Information for Students

The Exposure, Epidemiology & Risk Program has two degree programs:

gradsThe 2-year (80 credit) Master of Science (MS) in Environmental Health
The minimum prerequisite for entrance is a Bachelor’s degree or non-U.S. equivalent—however, applicants generally hold undergraduate degrees and have some post-degree work experience.   Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the program, a broad range of undergraduate or graduate degrees is acceptable, including environmental science, physics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, engineering, geology, meteorology, and decision analysis.  Occasionally, applicants with social science, business, or policy backgrounds are successful, if they can demonstrate some academic background in math, chemistry, physics, and biology.  All applicants are expected to have evidence of strong quantitative skills.

The PhD in Population Health Science 
Applicants to the PhD program normally have a master’s level degree in a related science or mathematics field and strong scientific and quantitative skills.  Admission into the PhD program depends on demonstrated competence in the requirements for either of the EER MS programs—and those applying to study occupational hygiene usually also have several years of relevant work experience in addition to a master’s level degree.

Areas of Specialization within the PHS Field of Study:

  • Bioengineering: this area focuses on the biophysical interactions of cells, tissues and organisms with each other and with environmental exposures and agents, and how these physical processes determine biologic responses.
  • Mechanisms of Disease: this area focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular basis for disease, especially those related to environmental exposures and agents.
  • Environmental Physiology: this area emphasizes understanding the functional outcomes of environmental agents and exposures on cells, tissues and organs, especially as disease manifestations.
  • Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology: this area focuses on identifying and quantifying diseases and injuries due to workplace exposures and to provide the scientific basis for occupational health and safety policies.
  • Environmental Epidemiology: this area focuses on identifying and measuring the influence of physical, chemical, and biological environmental factors on human disease in communities to provide scientific evidence for sound environmental and health policies.
  • Environmental Molecular Epidemiology: this interdisciplinary area combines molecular and genetic laboratory assessments with epidemiology to clarify gene-environment interactions, as well as assessment of epigenetic, functional genomic, metabolomic, transcriptomic and other “omic” technologies into environmental epidemiology study designs.
  • Environmental/Occupational Molecular Epidemiology: this area incorporates “omics” techniques with epidemiology, biostatistics and exposure assessment to study biomarkers of exposure, susceptibility, early adverse responses and diseases resulting from environmental and occupational exposures.
  • Environmental Exposure Assessment: this area emphasizes the chemical, physical, microbiological, and engineering aspects of environmental and occupational exposures and the identification and characterization of human and ecological exposures to environmental contaminants, and in modeling their fate and transport, to develop strategies to control environmental hazards, allergens, and pathogens.
  • Ergonomics and Safety: this area focuses on public health and engineering approaches to the prevention of work-related injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, encompassing exposure assessment, occupational biomechanics, and epidemiology.
  • Injury Epidemiology and Prevention: this area focuses on using epidemiologic methods to identify and describe risk factors for unintentional and intentional injuries, and to design an implementation of effective interventions for these injuries to target at-risk populations.
  • Occupational and Environmental Medicine: this area combines population sciences (epidemiology and statistics) with toxicology, recognition and diagnosis of disease from environmental and occupational exposures, and the development of prevention and control strategies. This area incorporates related disciplines in behavioral science and nutrition to enhance Total Worker Health, i.e. the interaction of work and lifestyle.
  • Occupational Epidemiology: this area focuses on assessing hazardous exposures in the workplace (chemical, physical, biological) in human population studies.
  • Occupational Hygiene: this area focuses on the anticipation, identification, evaluation, and control of occupational hazards.
  • Risk and Decision Sciences: this area emphasizes integrated education in risk and decision science in the context of environmental health – including exposure assessment, epidemiology and toxicology – built on the principles of decision analysis and intended to support and advance decision-making under uncertainty.

For general information about the PhD in Population Health Sciences, please visit: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/phdphs/