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Research in Genetic & Epigenetic labs is broadly focused on the fundamental genetic, epigenetic, and genomic mechanisms that control cell growth and differentiation, and that cause cancer and other human diseases.


Genetics & Epigenetics (G&E) PhD and Masters students are required to fulfill GSBS and Program-specific course requirements as listed below, in addition to the GSBS PhD degree and MS degree requirements. Requirements for students doing a secondary area of concentration in G&E are also listed. PhD students must pass the G&E candidacy exam to advance to candidacy. In addition, all students affiliated with G&E are expected to attend the annual G&E Retreat and present the findings of their research project. Students are also highly encouraged to participate in program activities throughout the year to enhance their education and support the development of their professional network. 

G&E Course Requirements

PhD Students

In addition to the general GSBS course requirements, the G&E Program requires the following courses:

  • GS04 1253 Principles of Genetics and Epigenetics
  • GS04 1811 G&E Scientific Writing (or equivalent) *
  • GS04 1821 G&E Oral Scientific Presentations
  • One or more elective course(s) or course modules (at least 3 credits)

Any GSBS course(s) can be chosen for the elective. Students should work with the G&E program director, their research mentor and/or Advisory Committee to use this elective to customize their studies to support their educational objectives.

* Students may take the GSBS Scientific Writing course or most Program-specific scientific writing courses to fulfill this requirement.

MD/PhD Students

The same as for PhD student listed above with one (1) exception: MD/PhD students are not required to take the three (3) elective course credits required for PhD students.

PhD Students with a Secondary Area of Concentration in G&E:

  • GS04 1253 Principles of Genetics and Epigenetics
  • At least one second ARC Program faculty member, other than their research advisor, must serve on the student’s Advisory Committee
  • At least one second ARC Program faculty member must serve on the student’s Exam Committee

In addition, they are expected to attend the annual G&E Program retreat and actively participate in some other G&E activities each year

MS Students

  • GS04 1253 Principles of Genetics and Epigenetics

Not required but suggested:

  • G&E Oral Scientific Presentations (GS04 1821) or equivalent
  • G&E Scientific Writing (GS04 1811) or equivalent

Suggested Elective Course Taught By G&E Faculty
Pragmatic Bioinformatics for Bench Scientists (2 credits)
Advanced Topics in Epigenetics (1 credit)
Practical Bioinformatics (1 credit)
Advanced Topics in DNA Repair (1 credit)
Introduction to Bioinformatics (3 credits)
Critical Thinking in Science (1 credit)
Developmental Biology (3 credits)
Principles of Stem Cell Biology (2 credits)
- Cancer Epidemiology (3 credits)
- Principles of Experimental Mouse Pathology (2 credits)

Course Descriptions

  • Developmental Biology
    Course Detail

    GS04 1073 (3 credits)

    Developmental Biology is one of the fundamental modern biological disciplines. This course provides an in-depth examination of the basic cellular, molecular, and genetic mechanisms by which a fertilized egg transforms into an organism with fully differentiated and functioning tissues and organs. Topics covered will include cell-to-cell communication, embryo patterning, tissue morphogenesis, cell differentiation, progenitor cells, advantages and disadvantages of classical and genetic model organisms for analyzing development, postembryonic development and regeneration, and the profound implications of developmental biology for medicine. The course is divided into hands-on lab modules, utilizing primary model organisms to examine the basic principles of developmental biology and will discuss current debates and recent findings that have yet to be simplified for textbook presentation.

  • G&E Oral Scientific Presentations
    Course Detail

    GS04 1821 (1 credits)

    The class is designed for second year students who have chosen their thesis lab and are preparing for their candidacy exam.  The students will use their thesis project as a template to develop a 20-minute scientific presentation.  All aspects of the presentation will be covered including title and introduction slides, organizing your data into a story, model slides and conclusions and answering questions.  In addition to the 20-minute presentation students will also give two 90-second elevator talks one to a scientific group and one to a non-scientists group.  Students will also present a 10 minute chalk talk based on the research plan that is based on the data from their 20-minute talk. This course is designed to prepare the student for the oral defense portion of their candidacy exam and to prepare the student to present their work in both short and long format platform presentations. Auditing this course is permitted with course directors' consent. 

  • G&E Scientific Writing
    Course Detail

    GS04 1811 (1 credits)

    This course is designed for second year students who have already chosen their thesis lab. Students will be taught how to write scientific papers. The goal of the class will be for each student to write a review of the literature of their field of research for submission and publication.

