The program in Environmental Health Sciences (EHS) offers graduate studies leading to the doctoral degree. Faculty in this program have diverse expertise in the environmental health sciences spanning a broad range of research domains including developmental toxicology, environmental toxicology and chemistry, microbial influences on water contamination, and environmental epidemiology. The EHS program through its faculty, offers students an unparalleled opportunity for cross-disciplinary training in pursuit of original and cutting-edge dissertation research. The research may involve wet lab work, animal model systems, field work, or use of human and environmental datasets. Additional laboratories and equipment are available across campus to help facilitate innovative research endeavors relevant to environmental health science.

When applying for admission, students should describe their interest in the field and any research preferences. Applicants are encouraged to review the research interests of the faculty and contact those faculty who are of interest.

Admission Requirements 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


Applicants must meet Graduate School requirements plus the following program requirements to be considered for admission:

  • A baccalaureate degree in a science discipline, or coursework commensurate with a science discipline (e.g. laboratory and basic science courses) and one statistics course.
  • Submission of scores on the General Test portion of the Graduate Record Examination; test taken within last five years.
  • Submission of at least three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant’s scholarship, research achievements and potential.

For students entering with an advanced degree, credit may be given for relevant coursework following Zilber College of Public Health policies and procedures regarding course equivalencies.


A student who receives the Master of Public Heath degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee must formally reapply to the Zilber College of Public Health to gain admission to the PhD program in Public Health before continuing studies toward the PhD.

Credits and Courses

The PhD in Environmental Health Sciences requires 65 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree. In addition to the PhD Common Core Coursework, credits include required concentration coursework (17 credits), electives (at least 12 credits), and the remaining credits taken as research.

Required Core PhD Courses
PH 704Principles and Methods of Epidemiology3
PH 711Intermediate Biostatistics3
PH 801Seminar in Public Health Research3
PH 819Social and Environmental Justice in Public Health3
or PH 859 Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities in the United States
Required EHS Track Coursework
PH 705Principles of Public Health Policy and Administration3
PH 743Environmental Risk Assessment3
PH 745Developmental Toxicology3
PH 750Seminar in Environmental Health Sciences: (Subtitled)2
PH 808Writing a Federal Grant in the Public Health Sciences3
PH 821Advanced Survey of Environmental Health3
Research 24
Electives (see table below)12
Total Credits65

Electives are divided into three categories (molecular, organismal, and population). The student will take courses relevant to their research in consultation with their major professor. 


Molecular Level “S ”Electives
BIO SCI 529Molecular Biology of Microorganisms3
BIO SCI 540Microbial Diversity and Physiology3
BIO SCI 564Endocrinology3
BMS 590Topics in Clinical Laboratory Sciences: (Public Health Nutrition and Food Politics)1-5
BMS 615Cellular and Molecular Toxicology3
CHEM 601Biochemistry: Protein Structure and Function3
CHEM 602Biochemistry: Cellular Processes3
CHEM 604Biochemistry: Metabolism3
Organismal Level “S” Electives
BIO SCI 401Immunology3
IND ENG 580Ergonomics3
IND ENG 780Advanced Ergonomics - Low Back Pain3
IND ENG 783Advanced Ergonomics - Upper Extremity3
Population Level “S” Electives
FRSHWTR 506Environmental Health of Freshwater Ecosystems3
GEOG 520Physical Geography of the City3
GEOG 945The Internal Structure of the City3
PH 721Introduction to Translational Bioinformatics3
PH 741Environmental Public Health Microbiology3
PH 762Environmental Epidemiology3
URBPLAN 662Public Sector Influence on Real Estate Development3
URBPLAN 771Transportation Policy and Planning3
URBPLAN 791Introduction to Urban Geographic Information Systems for Planning3
URBPLAN 792Using Urban Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Planning3
URBPLAN 794Internet Geographic Information Systems (GIS)3
Other courses as approved by advisor.

Additional Requirements

Major Professor as Advisor

As specified in Graduate School regulations, each student in the EHS PhD program must have a major professor to advise and supervise their studies. Typically, a student is matched with a major professor during admission to the program, based on a fit of research interests. The major professor serves as the student’s research mentor and will guide the student in course selection and research design. 


The student must complete 8 to 12 graduate credits in each of two consecutive semesters, or 6 or more graduate credits in each of three consecutive semesters, exclusive of summer sessions. Residence requirements cannot be met at the master’s level.

Academic Advisory Committee

During the spring of the first year in the program, the student should form an academic advisory committee which is to consist of the student’s advisor and two faculty members from within the Zilber College of Public Health primary public health faculty.

Doctoral Qualifying Exam

Within 30 days following the second semester of enrollment, the student is required to pass a qualifying exam that is scheduled with a 2-hour time block. The student will give an oral synopsis/self-evaluation of their first year in the program describing highlights from their coursework and will discuss their specific interests in environmental health that they plan to evolve into a dissertation project. The academic advisory committee will evaluate if the student has demonstrated a knowledge base in Public Health that was to be firmly established in the first year of coursework. The academic advisory committee in conjunction with the student will also map out the remaining coursework that needs to be completed by the end of the third year in the program. Students failing the qualifying exam will not be allowed to continue in the program and will forfeit their TAship, PAship, or RAship if applicable.

PhD Advisory Committee

The student, in consultation with the Major Professor, will select four or five additional members to form a PhD Advisory Committee (i.e. dissertation committee). This is typically done during the second or third year in the program in conjunction with the emergence of the student’s dissertation idea. A minimum of three committee members (including the major professor) must be EHS program faculty. See the Graduate School Doctoral Requirements page for more information on the doctoral committee.

Doctoral Preliminary Examination

This examination must be taken no later than the end of the third year of study. In order to take the preliminary exam, all formal coursework must be completed with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. The preliminary examination consists of both written and oral components. The written component will consist of the student presenting their dissertation proposal to the PhD Advisory Committee. In the “General Public Health Knowledge Phase” of the preliminary examination, the student will be evaluated (via oral questioning) by the PhD Advisory Committee to determine if the student has truly acquired Public Health competencies which should have been acquired by completion of the formal coursework in the EHS PhD program. A student who fails the doctoral preliminary examination will be dismissed from the program.

Dissertator Status

Specific requirements which must be completed before a doctoral student qualifies for dissertator status are described on the Graduate School Doctoral Requirements page.


Doctoral students should be aware that the research component is extremely important and requires significant time allocation. Students should be aware that if full-time commitment to dissertation research is not given, that the time to graduation may be extended by many years, jeopardizing degree completion. Successful doctoral students in our EHS program should anticipate working long hours, including on weekends, winter intersession and summer months. Students are also expected to enroll in, and successfully complete research credits. Six or more of these research credits must be obtained at the level of dissertator.

All successful doctoral students must prepare and successfully defend a dissertation reporting the results of their research. A full time student who does not pass the dissertation defense within six years of admission may be required to take another preliminary examination and be readmitted to the program.

Time Limit

The student must complete all requirements for the degree within 10 years of the date of initial enrollment in the program.