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PhD in Molecular Toxicology - Environmental Health Sciences

Offering Department: 
Program Description: 

The 29 faculty of our interdepartmental PhD in Molecular Toxicology Program come from sixteen different departments in the School of Medicine, the Fielding School of Public Health, and the College of Letters and Science at UCLA. Members of our faculty also participate in the activities of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the California Nanosystems Institute. Areas of particular strength in our program include chemical carcinogenesis, repair of DNA damage, air pollution toxicology, nanotoxicology, and the environmental causation of Parkinson's disease. The program is supported by a training grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Our program is now in its eighteenth year.

All students in the program receive a full stipend and fees. Financial support comes from a number of sources, including an NIH training grant, funding to the program from the UCLA Graduate Division, research grants of the faculty, individual fellowships, and short term teaching assistantships.

Program Requirements

The doctoral program encompasses the following major elements:

  • Course work
  • Written qualifying examinations
  • Oral Qualifying Examination
  • Dissertation
  • Defense of the dissertation 

Course Requirements

For curriculum details, including course requirements and course sequence:  

Molecular Toxicology Curriculum

Qualifying examinations—written and oral

This examination will typically be taken towards the end of the student's first quarter of their third year at UCLA. Both a written and oral qualifying examination is required. The format for the written qualifying examination will consist of a NIH-style research proposal on a topic which is approved by members of the Thesis Committee. The Thesis Committee will consist of four faculty members including the student's advisor, who will serve as the Chair.

The written proposal will be an original research proposal.

The oral examination of the written proposal will allow the Thesis Committee to fully evaluate the ability of the student to discuss the subject matter in a scholarly fashion. The student must be able to defend the validity and importance of the proposed research as well as the experimental approaches taken. The oral qualifying examination also provides the Thesis Committee the opportunity to specifically address perceived weaknesses in the student's educational background as well as evaluate the student's communication skills. Thus, it is expected that students will be able to both write about and verbally discuss his/her research proposal and experiments in a manner commensurate with someone receiving a PhD in Molecular Toxicology.

After successful completion of both the oral and the written qualifying examinations, the student will advance to candidacy. 


A dissertation based on original research is required. The dissertation must be written in the format approved by UCLA. As a general guideline, the dissertation should consist of research equivalent to at least two peer-reviewed publications in reputable journals in the field.

Final examination

A final defense of the Ph.D. thesis will be required.

Typical Course Sequencing

To view the curriculum and course sequencing for the program:

Molecular Toxicology Curriculum

Time To Degree

The normative time for the degree is 9years (18 quarters).


Desired Qualifications

In addition to meeting the University’s minimum requirements:

  • A minimum of a four (4) unit undergraduate course in statistics is required
  • While a master's degree is not a pre-requisite, the ideal training for an undergraduate would be to major either in Chemistry or Biology and to have a solid background in both of these disciplines with some quantitative training
  • Excellent students from all disciplines will be considered for admission, with the opportunity to make up deficiencies during their graduate curriculum.

Admissions Process

Applicants are only admitted in the Fall.  Applicants who wish to be considered for all financial aid considerations should have their applications, letters, transcripts and official GRE scores here at the School of Public Health by December 1 of the year preceding the desired entrance year.

 The application process has three steps:

  1. Submit an on-line application and pay the application fee at SOPHAS,
  2. Submit an online application and pay the application fee at UCLA Graduate Admissions, and
  3. Mail required academic documents and test scores to SOPHAS and to UCLA's School of Public Health.

For complete application instructions and the list of required materials, review UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Admission Application Check List and Submission Instructions.

As we receive many more qualified applicants for the program than there are available spaces, meeting the minimum requirements for admission does not ensure admission to the program. 

Tuition and Fees

For the most up to date fees and more information on fee breakdown, visit the registrar's office.

Please see FSPH Financial Opportunities page for information on awards, scholarships, training opportunities, employment, summer internship funding, and need-based aid. Please note that opportunities listed under 'Summer Internship Funding' are only applicable to MPH students.

Faculty in this Department

To view faculty bios for faculty involved with the Molecular Toxicology program, click here.

For a list of faculty in the department of Environmental Health Sciences, please click here.

To search all School of Public Health faculty members by name, department or area of expertise, click here.

Helpful Links

Who to Contact for More Information

For more information or questions, please contact Susana Luis at or 310.206.1619.


*This information is intended as an overview, and should be used as a guide only. Requirements, course offerings and other elements may change, and this overview may not list all details of the program. For the most up-to-date information, please consult the registrar’s office.

* Admission requirements listed are departmental requirements, and are in addition to the University's minimum requirements. Many programs receive more applicants than can be admitted, so meeting the minimum requirements for admission does not ensure admission. Every effort is made to ensure minimum admissions requirements are up to date - for the most up-to-date information on the University's minimum requirements, please visit the UCLA Graduate Division.

** Fees are subject to change and should be used as a guide only. For the most up to date fees and more information on fee breakdown, visit the registrar's office.