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Molecular and Enviro Toxicology
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Graduate Program

The Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Center promotes research on suspected and known environmental toxicants with an emphasis on multidisciplinary approaches, provides education and laboratory training at the graduate and postdoctoral levels, and facilitates exchange of scientific information relating to molecular and environmental toxicology.

Approximately 75 faculty throughout campus are affiliated with the Center, providing access to facilities and research in a variety of disciplines. Their focus is on achieving the highest standards in biochemistry, carcinogenesis, cell biology, developmental biology, genetics, genomics, immunology, neurobiology, proteomics, and xenobiotic fate and metabolism research. These faculty are eligible to guide graduate students working toward an interdisciplinary M.S. degree or Ph.D. degree in Molecular and Environmental Toxicology.

It is a small program in a dynamic setting. Students typically earn the M.S. in two to three years and the Ph.D. in five to six years.

The graduate program has two broad areas: health-related toxicology and toxicants in the environment. Graduates of this program have a solid foundation in both areas with a command of skills in one or the other.

Graduate students become familiar with the concepts and basic problems of molecular and environmental toxicology through enrollment in a core curriculum and participation in seminar and special topics courses. Courses are designed to provide a framework for asking appropriate toxicological questions as well as introduce experimental methods and information sources useful in addressing these questions. Through their thesis research projects, students learn to seek the mechanisms relating to the origin and fate of chemicals in the environment and underlying the phenomenological changes induced by toxicants in humans, animals and plants.

Graduates of the program are employed in academic research and teaching, private industry, and government agencies. These are demanding jobs that may determine the fate of a product in development or affect the health of thousands.

The program is flexible and responsive to students. Students work with METC faculty members on various committees such as Executive Steering, Admissions, Graduate Achievement, and Curriculum Assessment.

Principal Areas of Research
    Health-Related Toxicology
      Biochemical and Genetic Toxicology
      Mechanisms of metabolic activation and detoxication; genetic control of toxicant effects on cells; chemical promoter and inhibitors of carcinogenesis; effects of toxicants on hormone action and on the nervous system; mechanisms of immunosuppression.

      A rigorous program designed to provide the student with a strong basic foundation in both toxicology and immunology. Numerous research opportunities, involving a synthesis of toxicology and immunology, are available.

      Neurochemical, electrophysiological, and behavioral consequences of neurotoxicant exposure; effects of neurotoxic nervous systems; presynaptic and postsynaptic constituents altered by neurotoxicant exposure.

    Toxicants in the Environment
      Physical/Chemical Behavior of Toxicants
      The mode of action and environmental fate of pesticides, industrial wastes, food toxins, etc.; instrumental analysis of toxicants and their breakdown products.

      Toxicant Remediation
      Development of methods to facilitate removal of toxicants from the environment.

      Ecotoxicology. How toxicants affect the functioning of biological systems, including natural (lake, forest) and managed (food crop) systems.

Ph.D. Program Requirements
A PhD requires 32 graded credits per Graduate School requirements.
  • 20 of these credits must be graded academic credits*
  • 13 of the 20 graded academic credits will be taken from METC Graded Core Academic Courses
    • 625 (3), 626 (3), 631 (3), 634 (1), 699 (1), and 812 (2)
  • 7 of the graded 20 academic credits will be taken according to the recommendation of your advisor and research advisory committee
  • The remaining credits will be based upon work accomplished in 990-Research
*Note: Work done at another institution may be eligible to fulfill this requirement. You must discuss this with the program director during orientation week.

Twenty credits in graduate level courses must be earned. Entering students whose highest degree is at the B.S. or B.A. level normally direct their full efforts to attaining the Ph.D. degree without acquiring a M.S. degree in the process.

Core Curriculum
The core curriculum in Molecular and Environmental Toxicology consists of the courses listed below in which students are required to earn a grade of B or better.

Molecular and Environmental Toxicology 625, Toxicology I (3 cr.)
Molecular and Environmental Toxicology 626, Toxicology II (3 cr.)
Molecular and Environmental Toxicology 631, Toxicants in the Environment (3 cr.)
Molecular and Environmental Toxicology 634, Ecotoxicology: Impacts on Populations, Communities and Ecosystems (1 cr.)
Molecular and Environmental Toxicology 699, Special Topics (Prelim A) (1 cr.)
Surgical Sciences 812 Research Ethics and Career Development (2 cr.)

