Master of Science in Diagnostic Genetics

The Graduate Program in Diagnostic Genetics concentrates on the mastery of interpretive skills in major areas of the field including:

  • Bioinformatics and Diagnostic Genetics and Genomics
  • Cancer Genetics and Genomics
  • DNA Forensic Science
  • Infectious Disease Genetics and Genomics
  • Model Organism Genomics
  • Pre- and Post-Natal Genetics and Genomics

The program is administered by:

Dean: Shirley Richmond, Ed.D.

Program Director: Peter Hu, Ph.D.

Education Coordinator (Molecular Genetics and Genomics): Awdhesh Kalia, Ph.D.

Education Coordinator (Cytogenetic Technology): Jun Gu, M.D., Ph.D.

Visit the SHP Faculty page for a complete list of DG and SHP faculty, staff, and adjuncts.

To review application deadlines and access the admissions application, visit the "How to Apply" page.

Please contact the Diagnostic Genetics Program Director, Dr. Hu, for more information and to communicate your interest in applying for this program.

Mission

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Master's Program in Diagnostic Genetics, in concert with the mission and vision of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, is committed to the education of technically and academically outstanding graduates prepared to meet the immediate and future needs of molecular diagnostic laboratories and allied health teaching.

Objectives

As a result, an M.S. degree in the related field of Diagnostic Genetics offers a wide range of career options, including leadership roles in:

  • Diagnostic labs within a hospital setting
  • Pharmaceutical industry including R&D and sales
  • Biotechnology companies, R&D and sales
  • Research, laboratories, including Lab manager and research associate positions
  • Teaching institutions: including Instructor/Faculty positions

Selection Process

Admission is dependent on factors that include:

  • Cumulative GPA.
  • Science and Math GPA.
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or current clinical certification through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) in one of the following MB, CG, or MLS, unless waiver approved by admissions committee. Individuals with advanced degrees of M.D. or Ph.D. in Biological or Biomedical Sciences may also request a waiver by the admissions committee.
  • Applicant's personal qualities such as maturity, ethical integrity, ability to handle stressful situations, and the applicant's long-term professional goals.
  • Reference letters (from people who can comment on your technical and intellectual capabilities).
  • Assessment scores (taken on the date of the interview).
  • Ability to meet the SHP non-academic technical standards.
  • Race, religion, national origin, veteran status, gender, or disability are not factors considered in the selection process

Applicants should begin the application process three to six months prior to the application deadline to ensure all documents are received and processed by the University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston Registrar's office.

Nonacademic Requirements

For a description of the non-academic technical standards requirements for admission, visit the admission section of the SHP Catalog.

Admission to the graduate program is highly competitive

The program may accept 6-8 qualified students from among the applicant pool in any given academic year. Applicants are encouraged to begin the application process three to nine months prior to the application deadline to ensure all documents are received and processed by the UTHSC-Houston Registrar's office.

Program Admission Requirements

The Master of Science degree is a full-time two-year program with entry at the post-baccalaureate level..

Applicants to the Program in Diagnostic Genetics must satisfy the following requirements for admission:

  • Bachelor degree in biological sciences, biochemistry, chemistry, or related majors with emphasis on genetics/biochemistry courses or international equivalence of a U.S. M.D.B.S degree.
  • All prerequisite course work must be from a regionally accredited college or university. Physical education and military science courses are not acceptable for prerequisite credit.
  • Minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale is required to be considered for admission. GPA may be evaluated by the following: overall, science and mathematics course work, and last 60 hours or combinations of all of the above. Special circumstances may be considered, but at the discretion of the Admissions Committee.
  • Applicants holding current Clinical Certification through the ASCP in MB, CG, or MLS are exempt from taking the GRE. Proof of ASCP Certification and exam score should be submitted in order to claim this exemption from taking the GRE.
  • Applicants without ASCP Clinical Certification in the above fields must take the General Test of the GRE that includes the analytical portion. NOTE: The GRE Designated Institution Code for The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is 6906.
  • Applicants with previous graduate degrees, e.g. Ph.D. or M.S. in Biological or Biomedical Sciences, may request a waiver of the GRE at the discretion of the Admission's Committee.
  • Three reference letters from individuals who are in a position to evaluate the applicant's personal attributes and their academic and laboratory skills and submitted directly to Dr. Hu.
  • Personal interview.
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) - Applicants from countries where English is not the native language may be required to take the TOEFL. Internet-based TOEFL is now available and a total test score ranging from 74-78 with a minimum score of 18 in each section is required.

