Graduate Program in Molecular & Environmental Toxicology

Since 1978, the Center has maintained a graduate program  that has trained students in human health (molecular) toxicology and pollutant remediation (environmental toxicology). Students’ expertise is based on the research conducted in the laboratories of their mentors.

The Graduate Program in Molecular & Environmental Toxicology has granted more than 200 degrees. On average, the program has 35 students, with six entering and six graduating every year. We are happy to have you amongst them. Our office will work with you every step of the way to assure that your goals are achieved and your well-being is secured.

This page contains an overview of the program timeline, highlights & milestones, and other information. For specifics about all of these topics, you can consult the Graduate Program Handbook, which will go in to much further detail.

While this description is applicable to both the PhD and masters programs, it is written with the PhD track in mind. We have a page dedicated to the two masters tracks, should you be more interested in that degree.


During (and before) Orientation Week, students will identify professors that they would like to work with and contact them about setting up possible rotations. Each PhD student will conduct three, 1-month rotations (September, October, November). These are not set-up by the office and are the responsibility of the student to initiate. A student will learn the techniques of the lab, get a feel for the lab environment, and get to know the project and people that they would be working with. Following the rotation, the student and PI will have a debriefing about the experience before moving to the next rotation.

Towards the end of November, the office will contact the students and professors to identify matches (i.e.: Students that want to work with a given professor and the professor would like to work with the student). If this is the case, starting December 1st (or thereabouts), the student will join that lab and begin working on his/her research project. The PI will become responsible for the student’s funding effective January 1st.

If a suitable match is not found, the student may conduct further rotations, provided available funds and adequate progress.


Courses are designed to provide a framework for asking appropriate toxicological questions as well as introduce experimental methods and information sources useful in addressing these questions. Molecular & Environmental Toxicology currently has seven core courses comprising topics that range from the fundamentals of toxicology to the chemical and physical parameters to dictate chemical distribution in the environment, as well as responsible conduct and professional development. A comprehensive listing of our curriculum can be found here.

Moving to Candidacy (Dissertator Status):

Aside from the final defense, the completion of the Preliminary Exam, which moves a student to candidacy, is the biggest program milestone. This milestone, once complete, essentially means that no one can make a student take another course again and 75% (per NIH guidelines) of a student’s time is dedicated to research. Through their thesis research projects, students learn to seek the mechanisms relating to the origin and fate of chemicals in the environment and underlying the phenomenological changes induced by toxicants in humans, animals and plants (depending on the lab), and this is the basis for the dissertation. This is typically accomplished by students by no later than their third year. If there are issues, those should be brought up with the student’s advisor, the program director, and the program administrator, so that a suitable timeline and accommodations are made.

A listing of all program milestones is available here. The forms that students need to complete are also available here.

After a student has moved to candidacy, the main focus is the research, so that it can be published and defended (i.e.: The student graduates). The typically time to degree is 5.5 years.

If at any time you have questions or need assistance, don’t hesitate to speak to Program Administrator Ezra Mauk.