Toxicology  Interviews


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Toxicology students learn about how chemicals affect other life forms. They may study the effects of pollution, drugs or industrial chemicals.

Toxicology involves extensive research and hands-on experience. Some colleges and universities have research institutes right on campus. Others may be affiliated with off-campus hospitals or centers.

Heather Hodgert Jury took a PhD in toxicology. She did her lab work off campus in a research facility. She says that exposed her to many different fields of research.

Toxicology students can choose to research a variety of topics, including cancer, asthma, Alzheimer's, chronic pain, environment or pesticides.

The core courses students take are basically in math and science. At the graduate and doctoral level, these core courses include principles of toxicology, fate of chemicals in the environment and analytical chemistry.

Expect to put in long hours in both the classroom and research laboratory. Jury says at the graduate level, the hours are long. It can be at least 60 hours a week -- and sometimes experiments don't work.

"The frustration of experiments not working can be difficult to deal with, but you learn to take a great amount of pleasure from small success," Jury says.

How to Prepare

Most of the basic courses needed for a toxicology degree are taken at the undergraduate level. High school students interested in toxicology should take as many math and science courses as possible.

"If at all possible, go for the AP classes," says Karin Sandoval. She took a PhD in toxicology at the University of Arizona. "They're very helpful. I didn't take them for the credit for college, but it helped me out significantly as to what to expect."

Get involved with science clubs that may tour research facilities or may conduct experiments. Environmental groups such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the United States Fish and Wildlife Society can help students decide what field of toxicology they may be interested in.