Graded core curriculum courses generally will account for 13 of the 20 graduate-level credits that Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Ph.D. students must earn. Ph.D. students are required to take a minimum of 7 additional graded, graduate-level credits. Credits earned in order to make up course deficiencies are not included in the 20 required graduate-level credits.

In most cases this will mean that the student will take a total of 20 didactic credits. Please note, however, that if one or more core courses is waived, the student still is required to earn 20 graduate-level credits. An example of such a special case: A student who had already taken some of our core courses as a UW-Madison Pharmacy/Toxicology undergraduate.

It is ultimately up to the student and his/her major professor to choose the courses that the student takes to earn the remaining 7 credits beyond the core curriculum credits. To choose these remaining 7 credits, students are advised to discuss with their advisor.

Students are required to submit their intended sequence of courses by April 15 of the first year in the program. This will be considered for certification and approval by the Chair of the METC Graduate Achievement Committee.

Focal Areas
Each student identifies one of the subject areas described. The focal area should be relevant to the individual's research interests and career goals and selected with the guidance and approval of the major professor and the Chair of the Graduate Achievement Committee. To some degree, the choice of major professor determines the focal area.

This program does not require that each student take all of the courses listed for the focal area. A student may choose to acquire the knowledge by other means, such as literature study and discussions.

Health-Related Toxicology Focal Areas
    a. Biochemical and Genetic Toxicology
    b. Immunotoxicology
    c. Neurotoxicology
Toxicants In The Environment Focal Areas
    a. Ecotoxicology (aquatic/terrestrial)
    b. Physical/Chemical Behavior of Toxicants (aquatic, terrestrial, atmospheric)
    c. Toxicant Remediation

Other Focal Areas
Students, with the guidance of the major professor and the appropriate faculty committee of the Center, may constitute a program of courses in a focal area not named above. Such programs must be approved by the Steering Committee before they are proposed to the Graduate Achievement Committee for certification.

Minor in Another Discipline
A minor (a sequence of courses in a related field) is not required of Ph.D. candidates in Molecular and Environmental Toxicology. However, a student may choose to complete a departmental minor (at least 10 credits of course work in one department) to demonstrate academic strength in a single, well-defined discipline. Course requirements are determined by the minor department.

Teaching Requirement
Ph.D. candidates are required to serve as teaching assistants in Molecular and Environmental Toxicology 625, 626, 630, ie 632/633/634 for at least one semester.

Research, Exams, & Thesis

The basis of the thesis; generally performed during the entire period of study for the Ph.D. degree.

Research Advisory Committee
Chosen within the first year of study; conducts the Prelim Exam B (oral prelim), the Final Oral Defense Exam, and serves as a resource for consultation and advice until completion of the degree.

Prelim Exam A
Prelim Exam A is a course given by the METC Director or other faculty member. This course provides students practice in writing a mock research proposal. It is intended as preparation for the thesis reserach proposal required for Prelim Exam B. It is taken during the student's first or second summer.

Prelim Exam B - Oral Prelim Exam
Based on the student's presentation of the research proposal for the doctoral thesis. More Info

Final Thesis Defense Student's thesis defense
The requirements for the Ph.D. usually are completed within six years of entrance (five years for students who enter with a Master's degree).

M.S. Program Requirements
Most graduate students in Molecular and Environmental Toxicology are working toward the Ph.D. degree. Those who choose the M.S. degree program must earn at least 12 credits in graded graduate level courses. The following courses, in which a grade of B or better must be achieved, are required:

Molecular and Environmental Toxicology 625, Toxicology I (3 cr.)
Molecular and Environmental Toxicology 626, Toxicology II (3 cr.)
Molecular and Environmental Toxicology 631, Toxicants in the Environment (3 cr.)

Graded core curriculum courses thus account for 9 of the credits required for Master of Science candidates. Credits earned while eliminating course deficiencies are not included in the required graduate-level credits.

Additional courses may be selected in accord with the candidate's research interests. No focal area need be identified, nor is there a teaching requirement.

The candidate carries out a research project in the laboratory of a participating faculty member and submits an M.S. thesis, documenting the research performed, to an examining committee. This committee administers a final oral examination covering materials from the candidate's course work and research project. Normally the Master's program is completed within three years of entrance.

Minor in Molecular and Environmental Toxicology
Students with a departmental major may select a Molecular and Environmental Toxicology minor, which consists of 10 credits selected from MET and Focal courses
Date Last Updated: 07/01/2010 webteam@med.wisc.edu