What is Toxicology?
Today, toxicology is defined as the study of the adverse effects of external factors on an organism or a system. We are all aware that environmental chemicals, drugs, and constituents of our diet (collectively known as xenobiotics; "foreign to life") are important subjects of study for toxicologists. Toxicologists also study physical factors that include ionizing radiation, UV light, electromagnetic forces, sound, and the like.
In addition to the study of the agents that might cause toxicity, modern toxicologists are equally interested in the inherent mechanisms that mediate both toxic insult and the biological or environmental sequelae. Thus, all approaches of modern science (molecular biology and genetics, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, informatics, analytical chemistry, biochemistry, cell biology, behavior and physiology, etc.) are used daily in the field.
All of these scientific approaches are practiced by the training faculty of the Curriculum in Toxicology. Although one of our strengths is environmental toxicology, our Faculty's research interests also include pharmaceuticals, dietary agents, radiation, as well as a focus on how xenobiotics are relevant to specific diseases.
For some interesting background, see:
Chapter 1 of "Casarrett and Doull’s Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons."
Chapter 1 of "Introduction to Biochemical Toxicology" (E. Hodgson & R. Smart (eds) (3rd Edition).
History of Toxicology
The Society for Toxicology and their Career Guide
The overall goal of the program is to develop trainees that are knowledgeable in the basic principles of toxicology and environmental health sciences with in-depth experience in the development, execution and publication of research relevant to toxicology and human health. Trainee’s research activities focus on hypothesis-driven studies of the mechanisms of action of environmental agents. These studies use state-of-the-art techniques and mammalian model systems, including cultured human cells and clinical specimens. Our program offers specialized training in several areas of research.
Two sample course sequences are outlined below. The first shows the sequence of courses recommended to the BBSP student who is interested in Toxicology from the beginning of the first year. The second is for the BBSP student who selects the Toxicology program only after joining the laboratory of the doctoral research adviser.
Written Qualifying Exam
- A written qualifying examination takes place at the end of the second year (after passing core courses). A faculty committee organizes five essay questions; the student selects four and returns the complete answers in five days. Each answer is graded by two faculty members. Results are announced four to six weeks later. Read details here.
Oral Qualifying Exam and the Dissertation Proposal
- An oral qualifying examination by a five-member faculty committee includes the defense of the Ph.D. research proposal; this exam should take place before the end of the third year. Read details here.
Dissertation and Final Exam
Before Graduation, Toxicology students are expected to:
- Present doctoral research results at national scientific meetings (Society of Toxicology or annual meetings of other scientific societies);
- Publish doctoral research in peer-reviewed journals; and,
- Write the final dissertation (published papers as individual chapters). Read details here.
Final Exam (Dissertation Defense): Once the doctoral committee is satisfied with the accomplishments of the student, a public seminar is scheduled for the presentation of the doctoral research data and interpretation. The seminar is followed by a private meeting of the doctoral committee with the PhD candidate when the final exam takes place. The committee identifies all changes that must be made to the dissertation before the document is submitted to the Graduate School.
Submission of approved dissertation to the Graduate School
- The requirements for the Ph.D. degree will not be completed until the final dissertation document is accepted by the Graduate School. Instructions can be found here.
- It will be the responsibility of the student and the research advisor to inform the Toxicology Graduate Program that this last requirement has been fulfilled. For this purpose, the form Acceptance of Final Doctoral Dissertation by the Graduate School should be completed, signed, and forwarded to the Director of Graduate Studies together with the requested documents.