Toxicology  Program Description


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dotOne 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 Technicians

The Toxicology Data Network from the US National Library of Medicine

National Toxicology Program
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Making your Life Toxic-Free
Information from the World Wildlife Fund

Just the Facts

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