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Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences and Health


The Environmental Sciences and Health Ph.D. is research-focused, multidisciplinary degree track with over 35 participating faculty members from 14 departments across four institutions. Our graduate degree is unique—students have the opportunity to adapt our course of study to their individual academic and research interests. Our teaching philosophy is centered on exposing students to applied science that is focused on real world problems, such as:

  • health-based issues,
  • environmental contamination,
  • remediation of environmental damage,
  • air quality,
  • agricultural sustainability,
  • nutrition and nutritional health and sustainability, and
  • renewable resource issues.

About 75 percent of the students in our program are working towards their doctoral degree (as opposed to a master’s degree). Many students that join our Ph.D. program already have a master’s degree from another program or university. Students may be looking to gain a more broad background in the field or further their specialization within a specific area. Students with master’s degrees from other programs often join us because a Ph.D. track was not offered at their previous institution.

Requirements and Expectations for an Environmental Science Ph.D.

The ultimate objective for our Ph.D. students is to bring forth new knowledge in their area of expertise. We expect our doctoral students to be capable of independent and productive research in the field, as well as reporting and publishing their results.

The duration to complete a Ph.D. in environmental science and health is four to eight years. The degree usually involves two to three years of course work (72 graduate credits of which 48 credits are coursework), a comprehensive exam and a dissertation based on an original, independent research project. At least 30 credits must be at the 700 level, excluding dissertation credits.

Skills You’ll Gain Through Our Doctoral Degree

Throughout our program, students will gain valuable skills for their careers in environmental science and health.

All of our doctoral students will work individually on research projects, but you’ll also have many opportunities to network and study with peer groups and train undergraduates and other students in your area of expertise. You’ll also work closely with an adviser on structuring your research and reviewing results. You’ll learn organizational and project management-type skills such as:

  • forming ideas around a research theme and designing your experiments and projects, and
  • planning, organizing, executing and analyzing your research and making recommendations based on your results.

We place a strong emphasis on developing communication and presentation skills. Our students give presentations in almost every class. Many students also teach lab courses, and there will also be opportunities to provide mentorship for undergraduate students working in your research lab. You’ll also learn effective skills in framing technical and scientific concepts for outside groups, such as the general public and community stakeholders.

Our Ph.D. students will obtain a wide array of technical skills, some examples being:

Health Science Researchers

  • technical writing,
  • statistical skills,
  • laboratory techniques and bench work, and
  • computer analysis methods (for example, statistical and geospatial analysis).

Students often receive training through our core facilities in the areas of genomics, metabolomics, proteomics and informatics/bioinformatics. For our students doing analytical chemistry work, you’ll learn techniques and become familiar with equipment for high performance liquid chromatography, mass spectroscopy, and utilize Varian STAR software for mass spectrometry analysis.

These are just a few examples of the skills our students may obtain, as each individual’s path will be unique.

Building Experience for Your Career in Environmental Sciences & Health

Your graduate degree will prepare you for a successful career and for leadership within your field. In addition to the knowledge you’ll acquire through your coursework, you’ll gain experience in many practical areas that employers will be seeking.

We expect our students to not only communicate with peers, but to be able to take information from a scientific standpoint and present it to the public or translate it to a wide audience. This is a vital component of the program because many students will be working in the interface between regulatory agencies and the public, acting at the front lines to communicate the science to consumers, media and legislative bodies.

Students will build their communication skills through experiences such as presenting research at scientific conferences and poster sessions. Our program also has a seminar series that is open to everyone across campus and the community, so students will have a chance to network with speakers, University attendees, and community members interested in the topics. In addition, we have a large community outreach component to the program that is organized through individual research groups. Students work with local businesses on their development as it relates to the student’s research.

Due to the flexible nature of our program, some students may work exclusively in laboratories, while others spend a large portion of time in the field collecting data. Our students are often looking at what is occurring in the environment or affecting the environment, performing field data collection, doing field experimental work, studying population-based data or doing laboratory-based applied science.

Our students often have access to our animal facilities on campus and use state-of-the-art equipment for doing studies using animals.

We also emphasize the utilization of software that will be useful for your career in research and/or business environments. Students may use a number of software programs throughout their degree path, such as:

Researcher in Greenhouse

  • ArcGIS (a mapping platform)
  • SAS (business analytics software)
  • R Project (statistical computing)
  • SPSS (predictive analytics)
  • STATA (data analysis and statistics)
  • MATLAB (technical computing language),

as well as developing advanced Excel skills, to name a few.

Career Options with an Environmental Science Ph.D.

Earning a Ph.D. has traditionally been associated with careers in the academic track, but there are many more opportunities that are available for doctoral degree graduates. Many graduates work in government research labs, government regulatory agencies, business research divisions and consulting firms.

Environmental sciences and health is a broad field with many different career path choices. Depending on your interests and how you structure your coursework and research, you’ll find a wide array of career options.

Related Degrees and Programs

Contact Environmental Sciences & Health Graduate Program

Phone (775) 784-6447
Fax (775) 784-1375
Location Sarah H. Fleischmann Building
Address University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557

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