Prior Course work and Experience

The following courses are strongly recommended:

• Prior Undergraduate or graduate course work in:

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology
  • Biochemistry/ Organic Chemistry
  • Statistics
  • Human Physiology
  • Evolutionary Biology

• Prior research experience during undergraduate study.

Graduation

Each candidate for a Master's degree must complete:

  • A minimum of 46 SCH of course work.
  • Presentation of a poster at a local, state, or national conference.
  • The successful defense of a written clinical application research thesis.

Upon graduation, students are eligible to take the national certification exam in either molecular biology or cytogenetics given by the ASCP depending upon the curriculum track for which the student is seeking certification. (Once the student is admitted to the program, the Program Director will meet with the student to discuss the certification eligibility routes.) In some instances, students may be eligible for dual certification. Note: graduation from the program IS NOT contingent upon taking any certification exams.

Curriculum

An integral part of the MS curriculum is pursuing applied (clinical and basic translational) research. Students are required to select and identify their program mentors and related research laboratories during the first semester of the program. The curriculum includes didactic course work followed by directed clinical laboratory training at affiliated hospitals and laboratories. For further details about the curriculum, please refer to the Course Listing section below, or contact Program Director, Dr. Hu.

Affiliations for Clinical Rotation

During the clinical phase of instruction, training and supervision are provided in affiliated clinical laboratories, including:

  • UT MD Anderson Cancer Center (Diagnostic Molecular Science Laboratory), Houston, TX
  • UT MD Anderson Cancer Center (Clinical Cytogenetics Laboratory), Houston, TX
  • UT MD Anderson Cancer Center (HLA Laboratory), Houston, TX
  • UT MD Anderson Cancer Center (DNA Analysis Core Facility), Houston, TX
  • UT MD Anderson Cancer Center (Clinical Microbiology Laboratory), Houston, TX
  • Baylor College of Medicine (Diagnostic Sequencing Laboratory), Houston
  • Baylor College of Medicine (Chromosome & Microarray Laboratory), Houston, TX
  • Baylor College of Medicine (Mitochondria Laboratory), Houston, TX
  • Baylor College of Medicine (John Walsh Cardiovascular Diagnostic Laboratory), Houston, TX
  • Baylor College of Medicine (Whole Genome Sequencing Laboratory), Houston, TX
  • The Methodist Hospital (Clinical Laboratory Medicine), Houston, TX
  • UT Medical Branch in Galveston (Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory), Galveston, TX
  • Companion DX Laboratory, Houston, TX

Applied Research in Basic and Clinical Sciences

The Diagnostic Genetics Program aims to make an important contribution to improving health care through applied research. With a variety of participating Principal Investigators who share a wide range of research interests, these goals are attainable through collaborative, interdisciplinary, and outcome- based clinical research and clinical applications

Funding Opportunities

Working through the financial aid office of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, prospective students may be funded through a variety of sources including federal, state, and departmental funds. These funds come in the forms of loans, grants, and scholarships

Accreditation

The Molecular Genetic Technology program is accredited and has confirmed its curriculum to the standards published and monitored by:

National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
5600 N. River Rd., Ste 720
Rosemont, IL 60018-5119
Phone: 773-714-8880
Fax: 773-714-8886

Course Listings

STUDENTS must maintain an overall 3.0 average to graduate

Track 1: Molecular Genetics and Genomics46 SCH
Year 1 Fall Semester11
DG 6110 Bioinformatics in Diagnostic Genetics I Lab1
DG 6280 Concepts in Molecular Diagnostics2
DG 6320 Bioinformatics in Diagnostic Genetics3
DG 6510 Advanced Diagnostic Molecular Laboratory Techniques Lab5
Year 1 Spring Semester10
DG 6560 Clinical Molecular Rotation I5
DG 6570 Clinical Molecular Rotation II5
Year 2 Fall Semester9
DG 6290 Diagnostic Molecular Pathology2
DG 6333 Quantitative Research and Advanced Statistics3
DG 6401 Advanced Practice I4
Year 2 Spring Semester10
DG 6340 Bioinformatics in Diagnostic Genetics II3
DG 6701 Advanced Practice II7
Year 2 Summer Semester6
DG 6100 Clinical Research Seminar I1
DG 6501 Advanced Practice III5
Track 2: Cytogenetics46 SCH
Year 1 Fall Semester12
DG 6120 Intermediate Karyotyping1
DG 6152 Clinical Prenatal Cytogenetics1
DG 6290 Diagnostic Molecular Pathology2
DG 6350 Clinical Laboratory Cytogenetics3
DG 6530 Clinical Cytogenetic Laboratory Techniques5
Year 1 Spring Semester10
DG 6521 Clinical Cytogenetics Rotation5
DG 6531 Clinical Cytogenetics Rotation II5
Year 2 Fall Semester9
DG 6110 Bioinformatics in Diagnostic Genetics I Lab1
DG 6201 Advanced Practice IC2
DG 6320 Bioinformatics in Diagnostic Genetics I3
DG 6333 Quantitative Research and Advanced Statistics3
Year 2 Spring Semester9
DG 6240 Case Studies and Abnormal Karyotypes2
DG 6390 Advanced Topics in Clinical Cytogenetics3
DG 6401 Advanced Practice IIC4
Year 2 Summer Semester6
DG 6100 Clinical Research Seminar I1
DG 6501 Advanced Practice III5

