Pharmacology & Toxicology

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Karen Vasquez, Ph.D.
Division Head and Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology

Thank you for visiting the website of the Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Texas at Austin! As the Pharmacology and Toxicology Division Head, it is my privilege to introduce you to our program.

The University of Texas Pharmacology and Toxicology/Pharmaceutical Sciences PhD program is among the top in the country, with 17 faculty and 29 graduate students. With an emphasis in environmental and molecular mechanisms of health and disease, we aim to identify the mechanisms involved in disease etiology to apply this knowledge to develop improved strategies to prevent and/or treat human disorders. Our focus is on neurological and developmental disorders, addiction, and cancer. Our outstanding faculty have won multiple prestigious awards for their research in the areas of DNA damage and repair, cancer etiology and prevention, addiction and neurotoxicity, neuroimmunology, and neuroendocrinology, and generate ~$8,000,000 per year in grant funding to support research. Our students receive a competitive stipend with paid tuition and health insurance, and they customize their coursework according to their research interests.

We are proud to be an inclusive and diverse community located in the heart of Austin (ranked #1 most livable city in the country). Fellowships and professional development opportunities are available along with financial support for travel to conferences. The mission of the Pharmacology and Toxicology Division is to train the next generation of scientists/students for productive careers in science, and to continue and advance our research excellence.

What starts here changes the world!

scan of Karen Vasquez's signature

Research in Pharmacology and Toxicology

Research in the Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology encompasses studies elucidating basic and translational mechanisms of drug action, the neuropharmacology of addiction, environmental factors that perturb health and lead to disease, DNA repair and genetic instability, and cancer biology, treatment, and prevention.

Our curriculum and research program prepare students for careers related to the actions of drugs and their therapeutic potential, and toxicological mechanisms of disease. Faculty and students use cutting­-edge biochemical, molecular, cellular, physiological, and behavioral experimental approaches in their laboratories. Through interactions across various departments, centers and institutes, Division faculty and students have access to state­-of-­the­-art facilities in genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, and imaging technologies and expertise.

Ph.D. Graduate Program

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To earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology, students participate in graduate education, research and scholarly work that is designed to promote student achievement of the highest level of professional and academic competence. A student receiving an advanced degree from the College of Pharmacy is prepared for a career in research and scholarly work in various settings including an academic institution, industrial company or governmental agency.

Students in the program develop a research project of their own creation, under the supervision of some of the field’s premier faculty, in order to attain the highest level of professional and academic competence in the field and practical experience in independent research. Visit the degree requirements page for details about the curriculum and  division-specific requirements.

Eligibility & Admissions

Students entering our program have a baccalaureate degree in a discipline such as pharmacy, chemistry, biochemistry or a biological science. This training should include coursework in biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, calculus and physiology.

Additional details about eligibility and admissions can be found on the Graduate Studies page.

Areas of research

Neuropharmacology of drug and alcohol abuse

Mechanisms of cancer development and progression

DNA damage, DNA repair, and genetic instability

Cell signaling in environmental disease

Neuroendocrinology, neuroimmunology, and neurotoxicity

Reproductive toxicology

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals

Environmental regulation of developmental and age-related disease

Molecular basis of liver toxicity and disease

Educational Resources

Training Grant

Alcohol Research Training in Neurosciences

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has awarded The University of Texas at Austin an Institutional Research Training Grant.

The Alcohol Training Grant provides stipends for seven predoctoral and two postdoctoral fellows who will be broadly and intensively trained to conduct research on alcoholism. Training areas span the breadth of state-of-the-art approaches including molecular biology and genetics, electrophysiology, cellular imaging, neurochemistry and behavior. Research models include both animal and human.

Pharmacology & Toxicology Research Centers

Center For Molecular & Cellular Toxicology (CMCT)

The CMCT fosters interdisciplinary research collaborations and provides the prerequisite ancillary research infrastructure to support interdisciplinary graduate training programs. Faculty participating in the Center therefore represent a wide variety of scientific disciplines: Pharmacology, Toxicology, Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutics, Neuroscience, Nutrition, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Marine Biology, and Civil and Mechanical Engineering.

Addiction Science Research & Education Center (ASREC)

Presented by faculty at The University of Texas, Addiction Science Research and Education Center as a service to professionals, clinicians, and the public. Funded by a science education grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research (WCAAR)

The objective is to create the world’s premier center for alcohol and addiction research, thereby developing solutions for the prevention and cure of alcoholism.

Investigators from the Colleges of Natural Sciences, Liberal Arts and Pharmacy explore alcohol and drug actions at the molecular, electrophysiological and behavioral levels. Interdisciplinary collaborations allow the development of new tools and research approaches not possible in any one laboratory.

The Virginia Harris Cockrell Cancer Research Center at Science Park

Science Park is a basic research campus of MD Anderson located near Austin. Home to the Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis, MD Anderson’s largest basic science department, the campus offers a unique setting for research, education and conferences.

Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology

The Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology focuses efforts on the revolutionary developments occurring in molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, and genomics. The objectives of the ICMB are:

  • To build a world-class multidisciplinary research and teaching center in cellular and molecular biology
  • To focus basic research efforts on molecular genetics and molecular biology problems that will advance our understanding of disease processes and methods for therapy or cure
  • To build a multidisciplinary center of excellence for biotechnology

Environmental Science Institute (ESI)

The Environmental Science Institute advances the understanding of the environment and sustainability through the development of interdisciplinary research, education and outreach programs.

Alumni & Friends

Giving to the College

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The college depends on alumni and friends to help garner the financial resources necessary to be the leading academic center for innovative research and pharmacy education. Your gift plays a critical role in the success of the university and the college.


Division Head

  • Karen Vasquez Profile Pic

    Karen Vasquez, Ph.D.

    Division Head and Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology
    Doluisio Regents Professor

Graduate Coordinator Contact Information

Charmarie C Burke, MA
PHR 4.220A
Phone: +1 512 471 6590

Office Contact Information

Mailing Address:
Pharmacology & Toxicology
College of Pharmacy, The University of Texas at Austin
107 W. Dean Keeton Stop C0875
BME 3.510
Austin, TX, USA  78712
Phone: +1 512-471-5158