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Genetics & Molecular Biology

Program Website
Director of Graduate Studies
: Dan McKay, PhD
Associate Director of Graduate Studies: Jill Dowen, PhD
Past Director of Graduate Studies: Jeff Sekelsky, PhD
Student Services Specialist: John Cornett

Program Overview

The Curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology is an interdepartmental Ph.D. training program, with about 80 faculty and students working in every basic science department in the School of Medicine as well as the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Science and in labs in the Schools of Dentistry and Pharmacy. While the research is diverse, a common theme is the use of genetic, genomic, and molecular approaches to address a broad range of questions. Examples include studies of mouse models of human diseases, molecular mechanisms of replication and recombination, epigenetics and gene expression, and the genetics of animal development.


(Four didactic plus one seminar/journal club course are required.)

Required Courses:

GNET 621 (Principles of Genetic Analysis)
GNET 631 (Advanced Molecular Biology I) or GNET 632 (Advanced Molecular Biology II)
At least one module of full-semester course with a quantitative, computational, or statistical focus. Examples include:

  • GNET 742 (UNIX & Python for Biomedical Scientists)
  • GNET 749 (Practical RNASeq)
  • GNET 645 (Quantitative Genetics)

Elective Courses:
Two elective courses. Any combination of modules totaling 3 credits counts as one course. Modules or courses used to satisfy the quantitative/computational/statistical requirement count toward these electives.

Qualifying Exams

Written Exam:  The written exam is taken after at the end of the first academic or second academic year (the timing is determined in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies).  The exam is administered by a committee of six faculty selected by the director of graduate studies. Students will be given specific information (usually assigned research papers) on specific topics two weeks prior to the exam. Each student is expected to become thoroughly familiar with the research papers assigned. The exam will be administered on two days.  Students are notified of their performance approximately 1-2 months after the exam.

Committee Meetings and Oral Examination:  Students assemble a dissertation committee by the end of their second year.  The committee is chaired by member other than the dissertation advisor.  At majority (i.e. 3/5) members of the committee must be faculty members of the Curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology. The first committee meeting is held before the end of the second year.  The oral examination, typically the second meeting, is held by the end of the first semester of the third year. The written component of this exam consists of a grant proposal, in NIH F30/F31 fellowship format, on the student’s dissertation research. Thereafter, committee meetings are held no more than 12 months apart (no more than 6 months apart for any students in years 6 or higher) to provide feedback on the student’s research progress and career development plans.

Additional Requirements

TA requirementGMB students must TA for an approved course. Graduate courses and undergraduate courses with significant student contact and training in pedagogical approaches are available.

Seminars:  Students are required to attend the weekly GMB student seminar (GNET 703) and the weekly faculty seminar (GNET701/702) in their second and third years.  In years three through five, each student is required to present a talk in the GMB student seminar once per year (or at the annual retreat).

Travel: All students are required to attend and present a poster or a talk at the annual retreat.

Publication: All students must publish at least one first-authored or co-first-authored, peer-reviewed research paper.