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Graduate Program

Graduate Program | M.S. (Plan A) and Ph.D | M.S . (Plan B) | Curriculum

The graduate program in Toxicology at the University of Kentucky was formally established in 1969 in recognition of the need for scientists trained specifically to deal with environmental problems and with the effects of toxic substances on man. This interdisciplinary program is located administratively in the College of Medicine. This concept has persisted over the years and courses of study have focused on giving students broad-based training which allows them to develop expertise in many areas of Toxicology. Competencies in special sub-disciplines of Toxicology are expected of all students. This experience is developed through independent study, course offerings and, most importantly, by conducting research under the direction of the highly-qualified scientists who comprise the Toxicology faculty.

Most members of the faculty are scholars from other departments in the University, whose interests and training qualify them as experts in one or more areas of Toxicology. Each serves voluntarily without relinquishing the duties required in his/her home department. This dedication of the faculty to train students for careers in Toxicology makes the program unique. The principal incentive for participation (which requires teaching, advising, directing student research, providing financial assistance, etc.) is the satisfaction received from working with highly-motivated students in this active and promising field - Toxicology. Consequently, close associations develop between students and professors who contribute by assessing the needs of individual students, providing special attention when necessary and directing dissertation research of high quality.

To accommodate the increasing number of students applying to the program, the Graduate Center for Toxicology (GCT) has established a core faculty whose time is devoted completely to the activities of the GCT. This core faculty, which presently consists of ten individuals, greatly increases the capacity for training students in Toxicology, provides additional areas of expertise, and ensures greater coordination of all GCT activities. The strength of the GCT is reflected in its depth, diversity, and interdisciplinary nature.

Direct Admission to Toxicology: For students specifically interested in a Ph.D. in Toxicology, direct application and admission to the Toxicology doctoral program offers several opportunities. Students directly admitted to Toxicology may select a dissertation mentor from among core faculty and all associated faculty of the Graduate Center for Toxicology. There are more than 40 GCT core and associate faculty in a broad array of disciplines throughout the University, which offers students directly admitted to Toxicology a full spectrum of research programs related to environmental, agricultural and biomedical toxicology. Students directly admitted to Toxicology follow a first-year curriculum that is the same as that in the IBS program (see below).

Eligibility for admission to the Graduate School does not insure admission to the Toxicology program. Each applicant is considered individually and acceptance into the program depends a great deal on the applicant's interest and the program's ability to provide training within particular areas of interest. Students with interests outside the training capabilities of the program are not encouraged to enter the program even if exceptionally qualified.

Applicants should have strong undergraduate preparation in chemistry, biology, and mathematics. All applicants meeting the minimum requirements for admission to the Graduate School will be considered for acceptance into Toxicology. However, students accepted into the program should have an appropriate degree (e.g., Chemistry, Biological Sciences) from an accredited college or university, a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, and a combined score (verbal plus quantitative) on the Graduate Record Examination of 1100. Applicants with lesser qualifications normally will be accepted only if other indices of performance and qualification are outstanding.

To apply directly to the Toxicology program, go to the Application page.  Complete both the online application to the University of Kentucky Graduate School and the Toxicology-specific application materials.

Admission through the Integrated Biomedical Sciences: For students who are not certain of their desire for a Ph.D. in Toxicology, admission through the Integrated Biomedical Sciences (IBS) offers the opportunity to consider research programs in one of six departments participating in IBS, including Toxicology. Students in IBS follow a first-year undifferentiated core curriculum designed to provide a broad foundation in the biomedical sciences. At the conclusion of the IBS year, these students select a dissertation mentor and doctoral program in the UK College of Medicine. For further information about admission to IBS, please visit the IBS website.

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The GCT offers programs of study leading to the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. The Master of Science is offered under two plans. Plan A requires that a research project be conducted under the direction of a Toxicology faculty member, that a thesis be written, and the thesis be defended as a part of the final oral examination for the M.S. degree. The Plan B Program does not require a thesis, but additional course work and a special problem are required in lieu of the thesis. Requirements for those students working directly towards the doctoral degree are discussed below.

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Financial Assistance
A limited number of fellowships, research stipends and traineeships are available through the Director's office. All students accepted into the Doctoral program are supported in the first year by the Director's office. The current minimum stipend is $23,500 per year plus the tuition fee to cover the curriculum-required or graduate advisory committee-recommended courses. During this first year, students are required to carry out at least three two-month rotations in laboratories of Toxicology faculty, with the aim of identifying a mentor who will guide their Ph.D. research. The student's mentor is responsible for identifying financial support for the doctoral student from year two onward. Most financial assistance for students comes from the grants of individual faculty members, the NIEHS training grant and University fellowships. In the past five years, no doctoral student in good standing has gone unsupported.

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Criteria for the selection of GCT students to be nominated for various GCT and University Awards. The awards are divided into two categories. The first category is awards from the GCT to GCT students, derived from the Research Challenge Funds or other award funds provided to the GCT. The second category is the University wide-awards available to all graduate students for which the GCT is responsible for nominations.

The GCT Outstanding Research Scholar award will recognize GCT students with scientific excellence.

The amount of awards will be $15,000 for stipend plus the tuition fee to cover the curriculum-required or graduate advisory committee-recommended courses. Stipend supplements will be provided.

The selection criteria will consist of the following:

  • A 3.00 GPA or above in the student's GCT-related coursework approved by the DGS or the student's advisory committee. (25%)
  • Evidence of research productivity as indicated by quality and quantity of publications. (50%)
  • Evidence of professional activities and recognition (25%). The evidence will include rotation evaluations, participation in professional presentation, awards and honors received, and academic progress indicated by the official report of advisory committee meetings that have been written to the respective student's official GCT file.

