Pharmacology has evolved over the years. Originally a scientific discipline that described the overt effects of biologically active chemicals, pharmacology now explores the molecular mechanisms by which drugs cause biological effects. In the broadest sense, pharmacology is the study of how chemical agents, both natural and synthetic (i.e., drugs) affect biological systems. This encompasses investigation of the derivation, chemical properties, physiological and behavioral effects, mechanisms of action, biological transformations, and the therapeutic and non-therapeutic uses of drugs. Pharmacological studies can determine the effects of chemical agents upon subcellular, systemic, physiological or behavioral processes; focus on the treatment and prevention of diseases; or deal with the potential hazards of pesticides and herbicides.
Pharmacology is often described as a bridge science because it incorporates knowledge and skills from a number of basic science disciplines including physiology, biochemistry and cell and molecular biology. Pharmacologists are able to ‘translate’ such knowledge into the rational development of therapeutics. As a result of their multidisciplinary training, pharmacologists are able to offer a unique perspective in solving drug-, hormone- and chemical-related problems.
The interdisciplinary nature of the field offers pharmacologists a variety of research opportunities not found in other fields of scientific inquiry. It is this flexibility as well as the potential for the practical application of research that attracts people into becoming pharmacologists.