives in the SUND PhD Study Board from pharmaceutical sciences:

The Administration of DRA consists of: 










From 2014 to 2019, DRA was part of PCAP, the PhD Career Programme, a training network comprising PhD students from three Graduate Programmes at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

The purpose of PCAP was to enhance and develop central transferrable skills important for future career opportunities, help our students structure their research and increase their research productivity, and focus on career paths after graduation.

DRA has continued a programme collaboration, DIM, with the graduate programmes: Molecular Mechanisms of Disease (MoMeD) and In Vivo Pharmacology and Experimental Animals (IVP).

DRA is also part of ULLA, a European University Consortium for Pharmaceutical Sciences, which is an international network with an aim to enhance collaboration within education and research within the pharmaceutical sciences between the European universities.
See more details about DRA's collaboration with ULLA or visit ULLA website








The graduate programme in pharmaceutical sciences, Drug Research Academy (DRA), was re-organized in 2013 as a result of the faculty mergers at University of Copenhagen. The 'new' DRA introduced biannual progress reports and mandatory course(s) in project management with the aim of increasing the quality and productivity of the PhD programme.

The Drug Research Academy has made two surveys evaluating the outcome of theses initiatives  among PhD students and principal supervisors. The surveys were conducted in December 2016 and January 2017:



Meet four PhD students from DRA

DRA PhD students Emilie Marie Nielsen, Fabian Pfersdorf, Jens Rovelt Andreasen and Kleopatra Kalouta share their thoughts on LinkedIn on life as a PhD student, the opportunities the DRA programme gives them, and the DRA courses, workshops, summer school, and career day.

They were interviewed in connection with the DRA Summer School 2023, and you can also read their stories here:

Emilie Marie Nielsen

Are you looking at different PhD programmes? See what Emilie Marie Nielsen, PhD student in the DRA PhD Programme and participant in the DRA Summer School 2023, has to say on the options the DRA programme gives her:

“When I was looking for a job or a PhD, I was looking for opportunities within my field of interest and not at PhD Schools, but I’m very happy about where I am.” Emilie’s supervisor is Associate Professor Mariena van der Plas from the LEO Foundation Center for Cutaneous Drug Delivery.

"At DRA I have been a part of YPF, Young Pharma Forum, - both the professionally oriented events and the social events and networking. This has been great. I also found the Industrial Career Day very useful: you could meet the different companies and talk with them. As a PhD, you are not limited to your own subject, but the knowledge you have acquired, will let you go in many different directions.”

“Making the DRA Summer School more conference like is very relevant and as PhD students, it gives us the opportunity to practice communicating our projects in the form of posters and oral presentations. The talks given by Charlotte Strøm and Mette Holbæk on science communication where very useful. I’m fortunate that my project has to do with infections and killing bacteria and people can easily relate to that. But it’s still difficult to explain it in detail to listeners without a scientific background.” Emilie won the prize “Best presentation” at the second day of the DRA Summer School 2023.

Thinking of her future career, Emilie says; “I would very much like to continue with a postdoc position, but it will also depend on the funding options. The time limited positions can seem like an uncertain career path and I would also very much like to explore opportunities in the industry.”

Emilie gave her presentation, “Interplay between Host Defence Peptides and Bacterial Membrane Vesicles during Infection”, at the DRA Summer School. The event was one out of eight events where 3rd year PhD students presented their projects in front of an assessment committee. This committee consisted of Professor Bente Frølund, Assistant Professor Stine Rønholt and Professor Jörg Kutter.

Fabian Pfersdorf

PhD student Fabian Pfersdorf from Department of Biomedical Sciences participated in the DRA Summer School 2023, and he has agreed to share some thoughts on DRA and life as a PhD student at the University of Copenhagen:

“I found this PhD position when I was looking for a job after finishing my Master’s degree. I was primarily looking for a job in the industry but the subject of the project – which is now my project – was interesting to me and I thought it suited me very well. Also, a PhD student in the lab I worked in for my masters was at DRA and had recommended it to me.” Fabian’s supervisor is Associate Professor Martin Gustavsson.

“For me as a PhD student at BMI, it is clear that the PhD students in DRA have different backgrounds. We are not many from my department and sometimes, for example at the summer schools, it can be quite clear that many others have a more pharmacological background. I would say my work is closer to the life science field, and I can tell that I, and the PhD students with a pharma background, have different knowledge and ways of approaching certain topics. But it also gives me more perspective to get a picture of what is going on in pharmacological research every now and then, and I think that is great.”

On the many DRA events, Fabian remarks: “I did a bunch of workshops at DRA, for example a workshop on the use of LinkedIn as a researcher and a workshop on research writing organized by the journal Nature. I also really like the summer schools, and I have spent a lot of time in the Young Pharma Forum who organizes social events for the PhD students at DRA. I think it is super good that the DRA events combine our work as researchers with a social function – we get an opportunity to socialize with colleagues, meet new people and network.”

