Toxicology and Risk Assessment MSc
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About the course
The Toxicology and Risk Assessment Masters course caters for the current global need for toxicologists and ecotoxicologists who are competent in conducting hazard and risk evaluation of chemical substances.
The course is designed to train students for a career as registered toxicologists. It is suitable for graduates interested in obtaining a qualification in human and environmental health as well as students already in full time employment working for industry, contract laboratories or government agencies, who require either formal qualifications or intend to revalidate their qualifications in toxicology.
This will contribute to their continuing professional development (CPD) and towards the requirements for the UK Register of Toxicologists.
We also offer some of the MSc modules as standalone CPD courses.
Scholarship scheme is available for this MSc course
The course has been specifically designed to equip students with the skills to critically evaluate and understand chemical hazards, as well as make informed decisions in terms of potential health risks for both humans and wildlife.
You will be provided with an advanced, multi-disciplinary and current understanding of the effects of chemicals on human and environmental health and the consequent impact on chemical risk assessment and regulation.
During your MSc you will be based in the Environmental Sciences group within the College of Health and Life Sciences, which is closely linked to one of Brunel’s flagship research institutes: the Institute of Environment, Health and Societies (IEHS). IEHS is a rapidly expanding research centre housing a strong team of leading experts held in high international regard in their respective fields. In 2011, our research revealing the link between chemicals in rivers and reproductive health won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. Given this background, we are committed to research-led and innovative teaching.
College of Health and Life Sciences
Brunel University London
Tel +44 (0)1895 266105
Course Director: Dr Elisabete Silva
The MSc in Toxicology and Risk Assessment comprises a total of eight taught modules, including six compulsory modules and two (out of three) optional modules.
Priority Pollutants and Human Health Effects
In this module, carefully selected case-studies of pollutants are used to study the normal function of target organs, and how these are affected by toxicants. This module also covers toxicokinetics (absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination) and toxicodynamics (organ, cellular and molecular level), as well as testing strategies for toxicity of chemicals.
Organs and systems of relevance covered in this module include: brain and neurodevelopment, reproductive system and development, kidney, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, immune system and hematopoietic system. Finally, this module also includes an introduction to the basics of epidemiology, using specific case-studies as working examples.
This module is 15 credits and delivered in the autumn term (12 weeks).
Essentials in Ecotoxicology
This module utilises specific examples to illustrate terrestrial and aquatic ecotoxicology. It provides students with knowledge on how biological systems respond to and are affected by environmental contaminants, spanning different levels of organisation (individual, community and ecosystem). It also equips students with an understanding of the fate and behaviour of chemicals in the environment and the importance of these in determining health and environmental risk.
This module is 15 credits and delivered in the autumn term (12 weeks).
Designing, Analysing and Interpreting (Eco) Toxicological Studies
This module deals with elements of toxicological study design, in terms of species selection, endpoint selection, route of administration, selection of dosages and their spacing, time frame of study and dose group sizes. It introduces the concept of no-observed-adverse-effect levels and the benchmark dose concept and addresses the competing demands of these concepts in terms of experimental design.
Students learn elements of dose-response modelling and are introduced to how to select data, and appropriate dose-response models according to categories of toxicological response (quantal, continuous, count data, ordinal categorical measures). The concept of statistical power and its implications for study design in terms of dose group size are covered, as well as the use of estimates of low doses (no-observed-adverse-effect levels, benchmark doses) for deriving health-based guidance values such as acceptable daily intakes and their ecotoxicological equivalents (predicted no-effect-concentrations).
This module is delivered in the autumn term as a block module for two days/week over three weeks (15 credits).
Current Practice in Chemical Risk Assessment
The module introduces the concepts and approaches that are currently used in human and ecological risk assessment. The emphasis is on case studies (e.g. from EU pesticide draft assessment reports), where data use and interpretation are practiced in a “hands-on” way.
The module focuses on the identification of hazards on the basis of minimal data, fundamentals of exposure assessment (modelling approaches, monitoring and sampling, human biomonitoring), analysis and interpretation of toxicity data, particularly in terms of: data gaps, data quality, use of non-guideline test systems. Students will become familiar with the use of information systems and decision support instruments, such as ESIS, EUSES, IRIS, and of technical guidance documents and testing guidelines.
The module is delivered in the spring term as a block module in five consecutive days (15 credits).
Chemical Regulation and Legislation in the EU
In a similar way to other modules, this continues to adopt the course perspective on specific cases that drive the learning. Accordingly, EU legislation is taught using specific chemicals as examples. These examples are used as drivers to explain the general features of relevant EU pieces of regulation, including Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), Water Framework Directive (WFD), Plant Protection Products Regulation (PPPR) and Biocidal Products Directive (BPD). The module also covers classification and labelling topics. A large number of the teaching sessions are in the form of seminars with expert guest speakers and structured debates.
This is a 15 credit module, delivered in the autumn term as a block module in five consecutive days.
Carcinogens and Mutagens
This module covers the fundamental principles of current theories of carcinogenesis, cancer initiation and progression, DNA damage and mutations in order to provide an understanding of the mechanisms by which chemicals exert mutagenic and carcinogenic effects in mammals.
