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The Major Program

Toxic agents in the environment include pesticides, food additives, industrial waste, and metals as well as chemicals produced by animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. Students in the Environmental Toxicology major learn how toxicants produce adverse effects by understanding their environmental fates and biological activities. They learn about monitoring concentrations and the distribution and persistence of agents found in water, soil, air and foods. Toxicity testing procedures and exposure assessments are used to help evaluate potential for harm to humans and other species. By understanding the cellular targets and biochemical mechanisms of perturbation by toxicants, toxicologists can better estimate adverse effects. Overall, students learn mechanisms by which toxic agents act, their origin and fate and how toxicologists evaluate the risk of adverse effects and balance them against the benefits of us.

The Program. Preparatory courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics are required to provide fundamental principles that underlie toxicology. Students in the major are expected to understand the environmental fates and biological activities of different classes of toxic substances, and the legislative issues that arise from chemical use. Opportunities are available to develop in-depth understanding in areas of emphasis through selection of electives.

Emphases. Elective course work in many disciplines can complement the required core courses. Providing a framework for selecting restricted electives, the major offers specializations in (1) Ecotoxicology and Environmental Chemistry, (2) Forensic Science and Regulatory Toxicology, and (3) Molecular and Biomedical Toxicology. The first category includes topics in chemical fate, transport and degradation, as well as ecology, wildlife, and aquatic toxicology. The second category includes forensic science, environmental policy and management, and public health. The third category includes pharmacology, biotechnology, medicine, veterinary medicine, and food toxicology. Students are encouraged to select course work from these Emphases and beyond to match their interests.

Internships and Career Alternatives. Occupations that use environmental toxicology include risk assessment, pharmaceutical development, food additive toxicity testing, managing regulatory compliance, residue or forensic analysis, pest control, monitoring and field sampling, industrial hygiene, and environmental health and safety. A substantial proportion of graduates elect to pursue advanced training in graduate or professional schools. Others with the B.S. degree have gone on to law, medical, pharmacy, or veterinary medical school, as well as to graduate programs in pharmacology, toxicology, agricultural and environmental chemistry, or public health. During undergraduate study, optional internships or research projects are recommended to provide training and work experience to help students pursue future goals.

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Updated: November 21, 2017 12:17 PM