The committee will announce the availability of awards and deadline for application to all GCT students and faculty through E-mail, with an official record copy of the announcement maintained on file in the GCT office.

To apply, the student must submit a one-page application letter stating why s/he is qualified and any potential overlap with other awards. Potential overlap will not be used as a criterion in decisions on the award.

For any University-wide awards, the criteria will be those specified in 3 and/or the criteria stipulated by the specific award.

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Frequently Asked Questions
When a new student of GCT comes to UK, whom should he/she contact first?
The new student should contact the Director of Graduate Studies to set up a meeting with the DGS, who is responsible for providing programmatic orientation information to new students, and who serves initially as the student's major advisor until a formal major advisor is assigned.

Do I have to perform three rotations?
Under GCT policies, each entering Ph.D. student who receives a University- or Graduate School-funded fellowship, or a GCT Training Grant stipend, must perform three laboratory rotations during the first year, prior to the appointment of a faculty member as the student's major advisor.

What is the best laboratory for a student and how does the student choose the major advisor who is best for him or her?
Sources of information on GCT faculty, all of whom are potential major advisors, include but are not limited to the faculty members' GCT web sites, the yearly up-to-date C.V. (including publications, grants, etc.) which each faculty should provide to the GCT main office, the GCT Director, the GCT DGS, other faculty and students. Individual discussion of the student with potential major advisors or with the faculty member of a potential rotation lab is also strongly encouraged, since the final decision on what lab is "best" for a student ought also include consideration of the student's career goals and the joint expectations of the faculty member and student.

Where does money to support students come form, what are some good sources of extramural funding for US citizens/non-citizens, and how can I apply?
Sources of funding that have previously supported GCT students include the NIH training grant awarded to the GCT, the individual Natl. Inst. Health, Natl. Sci. Fdn., Amer. Cancer Soc., Dept. of Energy, and other agency grants and contracts awarded to faculty principal investigators, individualized awards made to students who apply directly to extramural competitive programs, and University or GCT fellowships and awards. The University of Kentucky Research Foundation (257-1663) will provide students with application information on extramural sources of funding to which students may directly apply, tailored to the specific needs of the student. In addition to teaching assistantships, intramural University sources of support to which students are encouraged to apply are listed on the Graduate School web site. There are competitive awards controlled within the GCT, including Training Grant Fellowships and the Outstanding Research Scholar Awards (see Appendix I of this Handbook for award criteria). GCT students must be involved in formation of GCT policies on these awards and any other unit policies that affect students (GR VII.A.9; President's policy memos). Finally, there are research assistantships awarded by principle investigators, funded by their individual extramural grants. Additional information and policies on application procedures and award criteria for these intramural and GCT sources may be obtained from the GCT main office (257-3760) or the UK Graduate School (257-1759). The GCT offers a course required of first year students in which each student writes an NIH-style postdoctoral fellowship proposal (Tox 770-002).

For GCT students who receive a RA from our department, can they work as a TA for other departments of UK?
GCT students who are not on a research assistantship (RA) are permitted under University policies to have up to a 50% time assignment as a TA, and can receive the TA from another department, within the limits of educational policies of the University Senate, the Graduate School and the President (see Administrative Regulations AR II-1.0-7, and the Graduate School policy statement "Teaching and Research Assistants at the University of Kentucky").

What is the policy on student holiday and vacation time?
Several University policies relate to this question. Insofar as students are enrolled in courses, the President's annual Holiday Announcement identifies specific holidays during the academic year for which "academic offices will be officially closed" and that "classes will not be in session," with no exemption given for any GCT course (including Tox 749 and Tox 769). Concerning other days that Tox 749 and Tox 769, or other GCT courses, are "in session," the University Senate rule specifies that the course instructor establishes the attendance policy, and presents it in writing to the enrolled students by the second day of the class. The instructor for Tox 769 and Tox 749 would be the student's major advisor. Teaching and research assistants may have dual status, i.e., that of staff and that of student (Human Resources Policy Manual policy 4.0), and to the extent that they are students the approved, in force University Senate policy (AR II-1.0-7) is that each educational unit (e.g., GCT) shall at the outset of each academic year orient all students on a TA or RA of their upcoming duties, rights and responsibilities, and shall provide written criteria for the appointment or reappointment of the teaching and research assistants.

When and how should my advisory committee members be selected and who makes this selection?
Under present GCT policies, the major advisor controls which names of potential committee members are forwarded through the DGS to the Dean of the Graduate School for final approval.

How often should I have committee meetings after finishing my qualifying exams?
Under GCT policies, the advisory committee is to meet twice a year, with documentary records to the participants and student's file.

Should you have your advisory committee approve your thesis research?
If so, by what stage in your graduate education should your dissertation project be approved? It is a GCT requirement for the advisory committee to approve the thesis proposal, and this approval is required by the end of the second year.

Where is an updated list of elective courses and TOX 780 offerings?
The updated and current list of these courses is found in this Handbook. This list is constantly changing due to the natural flux of course offerings. If the student's Advisory Committee recommends an elective not on this list, the student should seek permission to use this course as an acceptable elective from the Director of Graduate Studies.

What are the purpose, format, coverage and dates of the qualifying exam?
The qualifying exam is discussed in detail on pages 7-8 of the GCT Handbook and in the section "Advanced Degrees" of the Graduate Bulletin.

What is the average length of time for someone to get his or her Ph.D.?
During the years 1993 to 1998, it took a median of about 5 years for GCT students to graduate with a Ph.D.

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