One day, toxicology students may be able to increase the human lifespan
and possibly cure diseases such as Alzheimer's or cancer. They study biology
and chemistry to find out how chemicals in our environment affect the health
of humans and animals.
In the U.S., there are only six universities that offer a bachelor's degree
in toxicology. There are many more programs at the master's and PhD level.
"Depending on whether they have been undergraduate or graduate students,
they will have presented seminars, written essays, written and critiqued scientific
papers, written theses and grant applications and presented scientific papers
to their colleagues and faculty and at scientific meetings," says Maurice
Hirst, a toxicology professor.
Jack Hinson, director of the division of toxicology at the University of
Arkansas, says students with undergraduate degrees in both biology and
chemistry find the most success at the graduate level. "Toxicology is
a field that requires an excellent knowledge in both disciplines."
Hinson considers students serious applicants when they meet certain criteria.
"We consider four qualities to be important -- excellent undergraduate
grades, high graduate record examination (GRE) scores, excellent recommendations
from former college professors and previous experience working in a research
laboratory," he says.
Christine Williams, a professor at Duke University, encourages a strong
science and math background. "Hardly any school offers courses in toxicology
or majors in toxicology at the undergraduate level," she says.
"So in high school, students should get a good science background, get
great grades and great SAT scores so that they can get into a high-quality
college or university."
Take biology, chemistry, physics and all the math you can find.
English class is also important, since scientists need communication skills.
Join high school science clubs. Volunteering at hospitals or clinics,
taking a first aid or CPR course, or participating in drug and alcohol awareness
programs can also help high school students learn about toxicology.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Science
The Toxicology Data Network from the US National Library of Medicine
National Toxicology Program
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Information from the World Wildlife Fund