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Academics:

SMS in Genetic Counseling: Degree Requirements

The students in the Genetic Counseling Specialized Master of Science (SMS) degree program must reach a number of academic milestones in order to earn their degrees. Adhering to the schedule of these milestones ensures a timely progression to completing the program.

Milestones

  • Complete an ethics course (End of fall term of first year)

    Every GSBS student is required to demonstrate knowledge in biomedical ethics by passing a one-credit-hour course. Students in the Genetic Counseling SMS program may choose from:

    • GS21 1051 The Ethical Dimensions of the Biomedical Sciences, or
    • GS21 1181 Biomedical Ethics for the Genetic Counselor (most commonly taken)

    Biomedical Ethics for the Genetic Counselor provides a foundation for navigating biomedical ethics topics likely to be encountered during genetic counseling training and practice, including issues relevant to clinical, research and industry based genetic counselors. The course is case based and primarily student led. This course will be coordinated and primarily facilitated by the course directors. Genetic counseling faculty and outside guest speakers will also participate on occasion.

  • Identify an academic advisor (End of fall term of first year)

    In order to optimize the communication between graduate students and faculty, students in the UTGCP are matched with an academic advisor who will aid them throughout their time in the program. The academic advisors are members of the genetic counseling program faculty. The objectives of this program are to open lines of communication between students and supervisors, provide the student with a person with whom they can discuss problems, supervisory concerns, academic questions etc., aid in professional development, guide students with decision making.  While the Program Directors have an open door policy and regularly meet with students, the Academic Advisor provides another faculty touch point for students.

  • Form Advisory Committee (Spring term of first year)

    In the Spring term of the first year, students will choose their thesis topic and identify their research advisor. Their research advisor will serve as the chair of the Advisory Committee and may help guide the student in forming of the rest of the committee.

    Key Requirements of an Advisory Committee

    The Advisory Committee consists of at least five members, including the student's Advisor, chosen to assure representation by faculty members competent in the student's major area of research. Of those members,

    • At least one member's research interests must lie outside the student's major discipline
      • The phrase "outside the student's major discipline" means someone who has had training and research experience in an area that is substantially different from that proposed by the student.
    • At least one member must be a certified genetic counselor from an academic institution
    • At least one member must have a postgraduate degree in a specialty other than genetic counseling
    • At least one member must have extensive experience on GSBS student committees
    • Any one individual may satisfy one or more of these criteria
    • The Advisor must be an Associate or Regular member of the GSBS Faculty.

    Additional Considerations

    • No more than two members may be non-GSBS faculty. To qualify as a voting committee member, they must have either faculty states at their home institution and/or be a certified genetic counselor at an academic institution. Include an NIH-format biosketch for all proposed members who are not GSBS Faculty.
    • An individual that does not meet these criteria but could provide expertise relevant to the student's project may serve, but as a sixth non-voting member of the committee.
  • Hold first advisory meeting (Summer term of first year)

    Once your committee is approved, you are expected to hold your first meeting soon after.

    • At least 4 members must be present at the meeting or attend via video/call-in. Students must meet individually with any members that are not present at the meeting.
    • You must provide your committee with a pre-meeting progress update at least 5 days before the meeting
    • During the meeting, the committee will complete part of the committee meeting report and each member will sign, whether they are present or not for the meeting.
    • After the meeting, you will complete the student response to the committee’s recommendations section of the committee meeting report.
    • The committee meeting report, which includes the student's progress update and the student's response to the committee's recommendations, should be submitted to the student, all members of the Advisory Committee and to gsbs.reports@uth.tmc.edu within 10 business days from the date of the meeting. The meeting will be recorded only if a report is received.

    Goals of your first Advisory Committee meeting

    The primary goal of your first meeting is to introduce yourself and describe your plan (rationale, significance, hypothesis, and aims) for your project so that the committee members can actively give you input. If you have preliminary data, it should be presented but should not be the primary focus of the meeting. You are looking for high-level advice from your committee on the planning of the project.

    DO be sure to explain all aspects of your project and ask the committee for their advice on it.

    DON’T start off the meeting by presenting data without first providing a sound rationale for the project and experiments.

  • Submit petition for MS candidacy (End of summer term of first year)

    MS students are expected to submit the Petition to Candidacy for the MS degree form, once their advisory committee has approved the student’s research project.

    The petition contains:

    • A list of the student's completed/prospective courses
    • A one-page summary of the student's research proposal
    • Petition to Candidacy for the MS Degree

    The petition must be approved by the Academic Standards Committee.

