Toxicology Graduate Program

"Toxicology is the study of the adverse effects of chemical, physical, or biological agents on people, animals, and the environment. Toxicologists are scientists trained to investigate, interpret, and communicate the nature of those effects."  - Society of Toxicology

Graduate students in toxicology come from a variety of chemical and life science undergraduate backgrounds. The graduate program is designed to prepare students for positions in academia, government, and industry (for-profit and nonprofit) at the masters or doctoral level. Courses are selected in accordance with the research needs and career goals of the individual graduate student. These can be considered in three general areas, basic core courses, courses in toxicology, and those related to the area of research. Please see links to plans of study below.

Upon completion of graduate education, toxicologists assume a variety of roles in academia, industry and government. These include basic research on mechanisms of toxicity, teaching, application of toxicology research to safety evaluation of both new and existing chemicals, and risk analysis to characterize and predict the potential of chemicals to produce acute and chronic illnesses in human populations.

What do Toxicologists do?

Toxicologists are concerned with the hazards associated with chemicals encountered through occupational and environmental exposures including their occurrence as air and water pollutants. They are also concerned with risks resulting from the use of chemicals as pharmaceutical agents and food additives. In modern toxicology, emphasis is placed on understanding the mechanisms involved in the actions of toxicants in order to determine their relevance to human health. To accomplish these goals, studies are conducted using animal models at all levels ranging from whole animals to subcellular fractions as well as a large number of cell culture systems.  Toxicologists are widely known to engage in forensic criminological investigation; but this is not the focus of this program.

Research Opportunities

  • Environmental causes of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and essential tremors
  • Fetal origin of adult diseases due to early exposure to chemicals (metals, pesticides)
  • Molecular and systems toxicology: identification of the molecular mechanisms of the adverse effects associated with a chemical exposure. 
  • Radiation caused cellular toxicities
  • Rodent model of Parkinson’s disease, zebrafish-based genomic analysis, in vivo and in vitro models of blood-brain barrier transport of toxins
  • Epidemiological identification and characterization of exposed populations and biomarkers

Also refer to descriptions of each faculty’s research interests for specific research topics.

Degree Paths

  • M.S. Nonthesis
  • M.S. Thesis
  • Ph.D.

Sample Plan of Study

History of Program in HSCI

Toxicology has a long and rich history at Purdue University. The graduate program in toxicology was a part of graduate curricula in the School of Pharmacy under the leadership of Dr. Tom S. Miya in 1963, who was the head of the Pharmacology and Toxicology and the past President of Society of Toxicology (1979-1980). The vigorous program in toxicology has trained outstanding alumni for the past 50 years. Dr. Michael P. Holsapple, who graduated from this program and later became another SOT President (2010-2011), is one of many successful examples. In 1979, the School of Health Sciences became an independent academic unit from the School of Pharmacy. The environmental toxicology was one of the original graduate programs in the School and has been continuing to prosper under the leaderships that follow until today.

Graduate students in this program have a tradition to participate in interdisciplinary activities. Multiple opportunities exist for interactions with scientists in other areas including: School of Veterinary Medicine, School of Pharmacy, School of Biomedical Engineering, and Departments of Entomology, Biology, Psychology, Chemistry, Physics, Forestry and Natural Resources, and Agronomy. Also of interest are the Cancer Center, Center for the Environment, Purdue Water Community, and the Purdue University Neurosciences Program.

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