Joost Rutten, alumnus Master's Toxicology and Environmental Health
"As a toxicologist/regulation specialist at Triskelion, I work on projects for the chemical industry. From my perspective, my Master’s in Toxicology from Utrecht University distinguished me from applicants with other life science masters, because a specific part of the Master's was learning how to perform chemical risk assessments. The programme was also an eye opener for how you can apply research within other fields. I continue to apply many aspects of toxicology which I learned or gained insights into during my Master’s.
After I obtained my Master’s degree in Toxicology and Environmental Health at Utrecht in 2016, I was selected for a traineeship position at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki. This was a very exciting first step for my career into the field of toxicology and regulatory affairs.
My role at Triskelion is to make sure that the chemicals produced or used by our clients are compliant with the current European chemicals legislation, ensuring the safe use of chemicals for humans and the environment. It involves examining the environmental behaviour of chemicals, the potential harm they can do to the ecosystem, their human health hazards, deriving safe exposure levels and many other aspects. My job is a very diverse, dynamic and often challenging role – and I would not have been in a position to pursue this career without my Master’s.
Toxicology and environmental health is a very diverse field of research. A central topic within the Master’s is the interplay between biology and chemistry: how can chemicals interfere with cellular processes and cause adverse effects. There are many new interesting areas to explore; e.g. nano-particles, alternative toxicological testing strategies to reduce animal testing, emerging contaminants, and many others. The programme really provided me with a good overview of toxicology – and a very solid basis for my career.
Julia Hartmann, alumnus Master's Toxicology and Environmental Health
“The Master's in Toxicology and Environmental Health is the only programme I have found that focuses on toxicology and the environment – the two subjects I found most interesting during my Bachelor’s in Biochemistry. I had always been interested in doing something that mattered, and this programme specialised in my interests and also offered an exceptional amount of freedom. You could take two internships anywhere you wanted, and choose electives in any subject – even from other universities. This is very appealing for many people because it allows you to define your own Master’s programme.
During my first internship I focused on epidemiology. I had not done much on data and statistics and wanted to learn more about how to conduct good research. I then took courses in environmental and food toxicology at Wageningen University. My second internship was at Shell in Amsterdam and in environmental toxicology. Conducting research for a big company is very different to conducting research at a university. The work tends to be very goal-oriented, whereas at a university you tend to go much deeper into a subject. Experiencing these contrasting lab environments helped me to decide which environment best suited me.
My last elective was a very good course in analytical chemistry that I took in Spitsbergen, an island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway where there is a lot of research taking place on local pollution.
I am now a doctoral student at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). My PhD research is part of the project PS-DRINK, which aims to develop an integrated approach to systemically identify, assess and prioritise emerging risks to the production and supply of safe drinking water. My Master’s gave me the experience I needed to make an informed choice about pursuing a career in research, and it enabled me to pursue a PhD in the field I am interested in.”