Admission requirements to the graduate program in toxicology include a bachelor of arts or science degree from an accredited institution, as well as an academic record that satisfies the minimum admission requirements established by the CU Graduate School. All applicants for the program should complete a year of study in the following subjects: general chemistry, organic chemistry, calculus, biology, English and physics.

In addition, courses in the following subjects are highly recommended to supplement the student's background: physiology, biochemistry, statistics, cell biology, physical chemistry, and computer science. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is optional.

Under special circumstances, deficiencies in important areas may be made up within the first year after entrance into the program. Normally, admission to the program will be based on an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better. However, applicants' recommendations, research experience and additional individual accomplishments will also be considered in the admissions process.

Applications are accepted online only and are due December 1st.

As part of the CU Anschutz graduate school, all PhD students in good academic standing are guaranteed financial support.

Although a priority of the School of Pharmacy is to provide financial support to its graduate students, stipend, tuition and fees for graduate studies in the School of Pharmacy are the sole responsibility of the student. Payment of stipend, tuition and any fees by the School of Pharmacy or by grants, contracts or gifts to the School of Pharmacy faculty is contingent upon satisfactory academic progress (as defined by the Toxicology Graduate Student Handbook) and completion of required core courses, seminars, research rotations, and examinations. The School of Pharmacy also reserves the right to review and adjust its funding policies at any time. Stipends are awarded on a 12-month basis. All students are expected to work towards program requirements for 12 months of the year.

The PhD program in toxicology trains graduate students to become proficient and successful investigators who are able to:

  1. Demonstrate a basic knowledge of central concepts in the biomedical sciences.
  2. Understand the current concepts in toxicology.
  3. Read and critically evaluate the scientific literature.
  4. Generate hypotheses based on current concepts in the field, then design, conduct, and interpret their own research projects.
  5. Communicate research results effectively through oral presentations at scientific seminars, conferences, and other venues.
  6. Present research results in national meetings, peer-reviewed publications and in a dissertation.
  7. Write a grant proposal.

At the School of Pharmacy, our programs are characterized by a vigorous research environment. A major research emphasis area is toxicology, which studies the adverse effects of drugs and xenobiotics on the body. Toxicology is the biomedical science concerned with understanding the adverse effects of chemicals and other dangerous substances on living organisms.

Toxicologists seek to identify the toxic effects of drugs and chemicals on living organisms, and to understand the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms associated with toxic injury. In doing so, toxicologists use state-of-the-art biological and chemical techniques to answer questions such as: How dangerous are chemicals to people? How much exposure is required to cause harm? What are the effects of such chemical exposures?

The objective of the toxicology graduate program at the University of Colorado is to educate pre-doctoral students to develop independent research careers in molecular and environmental toxicology. Upon completion of the toxicology graduate program, students will receive a PhD degree in toxicology and utilize their training in academia, industry or government.

The following are specific rules approved by the graduate faculty of the School of Pharmacy for graduate studies leading to doctor of philosophy degree in toxicology. All other requirements for these degrees will follow the guidelines of the Graduate School, which can be found in the Toxicology Graduate Student Handbook. The student carries the major responsibility of meeting the rules of the School of Pharmacy and the Graduate School. Failure to meet the following rules and guidelines may result in delay of graduation.

Program Director

Associate Director



Anderson, Colin​

Colin Anderson was born and attended high school in Dallas, Texas. He graduated from Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX in 2006 with a B.S. in biology. After graduation, he worked at CellzDirect for a short while doing quality control for their pre-clinical cyp450 inhibition/induction studies. He then attended Sam Houston State Unive​rsity in Huntsville, TX where he graduated in 2009 with an MS in forensic science. Colin moved to Phoenix, AZ in 2010 to accept a job as a forensic chemist with the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner. In 2014, he left the OME to pursue a position at Sonora Quest laboratories as a Medical Lab Scientist certifying GC/MS results in their toxicology section. Colin also served as an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, AZ teaching forensic coursework before moving to Denver in 2016 to begin his PhD. Colin is currently rotating through Dr. Reisdorph's lab, working on a LC/ToF method for the lipid fraction of metabolomics analysis.

reena berman

Berman, Reena

Reena Berman graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a BA in Biology. After graduation, Reena worked as a Research Assistant at Harvard Medical School in a diabetes and obesity lab. In November 2013, she began working at the Chu Lab at National Jewish Health, studying rhinovirus infections in the context of asthma, allergy, and COPD. She joined the Toxicology PhD program in August 2016 and will be continuing her research at National Jewish, investigating the respiratory illness and airway remodeling in Iraq War Veterans.

dustin brown

Brown, Dustin G.

