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CourseSource’s newest addition, Toxicology, isn’t just for Toxicologists

By Joshua Gray and Wade Powell, Toxicology Course Editors

What is Toxicology? Toxicology is a science that protects the health of living organisms and the ecosystem by studying how toxic agents disrupt homeostasis of an organism and how that organism succeeds or fails at recovering. Toxicology draws on other life sciences, including Biology, Biochemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, Cell Biology, Genetics, and more. Indeed, at the few institutions where it is offered to undergraduates, it is often taught as an elective toward the end of an undergraduate program. But concepts of toxicology also fit easily into other courses, and toxicological examples can ground topics that may otherwise seem theoretical to undergraduates. Indeed, the applied nature of Toxicology provides a wealth of real-world examples of the use of science. For example, scientific data about lead toxicity informs policy decisions about the allowable level of lead in drinking water or whether a new pharmaceutical should be approved by a government agency. 

Toxicologists like to quote Renaissance physician Paracelsus in stating “the dose makes the poison”, that everything is a poison in a great enough quantity. Thus, Toxicology is about more than just what we consider to be poisons. Aspects of Toxicology are often peppered through other disciplines. For example, organophosphate nerve agents that act as suicide inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase are frequently discussed in Biochemistry, carbon monoxide poisoning is frequently covered in Physiology, and cyanide and other mitochondrial poisons are frequently covered in Cell Biology. The authors wrote the Undergraduate Toxicology Learning Framework with an eye toward adoption of its concepts by faculty in other disciplines – toxicological examples make for interesting case studies. Toxicology considers all the other disciplines when covering a given toxicant, from the molecular target of the agent to the macroscopic effects to the organism and environment. 

In crafting the Toxicology Framework, the authors drew upon Vision and Change for Biology and the frameworks of other disciplines published at CourseSource. The Learning Framework is organized in four levels. Like Vision and Change, the framework has five Core Concepts: Evolution, Biological Information, Risk Assessment and Risk Management, Systems Toxicology, and Pathways and Transformations of Energy and Matter. Beneath these Core Concepts are Toxicology Concepts written as questions and Learning Objectives that support the Toxicology Concepts. Finally, not available in the html version but available in the full PDF of the Toxicology Framework, “Example Learning Objectives and Case Studies” provide examples and ideas for teaching and communicating the Concepts and Learning Objectives. Many of these have associated Pubmed ID numbers or website links to assist a faculty member and, we hope, will become inspirations for articles to be published in CourseSource

The Society of Toxicology is excited to join the other life science societies as the newest member of CourseSource and we look forward to generating interest and inspiring the development of new content aligned with Vision and Change. If you are interested in being a reviewer for Toxicology articles in CourseSource, sign up on the For Reviewers page.

Visit the CourseSource Toxicology Course page at 

See the full article:

Society of Toxicology Develops Learning Framework for Undergraduate Toxicology Courses Following the Vision and Change Core Concepts Model, Toxicological Sciences, Volume 170, Issue 1, July 2019, Pages 20–24,