  • Complete online ethics modules (End of summer term of first year)

    Because students complete and ethics course at the start of their graduate training, students are also required to complete two online modules – Data Acquisition and Management and Responsible Authorship and Publication – prior to completing their degree, as a “just-in-time” supplemental review of key ethical issues.

    Instructions for completing these modules are sent to students via email after completion of the ethics course. Once complete, please email the two completion reports showing the final score you made for each module to Bunny Perez in the GSBS Office of Academic Affairs.

  • Hold an Advisory Committee meeting (Every six months)

    Students are expected to hold an Advisory Committee meeting every 6 months, and MS students must hold a minimum of 2 meetings to be eligible to defend their thesis.

    • At least 4 members must be present at the meeting or attend via video/call-in. Students must meet individually with any members that are not present at the meeting.
    • You must provide your committee with a pre-meeting progress update at least 5 days before the meeting
    • During the meeting, the committee will complete part of the committee meeting report and each member will sign, whether they are present or not for the meeting.
    • After the meeting you will complete the student response to the committee’s recommendations section of the committee meeting report.
    • The committee meeting report, which includes the student's progress update and the student's response to the committee's recommendations, should be submitted to the student, all members of the Advisory Committee and to gsbs.reports@uth.tmc.edu within 10 business days from the date of the meeting. The meeting will be recorded only if a report is received.
  • Complete at least 36 semester-hours of pertinent coursework (Before graduation)

    These courses include:

    • 12 semester-hours of didactic courses graded A-F
    • An ethics course
    • GS11 1174 Advanced Clinical Rotation, including passing the Oral Comprehensive Exam
    • GS00 1520 Research in the Biomedical Sciences
    • GS00 1910 Thesis for Master of Science
  • Submit a signed petition to defend thesis (Two weeks prior to defense)

    Within two years after advancement to candidacy, and with approval of the Advisory Committee, the student will write and defend their thesis.

    The student must be in good academic standing in order to request the defense of the thesis.

    Two weeks prior to the defense, the student must complete and submit the Petition for the Defense of the MS Thesis or PhD Dissertation to the Office of Academic Affairs Grad Team at gsbs.gradteam@uth.tmc.edu.

    With this form, students will include:

    • Electronic version of your abstract for distribution in GSBS Essential (the abstract should be in MS Word -- not a PDF)
    • Electronic version of your thesis for anti-plagiarism check that includes complete thesis/dissertation without the references.
    • PDF of the draft of your thesis for formatting check – include all pages (i.e., approval page, title page, abstract, acknowledgements, table of contents, figures, figure legends, references, vita, etc.)
    • PDF of your updated CV (please include your publications, presentations, awards, etc.)

     Once the petition for defense has been approved, you will receive exit documents from Bunny Perez.

     For Information regarding thesis preparation and steps to graduation, visit our Graduation page.

  • Defend thesis (Before graduation)

    Purpose of the MS Thesis Defense

     To evaluate:

    • Understanding of the thesis research
    • Ability to report information in a well-organized and interesting form

     Presentation Details:

    • 45- to 60-minute public presentation of the research project
      • Detailed description of the background
      • Rationale
      • Materials and Methods
      • Results and Conclusions

    Following the presentation, the student will respond to questions from the audience.

     Advisory Committee Examination and Results

    • The student's Advisor will serve as moderator of the examination.
    • The student will be expected to respond to questions from those GSBS faculty attending on any aspect of the written thesis or the material presented at the seminar.
    • After the defense, the student will meet privately with the Advisory Committee to discuss the results.
    • The Advisory Committee will determine what recommendation to make to the Deans and the Academic Standards Committee
      • Unconditional Pass
      • Conditional Pass
      • Additional research
      • Modifications to the thesis
      • And/or another defense
  • Submit final, signed thesis and complete all exit paperwork (Before graduation)

    After the completion of the defense, the student will make all necessary edits to their thesis and submit the final copy (approved by their committee), along with all exit paperwork to the Office of Academic Affairs. 

    All exit paperwork is sent to the student when their Petition to Defend is approved. Any questions regarding the exit process should be sent to Bunny Perez.

  • Complete all degree requirements (Within three years of admission)

    The SMS degree will be awarded when the student has:

    • Completed all courses listed in the student's program of work
    • Successfully completed the MS defense
    • Submitted the final thesis, approved by the Advisory Committee, to Academic Affairs for the Dean's signature
    • Completed all exit forms

    The degree will be issued as of the final day of the semester in which all degree requirements have been met.

    The SMS degree must be completed within three years of registration in the Graduate School. Students may continue registration after the three-year limit only with the expressed written permission of the Deans.