    >> This course fulfills the GSBS Scientific Writing requirement <<

  • Genetic Epidemiology of Chronic Disease
    Course Detail

    GS11 1092 (2 credits)

    This course will expose students to the evidence and logic involved in inferring the contribution of genetic mechanisms to those diseases of public health importance.  Emphasis will be on developing a framework for assessing the impact of genes on common disease, but will not include detailed methodological developments or statistical techniques.  The format will be a weekly two-hour session in which a single disease will be examined.  In this way students will be exposed to a broad spectrum of diseases and see both the uniqueness and the similarities of the problems inherent to each. 

  • Introduction to Bioinformatics
    Course Detail

    GS01 1143 (3 credits)

    This course is intended to be an introduction to concepts and methods in bioinformatics with a focus on analyzing data merging from high throughput experimental pipelines such as next-gen sequencing. Students will be exposed to algorithms and software tools involved in various aspects of data processing and biological interpretation. Though some prior programming experience is highly recommended, it is not a requirement.

  • Population Genetics
    Course Detail

    GS11 1123 (3 credits)

    This course will discuss the principles of population genetics and their applications to human populations as well as statistical methods for analyzing genetic samples of individuals from one or more populations. Topics to be covered include random mating, linkage, inbreeding, natural selection, maintenance of polymorphic and deleterious genes, molecular evolution, quantitative genetics and a modern population genetics approach known as coalescent theory, the cornerstone for analyzing DNA sequence samples from populations. Topics may vary from year to year with the background of the students. Studies at the molecular level will be emphasized.  This course is cross-listed at School of Public Health (PH1984L) and the class venue is at UTHealth The University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health. 

  • Pragmatic Bioinformatics for Bench Scientists
    Course Detail

    GS04 1792 (2 credits)
    Summer Session

    Bioinformatics is becoming essential in the genomic era. Witnessing both the power and the complexity of bioinformatics, bench scientists, despite providing most of the biological insights, often feel left out as simply data generators, and frustrated when collaborating with data analyzers. This course, taught by bench scientists who have published on specific bioinformatics topics, aims to empower bench scientists with valid statistical and computational methods to be able to explore data and communicate with computational scientists. It is pragmatic because it covers as-needed theoretical background and teaches usable, instead of efficient, programming in the format of a dry-lab protocol that generates publication-quality figures. It consists of 9 modules covering basic coding, principles, RNA, DNA, protein, images, network analysis, and freeware. Each module consists of two 2-hour sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays. Grades are based on homework.

  • Principles in Genetics and Epigenetics
    Course Detail

    GS04 1253 (3 credits)

    The Principles in Genetics and Epigenetics (PIGE) class is designed for students who have a major interest in the aspects of experimental and human genetics and epigenetics as they relate to human disease, including Mendelian disorders, complex diseases and cancer. Students are required to have completed the core course (or equivalent). This class will provide in-depth instruction in four areas: 1) Experimental genetics, 2) Human genetics, 3) Epigenetics, 4) Applied bioinformatics.  The class will be held two times a week for one and a half hours.  Students are expected to actively participate in the course by initiating discussions, asking questions, and providing constructive comments, as well as completing weekly homework assignments based on the material covered in the lectures of the preceding week.  Students will be evaluated by attendance, participation, bioinformatics workshop participation and completion of assigned exercises, and overall performance on the assigned homework.  As a foundational course, this course is designed to introduce students to the basic principles in genetics and epigenetics and prepare the student to generate novel hypothesis-driven projects as part of their own research in the areas of genetics and epigenetics inside and outside of G&E laboratories.  The course emphasizes active learning through a combination of didactic lectures, selected application lectures and a bioinformatics workshop. Auditing this course is permitted with Course Directors' approval. 

  • Seminar in Genetics and Population Biology
    Course Detail

    GS11 1711 (1 credits)
    Spring and Fall

    Presentation and analysis of individual topics or research. The class is a series of seminars on a variety of topics in genetics presented by faculty from the School of Public Health and other institutions in the Texas Medical Center, as well as a number of visiting speakers.

