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Environmental Health - PhD


The mission of the Environmental Health PhD program is to prepare researchers to make significant contributions to the field of environmental health by developing innovative research, including new data, new analyses and new insights.  Graduates will have in-depth knowledge and experience at the intersection of quantitative and biological sciences and their applications.

Our students will work closely with faculty mentors to develop advanced skills and knowledge and to contribute new knowledge to the scholarly literature. Our faculty members have expertise in a wide range of areas, including:

  • epidemiologic and biostatistical theories and methods
  • environmental public health risk sciences
  • general and specialized concepts and methodologies for scientific research in environmental health including laboratory research in reproductive health, environmental microbiology and antibiotic resistance and molecular toxicology
  • environmental health disparity issues related to environmental justice, occupational exposures and global inequities in exposures and susceptibilities.

Our graduates will have the opportunity to work in inter-professional settings, such as in collaboration with quantitative, environmental, physical and social scientists. We emphasize compliance with ethical research practice and responsible conduct of research, working with communities who are most impacted by the research, conduct of research and data analysis, and communication of research findings to scientific and lay audiences.


The PhD program will accept students every year. Applications will be accepted beginning in August each year and are due no later than December 1st. Applications will be reviewed following the December 1st deadline and those applicants selected for an in-person interview (video conference if remote) can expect to be contacted by mid-February.

A bachelor’s degree from an accredited bachelor’s degree program is required.  Undergraduate studies in the natural and physical sciences, public health, social sciences, mathematics, or engineering programs are a particularly good fit, but any undergraduate major is acceptable as long as students show requisite knowledge and skills for the degree as judged by the EOH Admissions Committee. Applicants with a master’s degree in public health, sustainability, or environmental sciences will be encouraged. A student entering with a master’s degree will have the opportunity to transfer up to 24 credits toward the PhD coursework requirements. In this case, a minimum of 48 credits of coursework and dissertation research will still be required, including the research rotations and instructional opportunities. 

We look for a strong undergraduate curriculum and grades. All applicants will be required to submit GRE scores from within 5 years of the matriculation date.  All international applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency. Most international applicants are required to submit official TOEFL scores or IELTS scores.  If applicants provide their TRF number, the Office of Admissions can verify IELTS results. Please contact the Office of Admissions directly for exemptions to the English language proficiency policies and requirements.  All applications are submitted through (Please see for Milken Institute School of Public Health information and policies.) 

Among factors we will evaluate in admissions, in the context of the focus area a student indicates, are performance in relevant courses including mathematics, statistics, environmental sciences, epidemiology, biostatistics, biochemistry, risk assessment, environmental communications, and microbiology. In addition, we will thoroughly examine the research background of our applicants and give preference to students who have worked on research teams/laboratories or otherwise demonstrated research interest and aptitude. Letters of recommendation and essays will be important sources of insight. We will review all information and conduct interviews to identify outstanding candidates who have research interests that overlap with those of members of our faculty.


Required Foundation Courses

PUBH 6080* | Pathways to Public Health (0 credits)
PUBH 6002 | Biostatistical Applications for Public Health (3 credits)
PUBH 6003 | Principles and Practice of Epidemiology (3 credits)
PUBH 6011 | Environmental and Biological Fundamentals of Public Health (3 credits)
PUBH 6131 or PUBH 6853 | Quantitative Methods in Environmental and Occupational Health OR Use of Statistical Packages for Data Management and Data Analysis (3 credits)
PUBH 6247 | Design of Health Studies
PUBH 8110 | Research Rotation (3 x 2 credits each) (6 credits)
UNIV 0250 | Graduate Teaching Assistant Certification (0 credits)
PUBH 8415 | Instructional Leadership (x2) (4 credits)

*Find FAQs on the Advising page here.


Required Core Courses

PUBH 8411 | Advanced Topics – Principles of Environmental Health Risk Science – Doctoral Seminar* (3 credits)
PUBH 8412 | Advanced Topics – Environmental and Occupational Health Research and Practice* (3 credits)
PUBH 6144* + 8144 | EH Data Development & Modeling* + Advanced EH Data Development Modeling (2+1 credits)
PUBH 8116 | Communicating Research Results (3 credits)
PUBH 6121 | Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology (3 credits)
PUBH 6123 | Toxicology: Applications for Public Health (3 credits)
PUBH 6126 | Assessment and Control of Environmental Hazards (3 credits)

*Courses are basis of comprehensive exam



Tailoring Courses

Electives may be selected to focus specificially on individual areas of interest. See program guide for examples.


Course Descriptions

Comps and Dissertation


All  PhD students are required to pass a Comprehensive Examination, which typically occurs following the Spring semester of Year 2.  Comprehensive exams must be successfully completed within three years of matriculation to the PhD program.



