PhD in Environmental Health, Occupational Health & Toxicology

The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) College of Public Health (COPH) has created an intercampus, multidisciplinary graduate program leading to a PhD degree in environmental health, occupational health, and toxicology. The program provides students with the knowledge base, laboratory skills, and problem-solving abilities to become independent, innovative investigators using state-of-the-art approaches to address scientific problems in the fields of environmental health, ecological health, occupational health and safety, and toxicology. 

A unique aspect of the program will be a focus on the impact of agricultural practices on human and environmental health. In states, such as Nebraska, where the economy is primarily based on agriculture, this focus will provide effective training for students interested in agricultural issues. 

Specific objectives of the graduate education and training program are to provide students with: 1) basic knowledge in ecological, environmental, agricultural and occupational health, as well as toxicology; 2) broad understanding of relevant problems in the various areas of ecological health (effects of contaminants and practices on air, water, soil and ecosystems), environmental health (effects of environmental contaminants and practices on human health), occupational health and safety or toxicology, with particular emphasis on agriculture; and 3) the ability to apply this information to important scientific questions and solve problems in these areas. Graduates of this program will be well equipped to pursue careers in public health, environmental health, occupational health, toxicology and related fields. 

Applications for enrollment are being accepted. Contact Sherry Cherek at (402) 559-8924 or Email   

Degree Program Information

Why get a degree in Environmental Health, Occupational Health and Toxicology?

Need for Trained Professionals

Public awareness of environmental hazards has grown tremendously over the past four decades. Toxicologists and other environmental and population scientists play an essential role in ensuring that we are not endangering our health or the environment with the products and by-products of modern and comfortable living. This is especially true in states such as Nebraska, where production agriculture dominates the economy, but the potential impacts of such intense agricultural production on human health and environment are unclear. As a consequence, there are increased demands for new and better ways to determine the potential harmful effects of chemical agents, development of conditions under which toxic chemicals can be used safely, assessment of the probability that particular chemicals present a significant risk to human health and/or the environment, and the establishment of rules and regulations aimed at protecting and preserving human health and the environment.

Employment and educational advancement opportunities for graduates

With the increase in health consciousness, as well as concern for our environment, a wide and growing variety of career opportunities exists in environmental health, ecological health, occupational health and safety, and toxicology. Professionals with advanced degrees in these areas participate in basic research using the most advanced techniques in molecular biology, chemistry, and biomedical sciences; work with chemical, pharmaceutical, agrichemical and many other industries to test and ensure that their products and workplaces are safe; work for local and federal governments and agencies to develop and enforce laws to ensure that chemicals are produced, used and disposed of safely or to ensure that natural watersheds and local air quality criteria are maintained at appropriate levels; and work in academic institutions to teach others about the safe use of chemicals and to train future scientists. 

Agriculture is the backbone of the regional economy. There are many health and safety concerns associated with work in production agriculture in food processing, such as meat packing plants and the growing biofuels sector. Contacts that faculty have with corporations in these industries provide strong partners in our effort to provide educational opportunities and training for our students. Giving students access to their businesses for research projects will be critical to the success of our program. Collaborations currently exist with several businesses addressing occupational health and safety issues. Additional potential collaborators include pharmaceutical and other medical research and service companies, construction and trucking companies, environmental consulting and engineering firms in the Lincoln and Omaha area involved in site assessments and remediation and local, state and federal agencies. 

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Program of Study - Ph.D. requirements

The Ph.D. degree in each of the three tracks includes satisfactory completion of required and elective courses,  completion of a grant proposal outside the student’s area of dissertation research with oral defense, submission of at least one article from the dissertation research for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and completion of a dissertation with oral defense. 

Courses Required for PhD Degree by Track:

Environmental and Occupational Hygiene Track 

Environmental HPRO 830 Foundations of Public Health 3 credit hours
  ENV 810 Principles of Occupational & Environmental Health 3 credit hours
  ENV 816 Environmental Exposure Assessment 3 credit hours
  ENV 970 Seminar 1 credit hours
Epidemiology EPI 820 Epidemiology Theory and Practice 3 credit hours
  EPI 821 Epidemiology Advanced Design and Methods 3 credit hours
Biostatistics BIOS 806 or 816 Biostatistics l 3 credit hours
  BIOS 808

Biostatistics ll

3 credit hours
 
Research ENV 999 Doctoral Dissertation 10-16 credit hours 
Electives   Graduate level 800/900 courses
At least 2 courses
3-6 credit hours



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Occupational Biomechanics Track

Environmental HPRO 830 Foundations of Public Health 3 credit hours
  ENV 850 Occupational Biomechanics 3 credit hours
  ENV 970 Seminar 1 credit hour
Epidemiology EPI 820 Epidemiology Theory and Practice 3 credit hours
Ergonomics PE 8400 Motor Learning 3 credit hours/UNO
  PE 8410 Motor Control 3 credit hours/UNO
  PE 8450 Advanced Biomechanics 3 credit hours/UNO
Biostatistics BIOS 806 or 816 Biostatistics I 3 credit hours
  BIOS 808 Biostatistics II 3 credit hours
 
Research ENV 999 Doctoral Dissertation 10-16 credit hours
Elective   Graduate level 800/900 course
At least 1 course
3-6 credit hours



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Toxicology Track

Environmental HPRO 830 Foundations of Public Health 3 credit hours
  ENV 888 Principles of Toxicology 3 credit hours
  ENV 950 Advanced Toxicology 3 credit hours
  ENV 970 Seminar 1 credit hour

Epidemiology

EPI 820 Epidemiology Theory and Practice 3 credit hours

Biochemistry

BRTP 821
plus one of the following
Macromolecular Structure & Function 3 credit hours
  BRTP 822 or The Cell and Gene Regulation  2 credit hours
  BRTP 823 or  Molecular Cell Biology 2 credit hours
  BRTP 824 Cell Signaling 3 credit hours
Biostatistics BIOS 806 or 816 Biostatistics I 3 credit hours
  BIOS 808 Biostatistics II  3 credit hours
   
Research ENV 999 Doctoral Dissertation   10-16 credit hours
Elective(s)   Graduate level 800/900   

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For more information contact:  

Chandran Achutan, PhD, CIH
Associate Professor & Graduate Studies Director
Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health | College of Public Health

University of Nebraska Medical Center
984388 Nebraska Medical Center | Omaha, NE 68198
402.559.8599 | fax 402.559.1234
cachutan@unmc.edu