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About the Program


MD Anderson Cancer Center, with the Mitchell Basic Sciences Research Building in the foreground.The Genes & Development Program (G&D) is a research-oriented Ph.D. program at the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston (GSBS). The research in G&D labs is broadly focused on the fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms that control cell growth and differentiation, and that cause cancer and other human diseases.

Based in the Department of Genetics and Experimental Radiation Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson, G&D offers students the unique opportunity to study and conduct research at one of the premier cancer centers in the United States, located within the largest medical center in the world – the Texas Medical Center.

Program Brochure (pdf)


The Research We Do

Genetics and Epigenetics of Development and Disease

  • Human cancer genetics and patient-based research
  • Epigenetics and chromatin remodeling
  • Non-coding RNAs and microRNAs
  • Genetic models including mice, frogs, flies, zebrafish and worms



Section through a metastatic tumor in the liver. (Flores Laboratory)Cancer Biology and Genomics

  • Metabolism, aging and cancer
  • Cancer stem cells and tumor suppressors
  • In vivo models of cancer from mouse to fish to worms
  • Bioinformatics, genome-wide analysis, single cell sequencing



3D imaging of mouse embryo. (Chen Laboratory)Stem Cells, Development, and Gene Regulation

  • Mechanisms of cell signaling in cancer and disease
  • Adult and embryonic stem cells
  • Live cell imaging
  • Live cell imaging of cell growth, cell death, and regeneration
  • Transcription factors and gene expression




Degree Requirements

Lozano lab in Mitchell Basic Sciences Research Building.Requirements for the Ph.D. degree include a broad knowledge of gene regulation, biochemistry, molecular biology and developmental biology. These are acquired through coursework, three laboratory rotations during the first year, participation in research seminars and journal clubs, and a dissertation research project. The rotations expose students to a variety of experimental approaches and assist them in the selection of their research advisor. After satisfactorily completing the PhD candidacy exam, students advance to candidacy and concentrate on completing their dissertation research. Time to graduation is generally five to six years.

More information about G&D curriculum and the G&D Ph.D. candidacy exam can be found on the curriculum page and in our candidacy exam guidelines.

Program Affiliation

Students who join the lab of a G&D faculty member are automatically eligible to join the G&D program. Students must complete the GSBS “Accountable Mentorship Agreement for PhD Students: Research Advisor and Graduate Program Selection” and obtain all required signatures: Advisor, Program Director, and Chair of the academic department they are joining. This form is available from the GSBS Office of Academic Affairs. Students interested in joining G&D, whose PhD advisor is not a member of the G&D faculty, should contact the Program Director or Program Manager for more information.

Program Activities

We are an active community for learning and collaboration. G&D students have diverse opportunities to hone their experimental reasoning skills, build their core scientific knowledge, and establish scientific contacts important for their futures. Program activities provide an exciting mix of scientific, academic, career development and social exchange throughout the year. They include:

  • Blaffer Research Lecture Series and Journal Club featuring Nobel Laureates and prominent scientists from across the globe who are invited to present their latest research each week during the academic year. G&D students meet with each speaker over lunch - an invaluable opportunity to network with today’s scientific leaders. At the journal club, a student presents a paper from the lab of the upcoming week’s Blaffer speaker. The journal club is an important presentation and critical thinking experience, providing G&D students with useful, essential background prior to the lecture and speaker lunch.  
  • Annual Program Retreat features trainee and faculty research talks, research poster sessions, career-development breakout sessions, keynote lecture, and free time for networking and relaxation. Held offsite, our overnight retreat is one of the highlights of the year!

  • Department Research Seminars are offered weekly by the departments most G&D students are affiliated with. In addition, Texas Medical Center institutions such as Baylor College of Medicine, UTHealth, Methodist Research Institute, Texas A&M IBT, and Rice University all have vibrant seminar series that are easily accessible to any interested G&D students.
  • FFFSS Student Seminar Series is G&D’s student-run monthly seminar series that features two students on the first Friday of every month. All program members and faculty are invited. The series offers students insightful discussion and supportive feedback.
  • Faculty Insight Series, Hands-on Bioinformatics and Graphics Workshops, Postdoc Mentoring Event, Directors’ Roundtables, Fall Faculty/Student Dinner, Lunar New Year Celebration, and Summer Ice Cream Social provide year-round scientific and career development opportunities, and events that bring faculty and students together for scientific and social exchange..







The G&D faculty is a diverse group leading internationally recognized research programs. Many have leadership positions in the scientific community, including editorial responsibilities for major scientific journals, memberships on advisory boards and NIH and NSF peer-review panels, and organizers of national and international meetings. Detailed faculty research and biographical information can be found on the Faculty page.


Our 35 graduate students from the U.S. and around the world publish in top journals such as Nature, Cell, Cancer Cell, Nature Genetics, and Nature Cell Biology, and many obtain prestigious fellowships during their studies. G&D alumni are now tenure-track faculty at top academic institutions, including Yale University; the University of California, San Francisco; Rice University; Wake Forest University; the University of Alabama; the University of Connecticut; the University of Kansas; the University of Massachusetts; The Ohio State University; and many more. Other graduates have pursued non-academic careers in biotech, government service, patent law and technology licensing.

Research Facilities

Most G&D labs are in the Mitchell Basic Sciences Research Building (BSRB) and the new Zayed Building at MD Anderson. Others are distributed across MD Anderson and UTHealth. The Mitchell building also houses our graduate school’s Dean’ office and classrooms.

Extensive resources are available to pursue biochemical, molecular, cell and developmental biological experiments:

  • State-of-the-art microscopy and digital imaging resources
  • DNA analysis core facility
  • Microarray facility
  • Patient-derived xenografts
  • Genome analyzers for ChIP-Seq, RNA-Seq, and methylation sequencing studies
  • Genetically engineered mouse facility
  • 122,000 sq. ft. vivarium

In addition, our close physical proximity to neighboring institutions in the Texas Medical Center fosters collaborations with colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine, The University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Rice University and Texas A&M’s Institute of Biosciences and Technology.


Students interested in the G&D Program must first apply to, and be admitted by, GSBS. Here, admissions differs from many graduate schools in that students are admitted to the graduate school and not to a particular program or department. Students generally join a program at the end of the first year, after completing three laboratory tutorials and selecting their thesis advisor; no additional G&D Program application is required unless a student joins the lab of a professor who is not in the G&D Program.

Graduate school admissions information, deadlines, and online applications are available on the GSBS Web site.

Financial Support and Stipends

All G&D students receive full financial support throughout their training, which includes tuition, fees and stipend; the 2015-2016 stipend level is $29,000. Annual competitive awards are also available for outstanding research projects and posters, and to support student travel to scientific meetings. Visit the GSBS Financial Assistance Web page for stipend levels and other information about fellowships and scholarships.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center