 

Course Descriptions

DG 6100 Clinical Research Seminar I (1 SCH)
Seminar based course that covers topics in genetics and related fields.

DG 6110 Bioinformatics in Diagnostic Genetics I Lab (1 SCH)
This course will introduce the students to Bioinformatics, a rapidly evolving science at the interface of computers and molecular genetics and genomics with special emphasis on molecular evolution. Students will apply the theoretical foundations acquired in DG6320 for database construction, management and access for the purposes of managing and analyzing DNA, RNA, Protein and Genome sequences. Students will gain hands on experience with computer programs useful for manipulating & characterizing gene/RNA/protein/genome sequences, evaluating a DNA/RNA/protein molecule as a putative diagnostic marker using homology, MSA, PSSM, HMM, and basic comparative genomic analyses. Students will be assigned an independent project (PICDIn) to demonstrate their aptitude and active learning skills (Theoretical and Lab-based) through development of a bioinformatics pipeline and workflows for single gene analyses, multigene analyses, and bacterial genome-based analysis.
Runs in tandem with DG 6320.

DG 6120 Intermediate Karyotyping (1 SCH)
A continuation of CC4120, this intermediary course in human G-banded chromosome identification will be a case-based approach to the analysis of chromosome abnormalities commonly seen in constitutional and oncologic cases. Students will apply the International System for Human Cytogenetic Nomenclature (ISCN) and be prepared to perform literature reviews and in class case discussions.
Laboratory fee of $30.00.

DG 6152 Clinical Prenatal Cytogenetics (1 SCH)
Cytogenetic analysis is the single most frequent test used in laboratory prenatal diagnostic studies. This course summarizes the current status of the field, including diagnostic problems in the laboratory and the clinical problems associated with communicating unexpected laboratory findings. Students will correlate cytogenetic analysis with fetal loss, biochemical screening, ultrasonography, prenatal genetic profiling and fluorescence in situ hybridization. Hands-on laboratory activities included POC dissection, in situ culture set up and harvesting and chromosome analysis of abnormal prenatal cases. Case study analysis will include abnormality identification and drafting of mock written clinical reports.

DG 6201 Advanced Practice IC (2 SCH)
This is a hypothesis-based original research study. Student must fulfill the requirements of a Master's level applied research work including an approved proposal by the faculty advisor and the Diagnostic Genetics core committee 1 month before the beginning of the term. Graduation with an applied research project is subject to approval by the applied research committee and program core committee, and requires the student to present their projects to a faculty committee both orally and in writing.

DG 6240 Advanced Karyotyping and Case Studies (2 SCH)
A continuation of DG6120 Intermediate Karyotyping. This advanced course in G-banded chromosome identification requires students to apply cytogenetic knowledge and karyotyping skills to solve either complex pre/postnatal or oncologic cytogenetic cases.. Students will be required to apply the International System for Human Cytogenetic Nomenclature (ISCN) for their analysis and present their case studies.
Lab fee of $30.00.

DG 6280 Concepts in Molecular Diagnostics (2 SCH)
The primary goal of this course is to familiarize students with the fundamental molecular, pathologic, genetic, and genomic concepts that drive the development and practice of ‘diagnostics genetics’. Course discussions held within the framework of evidence-based lab medicine focus on the contributions of diagnostic genetics and genomics in disease diagnosis, prevention, and in personalized therapy. Topics comprise four overlapping areas: 1) Theoretical foundations of Molecular Diagnostic Techniques 2) Concepts in Genomics and Transcriptomics; 3) Established Applications of Molecular Methods: Cancer and Infectious Disease Diagnostics; Pharmacogenomics, and related topics; and, 4) Development & Evaluation of New Molecular Tests - via PICDIn and critical analyses of recent publications. Where required, appropriate CLIA requirements and CLSI guidelines will be discussed to highlight the implementation of Quality Assessment (QA) and Quality Control (QC) in molecular diagnostic tests.

