PhD in Population Health Sciences Overview

For more than 100 years, our Department has advanced the field of Environmental Health through hands-on learning and training, and translates evidence-based on research. We have a vibrant and rich history of guiding public discourse, and national and international leaders, on the most pressing environmental health challenges in the twenty-first-century. To better serve communities’ changing health, we employ innovative strategies and solutions to increase public awareness. Our work in laboratories, field studies, and cohort studies has provided the basis of environmental and occupational health on humans. Members of our Department create and advance our knowledge of harmful exposures and translate their discoveries into actions that ultimately improve people’s health. Our centers, faculty, students, and staff engage in service activities to expand the capacity of communities by training, mentoring, and empowering the next world leaders.

The Department of Environmental Health pursues innovative research and offers interdisciplinary training in environmental health, emphasizing the role of air, water, contaminants in food and consumer products, the built environment, and the workplace as critical determinants of public health. Faculty members study the pathogenesis and prevention of environmentally produced illnesses, injury and disability, ergonomics and safety, climate change, occupational hygiene, environmental management and sustainability, and are leaders in, and facilitators of, scientifically based public health advances. Faculty research areas include a multi-disciplinary approach ranging from molecular and physiologic studies, exposure assessment and control, engineering, epidemiology, risk assessment to policy evaluation.

The department examines complex problems that require the contributions of many specialties. The faculty, research staff, and students reflect the multidisciplinary nature of the field and include chemists, engineers, epidemiologists, practitioners, occupational hygienists, urban planners, climatologists, applied mathematicians, physicians, nurses, physiologists, cell biologists, molecular biologists, and microbiologists.

Additional information about the Department of Environmental Health can be found at:

To learn about the Department of Environmental Health’s faculty, go to:

Students choose one of the following Areas of Specialization:

  • Environmental Health Bioengineering or Mechanisms of Disease: 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 in tissue development, repair and disease. Mechanisms of Disease focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular basis for disease, especially those related to environmental exposures and agents.
  • Environmental Health Epidemiology: 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 Health Exposures/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.
  • Environmental Health 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 Health Molecular Physiology: this area emphasizes understanding the functional outcomes of environmental and agents exposures on cells, tissues and organs, especially as disease manifestations.
  • Environmental Health Occupational Health/Occupational Epidemiology: this area focuses on the anticipation, identification, evaluation, and quantification of diseases and injuries due to workplace exposures and to provide the scientific basis for occupational health and safety policies to control occupational hazards/assessing hazardous exposures in the workplace (chemical, physical, biological) in human population studies.
  • Environmental Health Risk 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.
  • Environmental Justice: this area of study will focus on the disparities in environmental exposure and associated health outcomes, considering macro- and micro-level factors that impact communities and strategies for solution-oriented approaches, including discussion of research translation, implementation science, environmental health literacy, and other key topic areas. Theoretical frameworks, analytic approaches, and practical applications will be addressed in the context of sociohistorical processes, stakeholders, and agency that can be learned from and engaged with to improve environmental health inequities.

The Environmental Health PhD in Population Health Sciences Curriculum Guide is available at: 

Note: This Curriculum Guide is for Fall 2021 students. There may be changes for Fall 2022 entering students.

The Doctoral Student Timetable can be found here:

For additional information about the PhD in Population Health Sciences go to:

Applications are now being accepted for admission in Fall 2022. Information about applying for admission in Fall 2022 can be found at: Admissions | Harvard University – The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences