Curriculum Information – Environmental Health PhD (PDF)

Students of the PhD program complete a thesis and a mix of core courses and electives that provides a solid foundation in environmental health.

While completing program requirements, you will have the opportunity to explore your unique interests by choosing an area of emphasis. To complete program requirements, you will choose electives, in consultation with your academic advisor, which may include credits towards a minor.

Students complete at least 48 credits as follows:

  • Public health core requirements (3 credits)
  • Thesis (24 credits)
  • Elective courses (21 credits)

Areas of Emphasis

Students must take at least 10 credits of environmental health coursework in consultation with their advisor. Students may choose to focus their electives in one of the following areas of emphasis:

Examine the interactions of pollutants with air, water, and soil, and their exposures to humans and wildlife. The curriculum emphasizes the processes that control chemical behavior, transport, and fate as a function of environmental factors and chemical properties.

Current laboratory research focuses on understanding the processes that govern organic toxicant behavior in the aquatic environment. Fundamental research in the laboratory is also conducted to develop and test hypotheses of chemical behavior in the “real world.”

Advantages of studying environmental chemistry at UMN?

  • Facilities: You will have access to the vast intellectual and technical resources available at the U of M, including state-of-the-art Environmental Chemistry laboratory.
  • Location: Minnesota offers an abundance of natural resources and lakes, rivers, and streams for aquatic research.
  • Collaborative: Multidisciplinary research opportunities exist across the School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, and state agencies.
  • Research leaders: The environmental chemistry laboratory participates in a large multiagency effort that is developing a model for use in the Great Lakes that describes toxic chemical behavior. Additional projects concentrate on the relative roles of atmospheric versus nonatmospheric sources of chemicals to the Great Lakes and the state of Minnesota, to aid in the management and regulation of the ecosystem.

Examine the emergence of air borne, food borne, vector borne and sexually transmitted infectious diseases, and what interventions reduce their prevalence.

The environment and changing conditions in the environment can have a great impact on the distribution and occurrence of infectious diseases. Global climate change is a growing concern regarding the potential expansion of tropical vector borne diseases. In evaluating the chain of infection, the environment may play a key role in reservoir maintenance, as well as a route of transmission through food, water, and air. From basic principles of infection control to predicting the impact of emerging infections, this area of emphasis explores the environmental factors associated with infectious diseases.

(Note: Injury & Violence Epidemiology & Prevention falls within this concentration)

Identify factors that cause diseases and injuries within the environment and workplace, in order to promote disease prevention. This area of emphasis strives to understand the causal impact of the environment and occupations on human health. The study of environmental and occupational epidemiology requires knowledge of both disease and exposure. The curriculum emphasizes both, comprising epidemiologic methods, biostatistics, basic sciences, exposure measurement, toxicology, biology, and environmental health. Students may focus on one of three components: exposures related to cancer, exposures related to injury, or epidemiologic methods.

Graduates will have the knowledge and skills needed to identify the causes of occupational related diseases, and how to improve the overall health of working populations. Learn more (PDF)


  • Provide an academic curriculum to develop a strong methodological foundation for epidemiologic research in working populations, including an understanding of modern epidemiologic theory, applied epidemiologic methods, and advanced statistical methods for analysis.
  • Provide a framework to integrate the fundamentals of the methods of epidemiology, both theoretical and applied, to the study of working populations and the work environment and to incorporate environmental systems concepts such as the exposome and metabolome into epidemiologic research.
  • Provide opportunities to develop scientific research capability, including hypothesis development, study design, data collection and analysis, interpretation, and communication.
  • Develop critical thinking skills and an understanding of the multidisciplinary nature of occupational and environmental epidemiology and the importance of incorporating other disciplines into their work.
  • Create a sustainable and diverse training program with mechanisms for continuous improvement.

This area of emphasis develops leaders in toxicology research and practice who will create new strategies to predict and manage environmental determinants of human disease. Students learn from a highly accomplished group of experts across scientific disciplines, and gain a deep understanding how harmful environmental and chemical exposure can impact human processes.

Examine the leading causes of foodborne illness, their epidemiology, sources and routes of transmission and strategies for prevention and control across food systems. Learn how surveillance for foodborne illnesses is conducted and how results of surveillance and outbreak investigations are used to improve food safety.

There is greater need than ever for employers to protect and promote the well-being of workers. Current trends shaping the field of Occupational and Environmental Health Nursing include: an increasing number of workplace hazards (including chemical, physical, psychosocial, and biological agents), governmental regulations, an increased prevalence of chronic disease and injury in an aging workforce, public demands for healthcare reform, environmental protection and sustainability, and an increasing emphasis on global health.

This area of emphasis develops future leaders who are uniquely prepared to improve the health and safety of workers on a large scale. The curriculum is designed to bring students to a high level of academic competence, and is intended for those interested in a career focused on research and graduate education. The curriculum also emphasizes the statistical and analytic methods required to conduct original research, and can be tailored to the student’s dissertation topic. Students develop dissertation topics from ongoing research projects, their own ideas, or in association with their employer.

The area of emphasis integrates the sciences of nursing, medicine, public health (e.g., epidemiology and environmental health) and occupational health (e.g., toxicology, safety, industrial hygiene and ergonomics). Students apply coursework to real world problems in local, regional, national or global settings. These learning experiences provide students with invaluable exposure to professional mentors and current public health challenges.

Who should apply?

Nurses who are interested in public health, passionate about the prevention of illness and injury, and want to work with employed adults should apply. Individuals must have at least one year of professional experience as a registered nurse (licensed to practice in the U.S.).

Student research examples

  • Necessary Drugs; Unnessary Expsoures: An Intervention to Protect Oncology Healthcare Workers
  • Implementing a Sharps Injury Reduction Program at a Charity Hospital in India
  • A Mixed Methods Inquiry into the Injuries Sustained by Security Guards at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital

Injuries and violence account for about 5 million deaths worldwide each year, or about 9 percent of the global mortality burden. In the U.S., injuries and violence claim roughly 200,000 deaths with estimated costs of 1.4 trillion dollars, annually. Injuries and violence are the leading cause of death for persons ages 1 to 44 and lead to more years of potential life lost than cancer and cardiovascular diseases combined. Some of today’s leading mechanisms of injury and violence include opioid overdose, motor vehicle crashes, falls, homicide, suicide, and natural and human-induced disasters.

The School of Public Health is leading efforts to characterize the burden of and risk factors for death and non-fatal injuries, and to identify evidence-based interventions and policies to prevent injuries and violence.

This area of emphasis involves a rigorous course of study that emphasizes mastery in advanced academic and research training. The curriculum provides a comprehensive understanding of environmental and occupational health, and includes coursework in epidemiology, injury/occupational epidemiology, biostatistics, and advanced research and design.

Students are actively involved in conducting research and presenting findings at major local, national, and international professional meetings and in peer-reviewed publications. A robust advisory board—comprised of local and national experts—enhances the program through research contributions, mentorship, career connections, and ongoing course review and evaluation.

Research Centers
The U of MN School of Public Health is home to nationally and internationally recognized centers that enhance public health education through high-caliber research, outreach, and training. Affiliated Research Centers:

  • Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety Education and Research Center
  • Regional Injury Prevention Research Center
  • Center for Violence Prevention and Control
  • Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center

Specialized PhD training in Occupational Injury Prevention is available for U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Qualified students can receive traineeships that provide full or partial funding to cover tuition, fees, health benefits, and stipend through the Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety. Other sources of funding for students in all degree programs include research assistantships, teaching assistantships, internships, fellowships, and scholarships.

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