Dustin G. Brown is a first year toxicology student at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. He began researching as an undergraduate focusing mainly on dietary intervention in both mouse and canine studies in Dr. Elizabeth Ryan's Toxicology lab at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado in 2012. Following completion of a Bachelor's degree in Biomedical Sciences in 2013, he began working full-time in Dr. Ryan's lab, focusing on metabololomics data from human clinical trials and some work with microbiological studies. He joined the Toxicology PhD program in August 2016 and completed his fall research rotation in Dr. James Roede's lab working on a project to characterize compartmental redox status in down syndrome fibroblasts compared to normal human cells. He hopes to continue extensive research in oxidative stress in several disease models to elucidate mechanisms of carcinogenesis.

lan chen

Chen, Lan

Lan Chen graduated with a Bachelor degree from Wuhan University with a major in biopharmaceutics in 2015. She studied the mechanisms of inhibiting angiogenesis there. Then she went to University of Denver and studied neuroendocrine related diseases for three years. She joined AMC toxicology program in Aug. 2018, and now she's mainly studying MHC II antigen presentation to TCR on pathologic T cells in hypersensitivity in Dr. Dai's lab.

angela cruz-hernandez

Cruz-Hernandez, Angela

Angela Cruz-Hernandez is Florida native of Dominican descent. She earned her Bachelors in Biochemistry from Florida International University in Miami, Fl in 2013. She then moved to West Lafayette, Indiana where she did her MSc at Purdue University. At Purdue, she worked under Dr. Jason Cannon where she studied how dietary factors affect Parkinson’s disease and successfully defended her thesis on “Comparative Dopaminergic Neurotoxicity of Heterocyclic Amines in Primary Midbrain Cultures”. In Fall 2017, she joined the Toxicology program at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science, University of Colorado. She currently works for Dr. Jared Brown investigating the effects of vesicating agents such as mustard gas and how the molecular mechanism of mast cells contributes to Gulf War Illness.

hector esquer

Esquer, Hector

Hector Esquer is a native of Valverde, Dominican Republic. He earned his Bachelor in Biology (Cellular & Molecular Emphasis) from Utah State University in 2015. He obtained a Master’s degree in Toxicology in 2017 also from Utah State University. His research was focused on novel Flavonol-based Carbon Monoxide Releasing Molecules and their delivery to the mitochondria under the mentorship of Dr. Abby Benninghoff and Dr. Lisa Berreau.

rachel gao

Gao, Rachel

Rachel Gao graduated in 2014 from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a B.S. in Biological Sciences. She previously gained toxicology research experience working under Dr. Pal Pacher at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) from 2008 to 2010. She demonstrated that co-incubation with Resveratrol was able to ameliorate azidothymidine (AZT)-induced cardiotoxicity by reducing mitochondrial oxidative stress generation, caspase activation and cell death. From 2010 to 2012, she continued to do research in a developmental genetics lab under the supervision of Dr. Yingzi Yang, at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). She contributed to the discovery that molecular signal, Wnt, may help signal progenitor cells into osteoblasts or chondrocytes. Rachel joined the Toxicology PhD program in August 2016 under the guidance of Dr. Cynthia Ju. Her current research focuses on macrophage derived Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF) and its role in acetaminophen induced acute liver injury.

ashwini sri hari

Hari, Ashwini

Ashwini Sri Hari, a native of Tamil Nadu, India, completed her B.S. in Biotechnology from Anna University in 2012. For her undergrad dissertation, she worked on designing DNA barcodes for the rapid identification of leather products. She then earned her Master’s degree in Biotechnology from BITS, Pilani in 2014 where she worked on assessing the toxicity of titanium dioxide nanoparticles in earthworms. Driven by her interest to understand how oxidative stress can influence a spectrum of disease states, she applied to the Dept. of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Anschutz Medical campus to pursue her PhD in Toxicology in 2015. Ashwini joined Dr. Manisha Patel’s lab in 2016. Currently, she is investigating the correlation between neuroinflammation and oxidative stress and how they contribute to the generation of recurrent, spontaneous seizures in the epileptic population.

ryan mendoza

Mendoza, Ryan

Ryan is investigating novel non-IgE mediated pathways of mast cell activation following nanoparticle exposure. In addition, Ryan is working to understand how the biocorona formed on engineered nanomaterials impacts immune responses.


