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The Curriculum in Toxicology offers a dynamic environment for graduate training. Collaborative research among faculty in the biomedical, environmental, and public health sciences is not hindered by institutional boundaries or administrative barriers. Students benefit from close interactions with investigators at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and other laboratories in the Research Triangle Park, in addition to those in the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Several centers and programs at the University also foster the development of multidisciplinary initiatives in both research and teaching.

The Curriculum in Toxicology provides a rich training environment that enables students to:

  • Learn and use basic principles of toxicology and relevant associated sciences;
  • Develop, execute, and publish original research;
  • Perform hypothesis- and discovery-driven studies related to the mechanisms of action and effects of toxicants; and,
  • Use state-of-the-art techniques in a variety of biological and theoretical systems.

Earning the PhD involves coursework, a written exam, an oral exam, dissertation research, and a final dissertation defense.


Students interested in the PhD in Toxicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are recruited by the Biological and Biomedical Science Program (BBSP), which is a unified mechanism to recruit graduate students interested in biomedical and biological sciences. The Curriculum in Toxicology is one of the 13 participating PhD-granting programs within the BBSP.

Once enrolled via the BBSP, students:

  • Complete at least three research rotations in laboratories that match their training interest;
  • Participate in first-year seminar groups; and,
  • Complete courses that are chosen among those offered by any of the biomedical sciences graduate programs (i.e., BBSP does not offer a uniform first-year curriculum).
  • Join the PhD program of their choice by the end of the first year of training.


The successful completion of the coursework for a PhD in Toxicology requires:

  • Achieving passing grades in lecture/laboratory core courses;
  • Performing satisfactorily in student seminar courses;
  • Participating in the weekly seminar series sponsored by the Curriculum, in addition to other seminars related to the area of concentration of the student’s doctoral research; and,
  • Demonstrating progressive accomplishments in research courses, for which registration and graded evaluation are required each fall and spring semesters during the training period.

Written Qualifying Exam

Mastery of basic concepts in toxicology and potential to develop research at the doctoral level are confirmed by successful completion of a comprehensive written exam.

Oral Qualifying Exam

PhD students must also prepare and defend an original doctoral research proposal before the oral qualifying examination. Full development of this proposed project to the satisfaction of a five-member faculty committee comprises the dissertation process.

Dissertation Research

Doctoral students must gain experience in writing their own manuscripts and are expected to serve as the first author on the peer-reviewed publications that represent the core of the PhD dissertation research. Examples of journals that students publish in: Toxicological Sciences, Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Brain Research, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Chemical Research in Toxicology, Molecular Pharmacology, Journal of Neuroscience, Neurotoxicity Research, Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.

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.