It also explores the scientific rationale behind test methods for carcinogenesis and mutagenesis and how these are applied in decision making in the regulatory arena, especially in terms of classifications of a substance as carcinogenic and/or mutagenic.
This is a 15 credit module delivered in the autumn term (12 weeks).
For dissertations using secondary data sources, students are encouraged to choose their own topic. For dissertations generating primary data (e.g. laboratory studies) suitable topics are chosen by the supervisor in order to fit into the research expertise of staff. Dissertations involving work with external organisations to produce primary data can be developed in cooperation with a suitable external supervisor.
Depending on student’s interests and their progress through the course, they will have the opportunity to carry out their dissertation with collaborators from industry and regulatory bodies. A personal development plan, agreed upon with tutors, will structure and enhance the student’s learning.
Optional Modules (choose two)
Mixtures Toxicology and Cumulative Risk Assessment
The module provides an introduction to the basic concepts of mixture toxicology. The focus is on concepts that allow predictions of mixture toxicity, when the effects of all mixture components are known. The features of these concepts (dose addition and independent action) are explained, and their application to experimental data demonstrated. Students will learn the principles of designing mixture experiments.
Topics covered include: examples of additivity, synergisms and antagonisms, the use of mixture assessment concepts (dose addition and independent action) to derive quantitative expectations about additive effects from toxicity data of mixture components – case studies, combination effects at low doses, dose and effect thresholds in the context of mixtures (“when is a mixture safe?”), and cumulative risk assessment concepts (hazard index approach, point of departure approach, toxicity equivalency concept).
This module is 15 credits and delivered as a block module on five consecutive days in the spring term.
Reproductive Toxicology and Endocrine Disruption
This module addresses the topics of reproductive and developmental biology and the impact of toxicants in reproductive and developmental health in mammalian and non-mammalian species. It covers fundamental concepts related to the morphology, development and function of the male and female reproductive systems, and fetal development, with particular emphasis on susceptibility windows and the programming and signalling effects of hormones. From this, specific chemicals are used to illustrate the detrimental effects of toxicant on the reproductive system and development.
An integral part of this module will be the topic of endocrine disruption and the role of hormones and hormonally active chemicals in human and wildlife health.
This is a 15 credit module delivered in the spring term (12 weeks).
Computational Toxicology: Modelling and Predicting Toxicity
This module introduces students to issues fundamental to computational toxicology – the prediction of toxicity of chemicals either from their chemical structural features (QSAR), by using expert decision algorithms or by using hybrid systems of the two former approaches. It will retrace the development of computational toxicology and then discuss current QSARs, expert decision and machine learning approaches.
The basics of QSARs are discussed in the context of receptor theories and the induction of biological responses through selective physicochemical ligand-receptor interactions. Students will have the opportunity practice the use of QSAR software packages such as TOPKAT and ADMET Predictor. As an example of expert rule-based decision systems the Ashby-Tennant decision rules for predicting mutagenicity will be covered. Finally, machine learning approaches and examples of recent web-based toxicity predictors, such as lazar system for predicting rodent carcinogenicity, Salmonella mutagenicicty and fathead minnow toxicity or the PreADMET site for predicting mutagenicity and carcinogencity will be discussed. An introduction to physiologically based pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic modelling will also be provided.
This is a 15 credit module delivered in the spring term (12 weeks).
Read more about the structure of postgraduate degrees at Brunel
and what you will learn on the course.
We provide flexible options to attend our course, in a way that best suits the individual student. In addition to an MSc in Toxicology and Risk Assessment, students can also register for Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits).
Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
A number of our specialised modules are run as intensive short-courses, which can be taken individually by participants without having to enrol for the full course. The aim is to support professionals already in employment in advancing their knowledge in specific areas, as well as developing their careers. These modules are:
- Chemical Regulation and Legislation in the EU (five-day course, autumn term, 15 credits)
- Designing, Analysing and Interpreting (Eco) Toxicological Studies (six-day course, autumn term, 15 credits)
- Current Practice in Chemical Risk Assessment (five-day course, autumn term, 15 credits)
- Mixtures Toxicology and Cumulative Risk Assessment (five-day course, spring term, 15 credits)
The credits achieved with these short-courses will contribute to the graduate’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and towards the requirements to register or revalidate registration with the UK Register of Toxicologists.
Adult learning happens more productively if students are faced with realistic, challenging problems which direct the learning process. In this course, students will be presented with carefully selected, relevant ‘real-world’ scenarios and case-studies derived from the cutting-edge of practice and science, which will be used to illustrate basic and complex principles throughout the course.
The qualification obtained with our course, as well as the CPD modules, contribute towards the requirements for the UK Register of Toxicologists.
Facts and Figures
About Environmental Sciences at Brunel
During your MSc you will be based at the College of Health and Life Sciences, within the Environmental Sciences group. Environmental Sciences at Brunel is a rapidly expanding research and teaching centre housing a strong team of leading experts held in high international regard in their respective fields. In 2011, our research revealing the link between chemicals in rivers and reproductive health won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.