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Forensic and Investigative Genetics

Joseph Warren, PhD, Graduate Advisor, Professional Track for M.S.
Center for BioHealth 355
Phone: 817-735-5017
E-mail: Joseph.Warren@unthsc.edu

Rhonda Roby, PhD, Graduate Advisor, Research Track for M.S. and Ph.D.
Center for BioHealth 355
Phone: 817-735-2462
E-mail: Rhonda.Roby@unthsc.edu

Graduate Faculty: Allen, Budowle, Chakraborty, Eisenberg, Ge, Gill-King, LaRue, Planz, RobyWarren

The Department of Forensic and Investigative Genetics offers comprehensive training in analytical and computational methods necessary for studies in the various fields of applied genetics.  Students may enter the advanced programs with a variety of academic backgrounds, provided that they have fulfilled prerequisite courses in molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, and statistics.  Students participate in seminars and receive extensive training in the techniques of contemporary molecular genetics.

The Department of Forensic and Investigative Genetics offers two program tracks, described below.

Professional Track Master of Science (MS)

A specialized program designed to offer a focused learning experience in forensic science with an emphasis on training in current and future DNA technologies. The program was designed to meet all educational and many training requirements for forensic DNA analysts and technical leaders as outlined in the National Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories adopted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The program prepares individuals for careers in forensic DNA sciences, emphasizing the application of current methods and technologies to human identification. Each Professional Track MS student is required to complete a hypothesis-driven thesis which is presented in a public seminar followed by a private defense with the advisory committee. Each student is also expected to pass an oral examination.

Research Track Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Research track students perform original, publishable research and present their research findings at national and international scientific meetings. MS students are expected to graduate in 2 to 3 years, whereas PhD students require 4 or more years to complete the degree. Students may undertake research in areas such as forensic genetics, clinical genetics, computational genetics, evolutionary genetics, microbial genetics, and many other interrelated disciplines. Research track students are expected to complete two laboratory rotations within the first year with two different faculty members. One rotation must be completed with a faculty member in the Department of Forensic and Investigative Genetics. In consultation with the major professor, the student may enroll in additional laboratory rotations to expand laboratory skills or data computation.

Research Track Master of Science

Students following a research thesis-based MS degree track will conduct original research. The MS degree requirements are met upon satisfactory completion of a minimum of 48 semester credit hours (SCH) of coursework and research credits, including the successful completion of a formal public seminar on their thesis research, oral final defense of their research and approval of a thesis. Submission of research results for publication and presentation at national level meetings is expected.

Doctor of Philosophy

Doctoral studies in Forensic and Investigative Genetics are broadly interdisciplinary. The PhD degree requirements are met upon satisfactory completion of a minimum of 90 semester credit hours (SCH) of course work and research credits, including the successful completion of the requirements for advancement to candidacy and defense of the dissertation research. Students entering the program with a non-terminal MS degree must complete a minimum of 60 SCH beyond that earned in their master’s studies. It is expected that, prior to the awarding of the degree, students will have published, in press, or submitted two first-author publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Advancement to Doctoral Candidacy

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination within the Department of Forensic and Investigative Genetics must be successfully completed prior to earning 72 SCH of coursework. The qualifying examination consists of written and oral components. Topics included in the qualifying exam may consist of fundamental knowledge and understanding of general research techniques in genetics and molecular biology, and concepts regarding the analysis of genetic data. The student is encouraged to meet with their committee members to discuss topic areas for review. However, the committee members are in no means restricted to those discussed or provided to the student. Refusal to take a qualifying exam will result in dismissal from the FIG graduate program.

The initial phase of the qualifying examination consists of a set of written questions provided by all members of the student’s PhD advisory committee. The composition of the examination is determined by this committee. Written examinations from all advisory committee members must be completed within a two (2) week period and each committee member’s examination will be allotted a maximum of 1 day (8:00 AM – 5:00 PM). Within two weeks of the submission of the exam, each committee member will return a Pass/Fail grade and a written critique of the student’s responses.

The student’s oral examination is scheduled within four weeks of successful completion of the last written examination and in accordance with the GSBS guidelines. The oral examination will consist of questions that further explore the student’s answers in the written phase, as well as questions on additional topics as deemed appropriate by the committee. The university member must be in attendance for the oral examination.

The qualifying examination will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis, following the Scoring Rubric implemented by the GSBS. Following completion of the oral qualifying exam the student must submit the signed Oral Qualifying Exam Notice to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Office of Admission and Services (GSBS OAS).

Successful completion of the qualifying examination must be accomplished before the student can register for Grant Writing (BMSC 6310). The student is permitted two attempts to pass the qualifying examination. Failure to pass the qualifying examination after two attempts will result in dismissal from the PhD program.

Grant Writing (BMSC 6310)

After passing the qualifying examination, but prior to the completion of 84 SCH, the student must register for Grant Writing (BMSC 6310). This component of the advancement to PhD candidacy process evaluates a student’s aptitude for independent thought and scientific writing. The student is required to prepare a research grant proposal modeled after the current NIH R21 format. The student must present the proposal in a public seminar; and orally defend the proposal before his/her PhD advisory committee. The grant proposal must be original, hypothesis driven, and must describe specific objectives and experimental approaches used to test the hypothesis.

It is suggested that the student start work on the basis for the proposal and have a working draft approved by their advisory committee prior to registering for the class. The student should meet with the advisory committee at least twice during the semester to review drafts of the proposal and provide to the advisory committee a final proposal approved by the major professor at least two weeks prior to the public seminar and oral defense. The student’s university member must be present for committee meetings, the public seminar, and the oral defense of the proposal. The grant proposal, oral presentation, and defense will be evaluated on the basis of originality, feasibility, and ability to communicate the proposal content. The grant writing exercise will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis, following the Scoring Rubric implemented by the GSBS. Following completion of the grant defense the student must submit the signed Grant Defense Notice to the GSBS OAS.

Upon successful completion of the Grant Writing (BMSC 6310) requirements, the student is advanced to candidacy. Two attempts to successfully complete the BMSC 6310 requirements are permitted. If the grant proposal and/or oral defense are not approved on the first attempt, the student may be offered a re-examination during the current semester if sufficient time permits. If a re-examination is not scheduled, the student will receive a failing grade for the class and will be required to re-register for BMSC 6310 in the next long semester. The grant proposal and/or oral defense must be successfully defended on the second attempt, or the student will be dismissed from the PhD program.

Defense of MS Thesis and PhD Dissertation

Procedures for defense of MS theses and PhD dissertations follow the policies outlined in the current catalog and the GSBS Graduation website.

This page last modified January 31, 2013

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