Prutton, Kendra

Kendra Prutton graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2016 with a BS in Biology and a Certificate in Environmental Science. While at FAU, Kendra worked at a metabolic medicine and toxicology lab, analyzing blood, urine, and saliva samples for physicians and drug rehabilitation centers in South Florida. She then earned her Master’s degree in Forensic Chemistry from Penn State in 2018, where she worked on developing analytical methods for novel performance enhancing drugs and analyzing anabolic androgenic steroids in wastewater samples. Kendra joined the Toxicology PhD program in August 2018 and is currently completing research rotations.


Rogers, Keegan

Keegan Rogers was born and raised in the Denver metro area. He attended Hofstra University in New York, graduating with his B.S. in biochemistry. While in his undergrad, Keegan worked in analyzing compositions of various e-cigarette fluids. Following graduation, Keegan joined the Brown lab at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical campus where he began work on various projects across a diverse field of subjects. The work he does includes: building designer viruses as a new oncological immunotherapeutic, exploring an unknown etiology in kidney disease which afflicts many individuals across the globe, interrogating mechanisms of immunological damage by novel rare earth metal oxide materials, examining the extent of which different e-cigarette fluid compositions effect immune function, and determining if air pollution and other environmental factors contribute to clinical immunotherapeutic outcomes in cancer patients.

brandon sonn

Sonn, Brandon

Brandon Sonn was born and attended high school in San Francisco, California. He graduated from Colorado State University in 2005 with a B.S. in Microbiology. After graduation, he worked at Colorado State University in their Veterinary Teaching Hospital specifically in the Critical Care Unit educating veterinary students. During this time, he obtained his license as a veterinary technician and became board specialized in Emergency and Critical Care medicine. In 2014, he graduated from Colorado State University with a M.S. in Toxicology. After graduation, he worked at Front Range Community College as Adjunct Faculty teaching the Emergency and Critical Care medicine as well as part of the Anesthesiology courses for veterinary technicians. Brandon started in the PhD program in fall 2017 is very interested in personalized medicine and is completing his rotations to further that knowledge.

scott tilden

Tilden, Scott

Scott Tilden is a Colorado native from Golden. He graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a BA in Biochemistry and a BA in Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology. After graduation, Scott worked at CU Boulder for four years in the Maier/Watkins Neuroscience Laboratory and the Hough Biochemical and Biophysical Laboratory. Scott started at Anschutz in fall 2018 and is currently working with Dr. Tom Anchordoquy. Scott’s main interest is investigating how to manipulate endothelial permeability to reduce off-target toxicity and accumulation of nanomedicines. He and Dr. Anchordoquy are also working with a local epilepsy research company to develop novel formulation of anticonvulsant pharmaceuticals to be used in clinical trials.


Tooker, Brian

Brian Tooker received his B.S. in Microbiology in 2000 and his M.S. in Animal Science in 2003, both from Michigan State University where he worked on Johne’s disease in dairy cattle. Brian went on to run a classical swine nutrition laboratory at Iowa State University from 2004-2005 where he was integral to initiating a more molecular approach to food animal nutrition, utilizing functional genomics and porcine specific microarrays. Following his time at Iowa State, Brian accepted an offer to work at National Jewish Health in the laboratory of Dr. Lee Newman. Brian left National Jewish along with Dr. Newman shortly thereafter and accepted the position of Sr. Professional Researcher / Laboratory Manager for Dr. Newman at the University of Colorado Denver back when it was still called the Health Sciences Center. After researching the T cell mediated occupational disease, Chronic Beryllium Disease, for nearly 10 years, Brian joined the Molecular Biology Program at CU Denver in the fall of 2015. Following the successful completion of his first year, Brain joined the laboratory of Dr. Nichole Reisdorph and transferred into the Toxicology Program at the beginning of fall semester 2016. Brian is currently interested in learning how polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons differentially drive metabolome alterations in different immunologically relevant cell types such as professional antigen presenting cells and T cells.

For questions regarding graduate school programs contact:

Jackie Milowski - 303-724-7263,​​​​​