Toxicology Program Celebrates More than 50 Years at St. John’s

dr_vincent_de_paul_lynch_tox_prog_founder_sju_alumni in lab coat

Vincent DePaul Lynch, Ph.D., founder of St. John's Bachelor of Science Program in Toxicology

June 20, 2021

In April of 1970, just seven months after the inaugural class of toxicology majors entered the fledgling academic program at St. John’s University, the students distinguished themselves by observing the nation’s first-ever Earth Day with their presentation of a two-day symposium on the environment.

More than a half-century later, St. John’s is widely recognized as the first higher education institution in the US to establish a Bachelor of Science in Toxicology degree program, which is based in the University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (CPHS).

Toxicologists have the critical responsibility of keeping the public safe from harmful substances found in food, the environment, drugs, and other sources. Through research, frequent testing, and data collection, toxicologists help protect and improve the lives of millions.

St. John’s has expanded the Toxicology program to include a Master of Science in Toxicology and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Pharmaceutical Sciences, with a concentration in toxicology. The program also offers a bachelor’s/master’s pathway, which enables students to obtain graduate credit as undergraduate seniors, thereby shortening their time in attaining the master’s by one year.

Employment opportunities for toxicologists are expected to grow by eight percent throughout the next decade, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics—and career choices are especially plentiful for St. John’s students because of the University’s location in Queens, NY, said Sue M. Ford, Ph.D., DABT, Director of the Toxicology program and Associate Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“We are fortunate to be located in a large, urban area that includes New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut,” Dr. Ford said. “The many academic institutions, government agencies, and science-related industries in the tristate region provide a wide range of employment positions for our graduates.”

The St. John’s program is unique, she added, because “it is well-rounded rather than specialized. It is grounded in the sciences and provides a focused education in all aspects of toxicology, including analytical, medical and pharmaceutical, environmental, and regulatory toxicology. The students graduate with the ability to step directly into many career paths, and the curriculum has the prerequisites and background for medical and graduate programs.”

The program thrives because of the dedication and enthusiasm of the toxicology faculty and graduates, according to Dr. Ford. “The classes for our major courses are small, and we get to know our students and their objectives.”

The faculty also make an extraordinary effort to involve the toxicology undergraduates in national and regional meetings of professional organizations, including those hosted by the Society of Toxicology. “Immersion in professional meetings such as these shows our students that they’re part of a larger body of scientists,” Dr. Ford said.

Daniela Gonzalez, who expects to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Toxicology in June of 2022, said she is very pleased with the program. “The professors in the toxicology program always reach out to the students and are very involved in their student’s academic careers,” she explained. “I have been in Tau Omega Chi, which is our toxicology club, since I was a freshman, and next year, I will be the President.”

“The toxicology program has given me numerous opportunities to network with people in the field through our events, such as overviews of various careers in toxicology and guest speakers who come to campus to share their professional experiences with the students,” Daniela added. “I have been provided with resources that no other toxicology program could give me, and I am very proud to be part of it here at St. John’s.”

Toxicology major Gian H. Joseph, who plans to graduate in June of 2023 with a bachelor's degree, said “a very enthusiastic alumnus of the program” convinced him to come to St. John’s. “That person told me about the extremely strong support system that is made up of professors and graduate students who are eager to assist and incorporate you into their field of science.”

Gian also praised Dr. Ford and Diane Hardej ’95G, ’03Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, for their efforts to prepare him for his career. “Dr. Hardej and Dr. Ford provided me with information that would have taken me years to figure out on my own. When you have kind and supportive individuals such as these professors in your corner, you can only succeed.”