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About the Program


MD Anderson Cancer Center, with the Mitchell Basic Sciences Research Building in the foreground.The Genes & Development (G&D) Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is a graduate program for students seeking advanced training in biomedical research on the fundamental molecular mechanisms that control growth and cell differentiation, and that cause cancer and other human diseases. It is a program of The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston (GSBS).

Based in the Department of Genetics at MD Anderson, our Program 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, 8 pages, 3.1 MB)


The Research We Do

Model of the nucleosome, showing amino acids that are subject to novel histone modifications. (Tyler Laboratory)Genetics and Epigenetics

  • Human cancer genetics
  • Epigenetics
  • Chromatin remodeling
  • Non-coding RNAs
  • Genetic model organisms: mice, frogs, flies, worms


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

  • Metabolism, aging and cancer
  • Cancer stem cells
  • Transcription factors and gene expression
  • Genetically engineered animal models of cancer
  • Patient-derived xenografts


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

  • Mechanisms of cell signaling in cancer and disease
  • Adult and embryonic stem cells
  • Live cell imaging
  • Cell growth and cell death



Tissue section from a heterogenous breast tumor, where nuclei are falsely colored to show different genomic subpopulations as determined by FISH. (Navin Laboratory)Genomics of Cancer and Disease

  • Bioinformatics
  • Genome-wide analysis
  • Genomic medicine


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 10-week 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 a written and oral off-topic 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 can automatically join the G&D program. Simply complete the GSBS “Program Affiliation” form, which requires the signature of your PhD Advisor, the G&D Program Director and the G&D Program Manager. This form is listed under “Other Forms” on the GSBS Forms page.

Students interested in joining the G&D Program, whose PhD advisor is not a member of the G&D faculty, are required to submit a G&D program affiliation application, which is reviewed by a G&D faculty committee. Please click here for the form.

Program Activities

We provide our students with many opportunities to develop their experimental reasoning and communications skills, further their core scientific knowledge and establish important scientific contacts for their future. Program activities include:

  • Weekly research seminars and journal clubs where students present their research project or discuss recent advances described in the current literature.
  • G&D Directors' RoundtableWeekly Blaffer Lecture Series featuring Nobel Laureates and prominent scientists from around the world who are invited to speak about their latest research, and also meet with G&D students over lunch.
  • Annual Retreat in the Texas piney woods or hill country. The retreat includes research talks, poster sessions, breakout sessions, and free time for informal discussion and fun. It’s one of the highlights of the year!
  • G&D Directors’ Roundtables, Faculty Insight Series, Career Dialog Series, hands-on bioinformatics workshops, and other events that bring faculty and students together for a mix of scientific, career 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.

G&D students in the Barton lab.Students

Our 40 graduate students from the U.S. and around the world publish in top journals such as Nature, Science, 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

The G&D Program, and the Department of Genetics in which it is anchored, are located in the Mitchell Basic Sciences Research Building at MD Anderson. Program labs are located across the MD Anderson campus and at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. The Mitchell building also houses all graduate school administrative offices and classes.

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
  • Genome analyzers for ChIP-Seq, RNA-Seq, and methylation sequencing studies
  • Genetically engineered mouse facility
  • 122,000 sq. ft. vivarium

Structural biology resources include:

  • Fluorescence spectroscopy
  • Fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy
  • Dynamic light scattering
  • Circular dichroism spectroscopy
  • Surface plasmon resonance (Biacore)

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 10-week 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 2014-2015 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.

Program Communications

Genes and Development Program Brochure (pdf, 8 pages, 3.1 MB)

Genes and Development Annual Newsletters

Genes and Development Student Handbook is in revision. If you have questions, please contact Elisabeth Lindheim, Program Manager, at

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