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February 19, 1998

1st grad program in computational toxicology established by GSPH

Computers can process information many times faster than the human brain. By harnessing this power, environmental scientists and toxicologists have developed computer methods to quickly and accurately assess the health risk of chemicals found in the environment.

But not many environmental professionals have the expertise to use and interpret these complex computer models. And until now, graduate training programs combining computer programming with studies in toxicology did not exist, according to Herbert Rosenkranz, chairperson and professor of environmental and occupational health in the Graduate School of Public Health.

Under the direction of Rosenkranz, Pitt will establish the first computational toxicology graduate program in the United States.

"Right now, there is a tremendous need in the chemical industry and regulatory arena for well-trained people who can apply computational methodologies to assess potential health effects of new and untested chemicals," stated Rosenkranz. "We feel that our program will provide professionals to fill this void." "The program will provide students the opportunity to develop and apply novel computational problem-solving to environmental health issues," said Orest Macina, assistant professor of environmental and occupational health and co-director of Pitt's computational toxicology program.

"Instead of merely plugging numbers into a machine, graduates of our program will fully understand how to use these computer models and how to apply the results generated from the computer analyses," Rosenkranz commented.

"With a solid foundation in toxicology and expertise in computer programming, our students will be able to create novel computational methodologies to address whatever environmental problems they encounter in the future." Along with Rosenkranz and Macina, Bruce G. Buchanan, University Professor of Computer Science and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Informatics Training Program, will direct the computational toxicology program. The program will award master's and doctoral degrees. The first six students will enroll this fall.

To apply, students must have an undergraduate degree in a scientific discipline and already have coursework in computer science or experience in programming.

Several postdoctoral positions also will available for recent graduates of doctoral programs in the biological or computational sciences.

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