When he considers the career opportunities his PhD will give him, Fabian says: “I’m specifically interested in research, and a PhD is advantageous if you want a leading research position in the industry. That is also a reason that I am happy to be at DRA – it gives me certain competences and provides insights into what kind of research is being done and which challenges there are in the pharmacological sector, which may also be quite relevant for me in future jobs in a company. I have thought for a long time that I would like to try both working with a larger company and working in more of a start-up environment, as I have the impression that those would present quite different challenges and development opportunities.”

Fabian gave the presentation “Regulation of Chemokine Receptors by Receptor Activity-Modifying Proteins (RAMPs)” at the project presentation event at DRA Summer School. The event was one out of eight presentation events where 3rd year PhD students presented their projects in front of an assessment committee. This committee consisted of Professor Bente Frølund, Assistant Professor Stine Rønholt and Professor Jörg Kutter.

Jens Rovelt Andreasen

PhD student Jens Rovelt Andreasen is in the DRA PhD Programme. Jens decided on a career as a researcher, beginning with the DRA PhD programme, after several years in the pharmaceutical industry, and he is sharing his thoughts on DRA and the new options the programme is giving him:
“I had a career in the pharmaceutical industry for nearly 20 years and during this time I have met PhD’s and could see what they can do. I always wanted to take it a step further than what a Master’s degree lets you do. Because of my experience from the pharmaceutical industry, I began looking in that direction. My own background is in bioinformatics and not as a pharmacist.

I had several reasons for checking out DRA: First, this is where drug development is taking place and second, I have known Miriam Kolko and her research group Eye Translational Research Unit - Kolko group since the beginning of 2000.

To me, it was extremely important to be able to combine my knowledge from the pharmaceutical industry with my knowledge of bioinformatics and the clinical area. I could have chosen some of the PhD programmes at the Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen because of my bioinformatics background, or applied for a PhD position with a clinical focus at Rigshospitalet, but my own interests are in the combination of the clinical with drug development and bioinformatics – and the DRA programme lets you do that.”

What do you think of DRA’s many offers? “I think they have many offers, the standard is very high and you really get to meet the experts. Of course, the Industrial Career Day is not that relevant for me because of my experience from the industry. However, the DRA courses have been extremely relevant for me and what I do.

The mandatory courses “Responsible conduct of research” and “Introduction to university pedagogy” were really great. The only criticism you can have is that the courses are so popular, so you really need to apply for them as soon as you can.”

What options will a PhD give you in your future career? “A PhD opens for an academic career on another level. In the industry, it makes the expert roles within my research area an option for me, and of course conducting research in the industry. Besides that, there are many possible functions from lab research, clinical research and medical affairs. With a PhD, you can be a specialist and you bring another level of authority to the table than with a Master’s degree. As a PhD, you learn methods and how to see through research and research results.”

Jens Rovelt Andreasen’s supervisor at Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology is Professor Miriam Kolko and he is part of FOREVER, a research project collecting and studying data about eye health in the Danish population in collaboration with Synoptik.

Kleopatra Kalouta

PhD student Kleopatra Kalouta attended the DRA Summer School 2023, an annual event where 120 PhD students from the Drug Research Academy PhD programme have come together this year at Sørup Herregaard.
Kleopatra shares her thoughts on life as a PhD student and DRA opportunities. She is doing a double PhD degree at University of Copenhagen and the Università degli Studi di Palermo with Professor Vito Foderà and Valeria Vetri as her main supervisors.

“I first came to Denmark to do a Master in Pharmaceutical Sciences as the study programme really appealed to me and so did Copenhagen. During my Master thesis I enjoyed a lot working on my topic and being a part of the Drug Delivery and Biophysics of Pharmaceuticals group (led by Hanne Mørck Nielsen) at the Department of Pharmacy. I found the work and guidance of my main supervisors Vito Foderà and Mai Bay Stie very inspiring."

"After the master thesis, I mainly considered PhD options, both in Denmark and internationally. But, when it comes to my current PhD project, I liked that I had a big say in formulating the topic of the project and that I would get to work within a group of people I already knew I like to work with. Also, I could go abroad and work in a different scientific environment; it was both exciting and challenging, but it was worth the challenge! I also looked at the DRA programme and it seemed very well structured, from the organized events to how they support us as PhD students. So that was also an important factor for my decision.”

On the different DRA events, Kleopatra says: “I like the workshops because you can get trained and acquire useful skills in e.g. scientific writing. I also enjoy the seminars because you can get knowledge on specific subjects related to your own project. The networking events are also nice because you get an idea of what you can do after your PhD. I really like the DRA Summer School, especially in its new form where you spend two days together. It’s a very well-organized event that can teach you a lot on poster and oral presentations within a friendly environment where you get to interact scientifically and socially.”

When she considers career paths, Kleopatra says: “My project on plant protein-based nanofibers is something that I like very much and I would like to continue working within this field, it’s very exciting. I’m considering some of the industrial post doc opportunities and I like academia because you get to try different things and get exposed to different setups.”

Kleopatra gave the presentation entitled “Decoding the relation between protein structure and properties of plant protein-based nanofibers” at the DRA Summer School as a 3rd year PhD student in front of an assessment committee, consisting of Professor Bente Frølund, Assistant Professor Stine Rønholt and Professor Jörg Kutter.


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