PUBH 8422 or 8435 | Dissertation Proposal Writing (2 credits)
Prerequisites: Pass Comprehensive Exam, Approval of Program Director, & one page abstract

PUBH 8999 | Dissertation Research (12 credits)


Course Descriptions


Non-Academic Requirements

Graduate Teaching Assistant Program (GTAP)

All Environmental Health PhD students must enroll in UNIV 0250- Graduate Teaching Assistant Certification, administered by the University. Successful completion of this Certification is a pre-requisite/co-requisite to taking on a role as a Teaching Assistant, which is a requirement of the program. The University does not allow students to be Teaching Assistants unless this certification is completed. The 1-credit, online certification is paid for by GW, however the 1-credit does not count toward the credit requirements for the PhD.

Professional Enhancement

Students in the PhD program must participate in eight hours of Professional Enhancement. These activities are pre-approved by an advisor and may be Public Health-related lectures, seminars, and symposia related to your field of study.

Professional Enhancement activities supplement the rigorous academic curriculum of the SPH degree programs and help prepare students to participate actively in the professional community. You can learn more about opportunities for Professional Enhancement via the Milken Institute School of Public Health Listserv, through departmental communications, or by speaking with your advisor.  Students submit a completed Professional Enhancement Form to the Office of Student Records which is required documentation to be cleared for graduation.

Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Training

All students are required to complete the Basic CITI training module.  This online training module  will help new students demonstrate and maintain sufficient knowledge of the ethical principles and regulatory requirements for protecting human subjects - key for any public health research.

Academic Integrity Quiz

All Milken Institute School of Public Health students are required to review the University’s Code of Academic Integrity and complete the GW Academic Integrity Activity.  This activity must be completed within 2 weeks of matriculation. Information on GWSPH Academic Integrity requirements can be found here.

To view sample schedules and learn about the core competencies developed within the program, see the degree program guide.

PhD vs DrPH


The Milken Institute School of Public Health offers both a PhD and a DrPH degree in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.


The mission for the PhD program in Environmental Health is to develop a new cadre of public health researchers to address key environmental health challenges of the future.  Environmental Health PhD students will develop very specific expertise with knowledge of both quantitative and laboratory-based disciplines through an individualized program of study built on core knowledge and field specific electives.  They will work closely with faculty mentors to develop advanced skills and knowledge and to contribute new knowledge to the scholarly literature.



The mission of the Environmental and Occupational Health DrPH program is to develop professionals who are uniquely equipped to be leaders in public health organizations focused on environmental and occupational health.  The table below outlines the similarities and differences in the requirements for the two degrees. Unique to the DrPH are 7 credits of additional leadership courses to develop and hone skills that allow graduates of that program to apply their research and analytic skills in a range of implementation, evaluation and advocacy organizations.






Primary mentorship for first 2 years by doctoral program director.  Dissertation chair usually chosen in year 3

Primarily mentorship by faculty member who will guide research efforts, chosen in first semester. Potential mentor potentially identified prior to matriculation

Leadership coursework

7 credits

Not required

Master’s Degree Required for Admission

Yes (MPH preferred, but other Master's degrees acceptable)

Not required but preferable; could be MS or MPH. Students may be admitted without Master's degree

Required Foundation/Core Credits/Specialty Field



Research Rotation

Not required

Three research rotations are required

Instructional Credits

2 credits

4 credits




Professional Enhancement

8 hours of PE hours in any substantive environmental public health area

8 hours of PE hours in any substantive environmental public health area

Comprehensive exams

All students take same comprehensive exam developed by the EHS DrPH Director.

Students take customized comprehensive exam focused on both core courses and area of tailoring.  


Conduct research, using either primary or secondary data that builds upon or replicates knowledge generated during doctoral program.  Primary focus is on application of research to policy and/or practice of environmental public health. Student emerges with strong professional and leadership abilities that enable them to make a strong impact on policy and practice.

Conduct original research on an environmental public health policy and/or methodological issue. Primary focus is making a significant scholarly contribution. Student emerges with strong scholarly expertise and skills that enable them to make a strong impact on scholarship in the field.

Enrollment status

 Full time or Part time

Full time required for first 2 years



Our faculty at the Milken Institute School of Public Health are involved in a national profile of strategic research and serve as mentors to students across departments based on areas of specialized interest. These key faculty in the Environmental and Occupational Health department are will be directly associated with the PhD, Environmental Health program:


George Gray, PhD, MS- Program Director

Susan Anenberg, PhD, MS

Kate Applebaum, ScD, MSPH

Matias Attene-Ramos, PhD, MSc

Cindy Liu, MD, PhD, MPH

Sabrina McCormick, PhD, MA

David Michaels, PhD, MPH

Melissa Perry, ScD, MHS

Lance Price, PhD, MS

Amita Zota, ScD, MS