DG 6290 Clinical Disease and Applications of Molecular Genetics (2 SCH)
Focuses on the specific applications of molecular techniques within a variety of disciplines. The disciplines covered include molecular cytogenetics, immunology, infectious diseases, oncology, prenatal and postnatal disorders, and transplantation immunology. Participants will be evaluated by both theoretical and application knowledge through exams and a written paper.

DG 6320 Bioinformatics in Diagnostic Genetics I (3 SCH)
This course will introduce the students to Bioinformatics – rapidly evolving science at the interface of computers and diagnostic genetics and genomics -with emphasis on molecular evolutionary foundations. Students will be provided solid theoretical foundations that drive development of computer applications useful for database construction, management and access for the purposes of managing and analyzing DNA, RNA, Protein and Genome sequences. Moreover, students will gain hands on experience with computer programs useful for context-driven analyses, data mining & characterization of gene/RNA/protein/genome sequences, evaluating a DNA/RNA/protein molecules as putative diagnostic markers using homology, MSA, PSSM, HMM, and basic comparative genomic analyses. Students will be assigned an independent project (PICDIn) to demonstrate their aptitude and active learning skills (theoretical and Lab-based) through development of a bioinformatics pipeline for single gene analyses and bacterial and viral genome-based analysis.
Runs in tandem with DG 6110.

DG 6333 Quantitative Research and Advanced Statistics (3 SCH)
An overview of inferential statistics, including but not limited to: correlation, regression, t-test, Chi square, and ANOVA as a foundation of experimental design, various models, correlation analysis, multiple regression, and factor analysis that emphasizes on clinical research implications and applications.

DG 6340 Bioinformatics in Diagnostic Genetics II (3 SCH)
This course will introduce the students to Advanced Bioinformatics toolkits with special emphasis on (i) Molecular Phylogenetic and Population Genetics, and (ii) post Next-Generation Sequencing Analytical Strategies pipelines. Students will be introduced to theoretical foundations of advanced phylogenetic hypothesis testing, including model selection, detection of recombination and selection from MSAs, comparison of phylogenies etc. Students will learn to measure fundamental population genetic statistics such as mutation and recombination rates, linkage disequilibrium, gene flow, genetic differentiation with using human and other reference sequence datasets. Students will focus on analyzing and validating SNP and SNVs from whole genome and exome sequencing datasets; will learn to implement the RNA-seq analysis for quantifying gene expression in disease and control cases; and will learn ChiP-seq data analysis using reference sequence data sets. Students will learn to implement advanced molecular phylogenetic tools for testing tumor evolution and other diseases. Students will be assigned an independent project to perform sophisticated bioinformatics analysis on high throughput NGS data, which could be from their own thesis projects (if thesis involves NGS analysis) or assigned by the Faculty (if thesis does not involve NGS analysis).

DG 6350 Clinical Laboratory Cytogenetics (3 SCH)
A blended learning experience of lecture instruction, class discussion, and hands-on clinical laboratory practice on general principles of clinical cytogenetic study. Students will be exposed to numerical and structural chromosome abnormalities, embryogenesis & meiotic outcomes, sex chromosome abnormalities & translocations, congenital versus acquired abnormalities & mosaicism, ethical and counseling issues, and reporting issues & ISCN. Students will gain diagnostic and interpretive skills in a variety of cytogenetic problems. The course requires student to complete a case report of an assigned topic with a brief literature search and review.
Laboratory fee of $30.00.

DG 6390 Applied Molecular Diagnostic Techniques (3 SCH)
This lecture/laboratory course focuses on the specific applications of newer molecular techniques. Participants will have hands-on experiences which may include Real Time PCR using various detection methods, microarray technology, sequencing, and next generation sequencing. Participants in this course will also be challenged at a higher critical thinking level of trouble shooting various diagnostic molecular problems. This course also includes a review for the (ASCP) certification exam.
Lab fee of $30.00

DG 6391 Advanced Topics in Clinical Cytogenetics (3 SCH)
This capstone course integrates learning from all previous taught courses. It is a student-centered course aim to develop critical thinking and knowledge synthesis skills as a cytogenetic technologist. Students will work on case studies to develop their problem solving skills in a clinical cytogenetic environment. Students will also participate in a national review in clinical cytogenetics and a mock CAP inspection. Finally, students will show mastery of the field of cytogenetics through completing essays, written scenarios, practice exams and eventually taking a comprehensive cytogenetic exam.

DG 6401 Advanced Practice I (4 SCH) Molecular Genetics and Genomics Track
This is a hypothesis-based original research study. Student must fulfill the requirements of a Master's level applied research work including an approved proposal by the faculty advisor and the Diagnostic Genetics core committee 1 month before the beginning of the term. Graduation with an applied research project is subject to approval by the applied research committee and program core committee, and requires the student to present their projects to a faculty committee both orally and in writing.