  • Stem Cells in Biomedicine
    Course Detail

    GS04 1081 (1 credits)

    A stem cell is a cell from the embryo, fetus, or in any adult organs, that has the ability to reproduce itself for long periods of time, and at a given signal, give rise to many specialized cell types in the body. Apart from embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells maintain this capability throughout the life of an organism. In recent years, scientific advances have suggested that stem cells could be of great potential use in the treatment of a variety of diseases.

    The objective of this graduate school course is to provide the students with information about stem cell origin, their role in early development, their isolation and therapeutic promises for the future. This course will also offer students a great opportunity to take part of recent and ground breaking advances in stem cell biology. All in all, the material presented is intended to evoke more interest in the field of stem cell biology, both for the student, the layman, as well as for the bench scientist.  Ultimately, the long term goal is to encourage future research in finding alternative therapeutic modalities in stem cell-related diseases, such as cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, atherosclerosis, congenital diseases, and Alzheimer’s disease. This course is taught by a group of high profile scientists with a broad expertise in stem cell biology, biochemistry, clinical applications, and ethics.


Genetics and Epigenetics (G&E) Program students are required to take an on-topic candidacy exam in which the research proposal is based on the student's current or planned dissertation research. Click here for the timing of the exam and deadlines which are set by the GSBS.  

The G&E on-topic candidacy exam will evaluate 1) the student's ability to formulate a hypothesis, design experiments to test the hypothesis, and interpret potential outcomes; and 2) the student's breadth of knowledge in the biomedical sciences, focusing on fundamental knowledge required to understand modern biomedical research.  As noted above, the exam will be on the student's current or planned thesis research.  The G&E on-topic exam follows the GSBS on-topic exam format except for the following features:

  • Guidance

The student can seek help from anybody, on any topic, to prepare for the exam.  

  • Written Proposal

The written component of the exam will follow the NIH pre-doctoral fellowship format (same as the GSBS format). It must be submitted at least two weeks before the oral examination. Preliminary studies generated by the student are not required but can be part of the written proposal. The written proposal should include:

  • A brief statement regarding the importance of the work;
  • A specific, testable, mechanistic, and well-reasoned hypothesis;
  • One or two specific aims that directly test the hypothesis with feasible, interpretable experiments.  Sub-aims are allowed. The topic can be based on the mentor's grant application but plagiarism is not acceptable.

The written proposal will be evaluated by the Examining Committee and a written critique by each member will be provided to the candidate by the chair of the committee after the exam. The critique will follow a modified NIH format.

  • Oral Examination

At the beginning of the oral exam, the student will present an oral overview of the proposal (up to 10 minutes) without computer support. The student may have a hard copy of their proposal with them during the oral exam. Questioning will begin immediately after the overview presentation.  During the oral examination, the student should:

  • Be aware of the relevant literature;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the goals of the research;
  • Propose mechanistic testable experiments;
  • Understand the potential outcomes of the experiments and how they would be interpreted;
  • Present alternative approaches if the primary approaches do not work;
  • Explain the potential scientific and/or health impact of the proposed research

The emphasis of the exam is on logic, experimental design, abandoning hypotheses in the light of new data, and interpreting unexpected outcomes.

  • Examining Committee Composition

The Examining Committee composition will mostly follow GSBS rulesThe committee will include a minimum of two G&E faculty members, and up to three members of the student's Advisory Committee. Following GSBS rules, the student's advisor may not serve on the committee. The student will select the chair of their exam committee from a pre-approved list of G&E faculty members.  For the 2024-2026 academic year, the approved faculty are Drs. Taiping Chen, Wenbo Li and Yejing Ge. In case none of them are available, Drs. Rachel Miller, George Eisenhoffer, or Francesca Cole will serve as the exam committee chair.

  • Breadth of Knowledge

The exam will also explore the student's breadth of knowledge. Each committee member will ask at least one question from broad topics in biomedical research. At least five different topics must be addressed. Each question will explore the limits of the student's knowledge in that particular area. The chair will ensure that each committee member asks at least one breadth question and that at least five different topics are covered. The topics include but are not limited to:

  • Genetics/Genomics
  • Gene expression
  • Epigenetics
  • RNA
  • Proteins
  • Cell biology
  • Cell cycle
  • Genome integrity
  • Signaling pathways
  • Developmental biology
  • Human disease


G&E Advisory Committee Composition 

The composition of the Advisory Committee will mostly follow GSBS rules. G&E advisory committees will include a minimum of two G&E faculty members. Students with a second area of research concentration in G&E will include a minimum of one G&E faculty member on their advisory committee.