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

David Ross PhD

Professor and Chair Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies

David Siegel PhD

Associate Research Professor

Clayton Smith

Division of Hematology Medical Director

Michael Wempe PhD

Associate Research Professor Medicinal Chemistry Core Facility Director


Anton, Paige

Paige Anton graduated from Colorado College in 2018 with a B.A. in Neuroscience and minor in Biochemistry. During her undergraduate thesis work, Paige investigated the potential vagal-dependent anxiolytic effects of probiotic supplementation in a rodent model. After graduating, Paige worked as a Professional Research Assistant in the Potter lab at CU Anschutz. There, she assisted on several projects that evaluated the efficacy of immunomodulators to treat Alzheimer’s disease and Down Syndrome. Paige joined the Toxicology PhD program in August 2019 and is now working with Dr. Rebecca McCullough to understand how alcohol use can cause enhanced neuroinflammation and accelerate neurodegeneration during advanced aging.


Ball, Kristen

Kristen Ball graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in biology and minoring in philosophy. During her undergraduate work, she worked at the School of Public Health investigating the effects of valproic acid on first trimester pregnancies utilizing whole embryo mouse culture in Dr. Craig Harris' lab. She also spent time at the Biological Station investigating small and large lake ecology with Drs. Paul Moore and Bob Pillsbury. Following graduation, she worked as a laboratory manager for Dr. Aitor Aguirre at Michigan State University where she investigated cardiac tissue development and tissue engineering. Her work primarily focused on bioactive lipids in cardiac tissue development and the improvement of cardiac organoid technology. Kristen joined the CU Toxicology PhD program in 2020 to further her expertise in environmental health. She joined Dr. David Schwartz' lab to investigate how the MUC5B promotor variant impacts fibrosis of airway epithelia in the lung under the distress of air pollution.

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.


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.

Davari, Baharak

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.

Foster, Daniel

Hvizdak, Michaela

Kant, Rama


Kristofich, Michael

Michael Kristofich graduated with a bachelor's degree from University of Colorado Boulder with a major in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology in 2018. His undergraduate thesis was based on bacterial evolution and adaption. Michael joined the PhD Toxicology program in 2019, and is now studying the relationship between medication adherence and viral suppression in people living with HIV in the Colorado Antiviral Pharmacology Lab.

McGinnis, Courtney


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 studying environmental involvement in Down syndrome cognition using an induced pluripotent stem cell model.


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.

Ruggiano, Emily

Rutt, Lauren

Lauren Rutt is a Colorado native and graduated from the University of Colorado with a B.S. degree in Integrative Biology. During her undergraduate work, Lauren studied genetic approaches to characterize the molecular mechanisms that contribute to muscle disease. After graduating, she then completed a Master’s degree from Colorado State University, while also working as a lab manager for Dr. Olivia Rissland at CU Anschutz. There, she investigated post-transcriptional regulation and the role RNA binding proteins play in repressing maternal mRNAs in Drosophila. Lauren joined the Toxicology PhD program in 2020 and is now working with Dr. Rebecca McCullough to understand certain mechanisms involved in promoting hepatic stellate cell activation during the progression of liver fibrosis and disease.

ashwini sri hari

Sri 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.


Stem, Arthur

Arthur Stem was born in Hot Springs Arkansas, where he attended a local community college for two years before transferring to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. At UALR, he studied mutations in tomato plant genetics while earning a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. After graduation, Arthur moved to Colorado and researched Trauma Induced Coagulopathy under Dr. Mitchell Cohen at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Department of Surgery, where he earned his first publication. Arthur was accepted into the PhD Toxicology program in 2020 and has since joined the Brown lab, investigating mechanisms and impacts of a wide range of environmental toxicants. 


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.


Twardy, Shannon


Ward, Alexandra

For questions regarding graduate school programs contact:

Jackie Milowski - 303-724-7263,​​​​​