DG 6401 Advanced Practice IIC (4 SCH) Cytogenetics Track
This is a continuation of DG 6201 Advanced Practice IC course. All rules and regulations for completion of the thesis project apply.
Lab fee of $30.00.

DG 6501 Advanced Practice III (5 SCH)
This is a continuation of DG 6401 Advanced Practice IIC and DG 6701 Advanced Practice II courses. All rules and regulations for completion of the thesis project apply.
Lab fee of $30.00.

DG 6510 Advanced Techniques in Molecular Biology (5 SCH)
This course will provide hands-on opportunities to students to develop and apply their technical skills to aid in the diagnosis, prognosis and management of complex human diseases and hospital-based pathogen outbreaks. Students will conduct and interpret the outcomes of molecular diagnostic tests on archived, PHI-stripped, samples from patients, control DNAs and/or otherwise healthy individuals. Students learn, 1) to handle and process human tissues and fluids, and infectious pathogens isolated from human patients and extract and purify their DNA and RNA via a variety of methods in a BSL2-safety environment; 2) to perform QA-QC tests on cellular DNA/RNA and synthetic DNA/cDNA molecules via a variety of methods including, conventional (e.g., electrophoresis) and emergent methods like Biochips; 3) to manipulate purified DNA/RNA/cDNA molecules via well-established methods such as PCR and its variations to the recently emerged and rapidly maturing applications and technologies such as MLST and complete bacterial genome sequencing (454; Illumina platform, Nanopore); and4) to diagnose disease, provide disease prognosis, and to genotype bacterial pathogens.
Lab fee of $30.00.

DG 6521 Clinical Cytogenetics Rotation I (5 SCH)
This laboratory rotation involves in-depth study of the different cytogenetic techniques and methods used in constitutional chromosome disorders diagnosis. This laboratory rotation also provides the students an opportunity to observe and participate in the testing algorithms and reflex testing that occur in prenatal and postnatal cytogenetic testing environment. Student is required to perform case studies and prepare a presentation to the laboratory host rotation.
Lab fee of $30.00.

DG 6530 Clinical Cytogenetic Laboratory Techniques (5 SCH)
This course will provide a comprehensive overview of all types of traditional cytogenetic techniques as well as molecular cytogenetic studies by fluorescence in situ hybridization. The course goal is to achieve entry level competency in the workup of patients with constitutional chromosome abnormalities through both didactic and hand-on instruction. Various aspects of quality control and assurance associated with good laboratory practice for most routine cytogenetic methods will be performed and discussed. Students will maintain laboratory notebooks documenting the standard operating procedures with troubleshooting notations.
Lab fee of $30.00.

DG 6531 Clinical Cytogenetics Rotation II (5 SCH)
This laboratory rotation provides the student with intensive study of test procedures and practical application of theory topics in all aspects of the hematological malignant cytogenetic study. Analytical methodologies, as well as the correlation of cytogenetic and molecular cytogenetic tests with hematologic disorders are emphasized. Quality control procedures and safety considerations are incorporated to the process of problem-solving and troubleshooting. The course also competency tests students regarding to microscopic cell analysis, photographic techniques, karyotype preparation, evaluation, FISH signal quantitation, and ISCN issues. Student is required to perform case studies and prepare presentations to the laboratory host rotation.

DG 6560 Clinical Molecular Rotation I (5 SCH)
This clinical laboratory rotation includes the study of molecular diagnostic procedures utilizing recombinant DNA technology and its application to the many aspects of the clinical laboratory. Laboratory experiences may include but not limited to: DNA specimen handling and processing, DNA extraction, DNA purification, Southern blot analysis, probe preparation and utilization, PCR, primer design, Real-Time PCR, microarray, FISH, and DNA sequencing.
Lab fee of $30.00.

6570 Clinical Molecular Rotation II (5 SCH)
This clinical laboratory rotation is a continuation of DG6560. This clinical laboratory rotation includes the study of molecular diagnostic procedures utilizing recombinant DNA technology and its application to the many aspects of the clinical laboratory. Laboratory experiences may include DNA specimen handling and processing, DNA extraction, DNA purification, Southern blot analysis, probe preparation and utilization, PCR, primer design, Real-Time PCR, microarray, FISH, and DNA sequencing.
Lab fee of $30.00.

DG 6701 Advanced Practice II (7 SCH)
This is a continuation of DG 6401 Advanced Practice I course. All rules and regulations for completion of the thesis project apply.
Lab fee of $30.00.