PhD in Environmental Health

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Environmental Health program provides students with specialized training and research experience in environmental and occupational epidemiology, exposure assessment, spatial epidemiology/GIS, risk assessment, and toxicology. Our program is one of a small number of academic units nationally that specializes in investigating exposure-related health outcomes in community settings. The training program provides knowledge, experience, and training in core disciplines to allow for critical thinking in research design, interpretation, and translation. Graduates of our doctoral program continue the department’s tradition of rigorous, innovative, and socially engaged research as postdoctoral research fellows and faculty members at academic research institutions, as senior scientists at environmental consulting companies, and as senior scientists at regulatory health agencies.

Most doctoral students choose one of the four established areas of study within the department: environmental epidemiology, urban and community environmental health, toxicology, or exposure and risk assessment. Alternatively, a student may design an individualized set of requirements if the student’s desired program of study is not otherwise achievable. All doctoral candidates participate in research rotations upon entering the program through which they clarify their research interests.

Doctoral students take part in a weekly seminar series that focuses on topics chosen each semester by the department’s faculty and students. Recent topics include environmental health disparities, exposure to complex mixtures, modern food systems, obesity, and global climate change. Additionally, a biweekly proseminar offers an informal setting in which students may present on their own evolving research interests or hold sessions on a range of topics (e.g., preparing a CV, grant-writing, reviewing manuscripts) intended to help them develop their careers.

To receive the doctoral degree, candidates entering the doctoral program must complete the equivalent of 64 credits (sixteen graduate-level courses), complete three research rotations, pass a qualifying exam, and complete a dissertation. Candidates who have already earned the MS or a related master’s degree must take eight graduate-level courses (32 credits) beyond the master’s degree and at least 16 credits of the coursework must be in environmental health.

Core courses include:

  • BS 723 Introduction to Statistical Computing
  • EH 710 Physiologic Principles for Public Health
  • EH 717 Foundations of Environmental Health
  • EH 725 Analytical Methods in Environmental Health
  • EH 768 Introduction to Toxicology or EH 705 and EH 840
  • EH 804 Exposure Assessment
  • EH 805 Environmental Health Science, Policy, and Law
  • EP 713 Introduction to Epidemiology


After completing coursework and passing qualifying examinations, students work on their dissertation full time. The dissertation demonstrates to the student’s thesis committee that the degree candidate has designed, performed, and reported on substantial independent research in his or her chosen field. It is an original research effort judged to meet the publication standards of peer-reviewed journals in the candidate’s field of concentration. Students must adhere to dissertation submission deadlines and requirements.

All PhD students must adhere to the Doctoral Graduation Calendar in preparing and submitting their dissertation in 2016–2017.

All SPH students will need a laptop or tablet for classes, purchased according to the recommendations of the Medical Campus Information Technology professionals.