MS/PhD and PhD

Learning Objectives

PhD students in Environmental Health Sciences are trained to become global leaders in research and teaching in the broad, interdisciplinary field of environmental health sciences. Graduates of the Environmental Health Sciences doctoral program can be found working throughout the world, in both the public and private sectors. Graduates hold positions at top global universities; in national and international organizations; in local, state, and federal government; in voluntary health organizations; and in the corporate sector. While completing the PhD program, our graduates work to:

  • Clarify critical gaps in scientific knowledge that impede the resolution of environmental health problems and plan and execute original research that will lead to solutions of such problems.
  • Conceive, develop and conduct original research leading to useful applications in environmental health sciences, toxicology, environmental health policy or industrial hygiene.
  • Apply advanced methodology to research projects in environmental health sciences and develop new research methods to address environmental health problems.
  • Develop and demonstrate written and oral communications skills by preparing papers, summaries, briefings and presentations regarding environmental health science.

Students in the EHS Ph.D. program also have the opportunity to complete a Designated Emphasis in Computational and Genomic Biology (see details).


Direct admission to the Ph.D. program requires a master's degree in a relevant subject. Exceptionally well qualified students without a master's degree, but who wish to pursue a doctoral degree can apply for admission to the M.S./Ph.D. program. This program requires mastery of the subject matter normally gained in the M.S. or M.P.H. programs and, as a consequence, may take somewhat longer to complete the full doctoral requirements than those entering with a prior master's degree.


Most successful Ph.D. applicants establish rapport with potential faculty mentors in the division long before applying to the program. Prospective students applying directly to the Ph.D. program should contact faculty members whose research is of interest to them about the possibility of mentorship as soon as possible. Prospective applicants should closely read recent faculty research, and recently funded grant abstracts, and be prepared to discuss with faculty how their specific skills, interests and career goals intersect with the activities in the faculty member's research group. Most successful Ph.D. applicants are in communication with faculty about these issues no later than the summer before the application deadline.


For a list of Ph.D. program course requirements, please consult the student handbook.

Ph.D. students take two examinations as part of their programs. The EHS Graduate Group Preliminary Exam normally takes place after 3-4 semesters of course work and requires writing a NIH-style proposal for research of interest to the student. It is followed by an oral portion that may cover general knowledge in the environmental health field as well as details related to the submitted proposal. After successful completion of the Preliminary Exam, students are expected to take the Qualifying Exam within a few months. The format of this exam follows the guidelines laid down by Graduate Division. More details of both exams are available from the Division Manager or EHS Program Coordinator and the Chair of the EHS Graduate Group.

After the Qualifying Examination has been taken, a formal report on the results, signed by all committee members, is sent to the Graduate Division. When the student has satisfied all requirements and passed the qualifying examination, the student completes an application for Advancement to Candidacy form. The Graduate Division computes time in candidacy from the semester following the one in which the student passed the Qualifying Examination. Students who have been advanced to candidacy are eligible to apply for the doctoral student support award for research administered by the School of Public Health (contact a Student Services Officer in the School of Public Health for more information).
During the entire period of study, a doctoral student is required to be in continuous registration, except during those semesters for which the Dean has approved a petition for withdrawal, or during the semester when the Filing Fee is used in lieu of registration.



All EHS doctoral students have a primary faculty advisor who provides guidance on their intended course of study and areas of research interest. Advisors may be changed by mutual consent. Students are expected to meet with their advisors at the beginning of each term and are encouraged to do so more often. 
Group advising sessions will be held occasionally during the academic year. Students are encouraged to attend these sessions to learn more about general academic policies, recommended courses, and other developments in EHS.



Prospective PhD students should discuss their research and career interests with prospective mentors among EHS graduate group faculty long before submission of their application. Prospective PhD students can also reach out to the Chair of the Environmental Health Sciences Graduate Group (Prof. Ellen Eisen) or Prof. Bob Spear for more information about research opportunities in the program; and should reach out to EHS Program Coordinator Norma Firestone regarding financial support, logistics and student experience in the program.