Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Health

The doctoral program in environmental health, which leads to the PhD degree, 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.

Four tracks of study are defined within the environmental health doctoral program in the areas of:

  • environmental epidemiology
  • exposure & risk assessment
  • toxicology
  • urban & community environmental health

All doctoral students also take part in research rotations through which they clarify their research interests.

Doctoral students take part in a weekly seminar series throughout their time in the program. The seminar series focuses on topics chosen each semester by the department’s faculty and students. Through these seminar presentations, students share ideas and research initiatives with fellow doctoral students and faculty, while gaining experience in making presentations to their professional peers.

Each doctoral student is required to give at least one presentation each year in the doctoral seminar (or at the annual research retreat) until he/she has completed the program. In preparing any seminar presentation, the doctoral student will work closely with their advisor in a structured process that includes at least one required practice presentation.

A proseminar offers an informal setting where students may present on their own evolving research interests or hold sessions on a range of topics intended to help them move successfully through the doctoral program.

Program Competencies

Upon completing the requirements for the PhD in Environmental Health, graduates are able to:

  • communicate the basic characteristics of major chemical, physical, and biological hazards, and the properties that govern the hazards’ behavior in the environment
  • explain the scientific characteristics (e.g., route of exposure, dose response, mode of action) of major chemical, physical, and biological hazards that result in human health risk
  • explain and analyze genetic, physiologic, and social factors that affect the susceptibility to adverse health outcomes following exposure to environmental hazards
  • critically evaluate and interpret the hypothesis, experimental design, methods, and results presented in a paper from a technical journal article in an environmental health discipline (toxicology, epidemiology, exposure assessment, environmental policy)
  • identify data gaps and formulate testable hypotheses about critical questions in environmental health (epidemiology, toxicology, exposure assessment, environmental policy)
  • design and implement data collection strategies and rigorous evaluations to test hypotheses using novel or current techniques
  • analyze and interpret environmental health data
  • identify appropriate intervention strategies for specific environmental health problems
  • prepare scientific manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals in the field of environmental health
  • communicate scientific results at national and/or international conferences in the field of environmental health

Research Training Program: Environmental Epidemiology in Community Settings

Boston University School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health is one of a small number of academic units nationally that has a specialty in the application of environmental epidemiology 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. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has provided the program with funding to cover tuition and an annual stipend for doctoral candidates who are awarded traineeships.

Trainees develop expertise in a core research training area and learn selected state-of-the-art techniques—for example, GIS, molecular epidemiology, neuroimaging, or mathematical modeling. Core research training areas for the training program are: methods in environmental epidemiology, neurobehavioral epidemiology, occupational epidemiology, social epidemiology/environmental justice, spatial epidemiology/GIS, and exposure assessment. The training program also provides trainees with rotations through research projects in the first and second years, exposing them to a variety of research settings and potential thesis research topics.

For more information regarding the PhD program, please contact Dr. Michael McClean, Director of Doctoral Training for the Department of Environmental Health, or see the EH PhD Guide 13–14.

For admission requirements, please see PhD requirements.