Work Environment

Doctor of Science in Work Environment

The UMass Lowell Department of Work Environment offers a doctoral program with focuses in industrial hygiene, ergonomics and safety, epidemiology, work environment policy and cleaner production. 

Admission Requirements

Doctoral training is built upon the substantial didactic training gained in the master’s degree programs. To be eligible for admission to a doctoral program, an applicant will need to demonstrate appropriate undergraduate education with adequate preparation in quantitative sciences. For an applicant who has not obtained a master’s degree in work environment or a related field, direct admission to the doctoral program will be possible but will require documentation that the equivalent course work has been completed. He or she will need to provide a minimum of three letters of reference attesting to the ability to perform advanced graduate work and to provide a written statement of career objectives and the relationship of doctoral training to those objectives. Evidence of academic ability must be provided in the form of undergraduate and graduate transcripts detailing an acceptable grade point average (generally a minimum of 3.0, with 3.5 in quantitative sciences). Performance on the Graduate Record Examination Aptitude Test must be at a high level. An applicant who already holds a graduate degree may request waiver of the G.R.E. requirement. Finally, a personal interview will be required in selected cases.

Academic Advisor

For a doctoral candidate, the primary responsibility for evaluating progress will rest with the student’s academic advisor along with the Dissertation Committee. Upon matriculation, the student will be assigned an advisor in conjunction with the Graduate Student Coordinator and the student. The advisor must be from among the faculty of the Work Environment Program. Within one semester after completing the core courses, the student must identify a research topic. The advisor will assist the student in complying with all the university requirements in achieving eligibility for the degree.

Requirements for the Doctoral Degree

Degree requirements include: six to eighteen credit hours of courses beyond the master’s degree plus twelve to 24 credits of dissertation research for a total of 30 credits. A student with a master’s degree from another institution will need to show knowledge in all subject areas required for the equivalent Work Environment master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Courses will be selected to prepare each student in one major and two minor fields. The major field must include, at a minimum, six full courses (18 credits), and the minor fields, three courses (9 credits) each. Courses taken for the master’s degree may be used to meet these requirements. There is no language requirement. The student will work with a doctoral program advisor to propose a set of courses to meet the requirements and to prepare a preliminary thesis proposal. The Department Graduate Committee (DGC) must approve the list of courses and the preliminary proposal. Following completion of required course work, the student will be eligible to take a written qualifying examination. The exam will be designed to test the knowledge in the major field. Upon meeting the course and written exam requirements, the student must pass an oral qualifying exam based on his or her written dissertation proposal.

Doctoral Dissertation

The doctoral dissertation will be based on a substantial body of original research carried out by the candidate. The selection of the research topic will be the responsibility of the student in consultation with the academic advisor. When the doctoral student has completed all course requirements for the doctoral degree, together, the student and advisor will propose to the DGC a research topic and Dissertation Committee. Once approved, the Committee will meet at least as frequently as every six months to review the student’s progress. The Committee will assess whether the student is making adequate progress toward completing the dissertation in the required years of study and will approve the dissertation. The dissertation will, in general, be in the form of three publishable manuscripts and will include an appropriate literature review and overview of the dissertation research. The student is required to give an oral defense of the dissertation before the Committee and other faculty members. The defense is open to the public.

Occupational and Environmental Hygiene

Likely areas of research include exposure assessment, ventilation system design, aerosol science, sampling and analytical methods for airborne contaminants, noise control, techniques for reducing the use of toxic chemicals, and respiratory protection. Required courses include at least one of the seminars in the series 19.611-613, 19.620. A student will normally take two or more of these, depending upon the selected area of research.


Areas of doctoral research include field evaluation of ergonomic and safety exposures and hazard surveillance, biomechanical modeling, psychophysical methods for exposure assessment; technical and social factors in the reorganization of work; strategies for injury prevention and control; and evaluation of control measure effectiveness. Required courses include one or more of the advanced seminars in the series 19.630-638, 19.610, 19.612,19.684, or 19.685. A student will ordinarily take two or more of these, depending upon the selected area of research.


Required courses include: a graduate course in mathematical statistics (19.690), one in pathophysiology, and additional advanced courses in epidemiology and biostatistics. Examples of areas of research in which doctoral work is encouraged include: respiratory epidemiology, injury epidemiology, exposure modeling for epidemiology, occupational disease surveillance, epidemiology and musculoskeletal disease, and occupational cancer epidemiology.

Work Environment Policy

Examples of areas of research encouraged for doctoral work are: Labor and technology, regulatory policy, occupational health and labor/management programs, economic aspects of risk assessment, health and safety impacts of new technologies, management of chemical information, toxics use reduction, and international health and safety.

Cleaner Production and Pollution Prevention

Examples of areas of research in Cleaner Production include: materials accounting and chemical use reporting, assessment of the effectiveness of “third party” auditors in promoting pollution prevention, alternatives to risk assessment that encourage workplace redesign, and integration of occupational health and pollution prevention.