PhD in Environmental Health Sciences

The PhD in environmental health sciences (EHS) is offered through Emory’s Laney Graduate School, and provides students with in-depth training in both laboratory and population-based research.

What You'll Learn

Students participate in problem-based learning courses and take classes in areas like: research design and management, laboratory and field methods in exposure science, environmental epidemiology, molecular toxicology, public health ecology, risk assessment, and more.

What You'll Do

Students are required to complete three research rotations and have multiple opportunities to collaborate with faculty and to explore interests within our three major areas of research: Exposure science, biological mechanisms, and population health. 

What You Need to Know

Students matriculate in the fall semester only.  Apply through the Laney Graduate School.

Frequently Asked Questions


Application Deadline

The application cycle for fall 2019 is open.

Applications for fall 2019 matriculation will be available September 2018 through December 1, 2018. Apply through the Laney Graduate School (not through SOPHAS).

Training Areas

This competency includes training in environmental chemistry, environmental microbiology, environmental exposure assessment and the use of exposure biomarkers.

Students learn the basic theory behind and practical methods for sampling and analyzing chemical and microbiological contaminants in environmental (air, water, soil, food, etc.) and biological (exhaled air, blood, urine, etc.) factors. 

Gain training in:

  • Direct methods of assessment, including source and micro-environmental sampling and bio essays
  • Indirect methods like modeling and conducting survey questionnaires
  • Analyzing and interpreting field samples in the lab
  • Communicating their results to a public health audience and apply the techniques within a human health effects setting.
This research area focuses on the mechanisms of toxic action and its impacts on human physiology.

Develop skills like:

  • A basic understanding of human physiology
  • Ability to identify factors affecting vulnerability to chemical exposures and infectious agents
  • Ability to identify pathophysiological consequences and assessment (biomarkers) of such exposures

Though this area of study typically falls under the field of toxicology, increased environmental exposures (including factors like allergens, mold toxins, and infectious agents) make this competency vital and relevant for global environmental health students. This knowledge is important for understanding why certain populations, such as children and the elderly, may exhibit increased vulnerability to environmental hazards. 

This component focuses on how environmental exposures impact human health on a population level, including proximal exposures to environmental toxicants and infectious agents, and distal environmental determinants like climate change, the built environment, and environmental reservoirs of infectious disease.

Topics explored include:

  • Epidemiologic studies of environmental exposures
  • Risk assessment (which integrates data on external exposure, internal dose, and disease)
  • Advanced and emerging risk assessment tools (like remote sensing, geospatial and mathematical modeling, and air and water dispersion models)

Admission Requirements

  • Baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university
    • Required prerequisite coursework includes college-level biology and chemistry. Statistics, calculus, organic chemistry, and physiology are also preferred, but not required. Accepted applicants who have not taken biology and chemistry may be asked to take these classes prior to matriculating in the fall.
  • GRE scores taken within the last five years. Scores in the 50th percentile or higher are recommended.
  • Application + $75 application fee
  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher in upper-division courses
  • Transcripts from each post-secondary institution you have attended
    • WES transcript evaluations for non-U.S. transcripts are highly preferred (upload with transcripts)
  • Resume/CV

Finalists are required to interview with faculty on campus February 7-8, 2019.  Applicants not currently in the U.S. may be invited to meet via Skype.

Full list of application requirements

International Applicants

In addition to these requirements, all departments require international students to submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores. All PhD candidates will need to apply through Laney Graduate School.

TOEFL scores should be: at least 79-80 on the Internet-based test. Students who earned a degree from an institution within the United States can be waived from the TOEFL requirement.

Paying for your PhD and Professional Development

All admitted PhD students receive merit-based support packages consisting of full tuition scholarships each year and annual living stipends for two years. The awards are renewed each year, contingent upon satisfactory academic performance. As of 2017-2018, doctoral students receive annual stipends of $23,376 for the initial two years and are supported by research projects, fellowships and/or grants for the following years.
Students may work in additional, paid positions, such as research assistants or in other activities related to their professional development, up to 10 hours/week with permissionLaney Graduate School also offers Professional Development Funding and Training to attend conferences and conduct research.

Degree Requirements

Full-time students are required to take a minimum of nine credit hours during fall, spring, and summer semesters; students often take more in fall and spring. Summer generally consists of a research rotation in the first year and research credits.


All PhD students must participate in the Teaching Assistant Training and Teaching Opportunities (TATTO) program.  This includes a three-day summer teacher training workshop (normally taken in the summer before the second year in the PhD program), serving as a teaching assistant during the second and third years in the program and practical experience in statistical consulting. 

Research Rotation

Starting with their first semester, all environmental health sciences PhD students participate in three research rotations. Each rotation is with a different faculty member and represents one of the three core competency areas: Exposure science, biological mechanisms of susceptibility and disease, and population health.

The goal is for students to gain experience in real research settings. Each rotation should include development of a research problem, collection/analysis of data, and a laboratory report. It is also an opportunity to develop a relationship with a faculty member and to explore and develop dissertation ideas.

Comprehensive Exams

Upon completion of all required course work the student may sit for the qualifying examination. The Qualifying Examination consists of a written and oral section.


All PhD students are required to complete and defend a dissertation. Students are encouraged to begin exploring potential research topics as soon as they enter the program by meeting with faculty advisors. 

The doctoral dissertation must meet the requirements of both the department and Laney Graduate School. In particular, the dissertation must make a new contribution to the student’s field of study, or present a unique new interpretation on existing knowledge. Students are required to pass an oral defense of the dissertation proposal. 

For more information, contact:

Environmental Health Sciences


Laney Graduate School
Phone: 404-727-0184