VCU Bulletins

Human Genetics, Master of Science (M.S.)

Graduate program director
Rita Shiang, Ph.D.
Associate professor, Department of Human and Molecular Genetics
(804) 628-4083

Additional contact
Michael S. Grotewiel, Ph.D.
Director of admissions
(804) 628-4086

Program website:

Refer to the program search function of the online VCU Bulletins for a complete listing of all programs, concentrations and related curricular options.

Human Genetics, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Human Genetics, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) with a concentration in molecular biology and genetics
Human Genetics, Master of Science (M.S.) with a concentration in molecular biology and genetics

Apply online at

Admission requirements

Human Genetics, Master of Science (M.S.)

of entry:


May 1

Special requirements: International applicants must score 100 or greater on the TOEFL.

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, applicants wishing to specialize in human genetics should have courses in biology, chemistry through organic chemistry, genetics and mathematics through calculus.

Research-intensive, non-thesis curriculum for medical students

Individuals who are participants in Doctor of Medicine program at VCU may be eligible for enrollment in research-intensive, non-thesis study in the program. Please contact the graduate program director for additional information.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university.  These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

General academic regulations for
all graduate students in all graduate programs at VCU

Program goal

The goal of the master’s program in human genetics is to provide training in human and molecular genetics. The program is designed to provide students with the skills required to advance to positions as researchers and trainers in a broad spectrum of positions in human and molecular genetics. The structure of the program provides a framework for the progressive development of a mastery of the current state of the subject matter in human and molecular genetics and an ability to synthesize this information and apply this foundation to the identification of key areas of investigation and experimentation in this discipline. The program relates the above framework to the development of the ability to design, implement and interpret experimental approaches which address the questions identified. In addition, students will develop skills in the various means of communicating both the core of human and molecular genetics knowledge and the expression of experimental design, results and interpretation to a variety of potential audiences.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Oral communication skills: Degree candidates will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of oral communication skills with respect to the content, organization, logical flow, presentation and appropriate use of language incorporating the use of visual aids, as measured by rubric.
  2. Written communication skills: Degree candidates will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of written communication skill with respect to grammar, syntax, spelling and use of vocabulary to effectively present information including the use of figures, tables and citations as measured by rubric.
  3. Experimental design: Degree candidates will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of competence in the ability to appraise, modify and/or create, and implement experimental protocols and to design and develop experiments as measured by rubric.
  4. Problem-solving skills: Degree candidates will demonstrate an appropriate level of skill in the identification and selection of meaningful problems to be addressed in research in human and molecular genetics, including the ability to defend said identifications and to design and develop appropriate methods to solve said problems as measured by rubric.
  5. Integrated knowledge of human and molecular genetics: Degree candidates will demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge of the current elements of human and molecular genetics as related to disciplinary specialization and a more detailed understanding of the individual area of scholarship, including an appropriate familiarity with the research literature and the ability to evaluate and critique publications as measured by rubric.

Degree requirements

The Department of Human and Molecular Genetics offers a comprehensive program in graduate study leading to a Master of Science in Human Genetics. The program includes the completion of an original research project under the supervision of a faculty adviser and a background/foundation of courses that prepare students for research-oriented careers in the rapidly expanding field of human genetics. Major areas of study available to master’s students in the program include clinical and molecular cytogenetics, molecular genetics, developmental genetics, cancer genetics, behavior genetics, population and quantitative genetics, genetic epidemiology, clinical genetics and genetic counseling.

In addition to the general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, the M.S. degree requires at least two years of full-time study for students entering with a B.S. or B.A. degree and must be completed within six years. Students must complete a minimum of 59 graduate credit hours. Students may be required to take an additional six hours of directed research after the second spring semester if needed.

Upon completing their thesis research, master’s students must report their results in a thesis that is prepared in an acceptable form and style as detailed by the university Graduate School. A final oral examination is scheduled after the student’s thesis has been approved by the student’s advisory committee. This examination includes the subject matter of course work the student has completed as well as the thesis. It is administered by the student’s graduate advisory committee who will vote on the student’s performance in addition to rating them with regard to the rubrics defined by the School of Medicine.

Curriculum requirements

Courses Credit hours
Required courses 32 (or 34)
BIOC/MICR 503 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology 5
BIOC/MICR 504 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology or BIOS/STAT 544 Statistical Methods II 5 or 3
BIOS/STAT 543 Statistical Methods I 3
HGEN 501/BIOL 530 Human Genetics 3
HGEN 502 Advanced Human Genetics 3
HGEN 510 Classic Papers in Human Genetics 1
HGEN 605 Experimental Methods in Human Genetics* (variable credit-hour course to be taken twice for a minimum total of five credits) 5
HGEN 606 Introduction to Clinical Genetics 1
HGEN 610 Current Literature in Human Molecular Genetics (one-credit course to be taken three times) 3
HGEN 690 Genetics Research Seminar 4
OVPR 601 Scientific Integrity, OVPR 602 Responsible Scientific Conduct or OVPR 603 Responsible Conduct of Research 1
Electives 5
All master’s students are required to take at least two elective courses. Electives include PATH 670 and courses at the 500 level or above in ANAT, BIOC, BNFO, BIOL, BIOS, HGEN, MICR, NEUS, PHTX and PHIS excluding laboratory courses, courses specifically for professional programs, directed research, independent study, seminar or current topic courses and excluding BNFO 621, MICR 608 and MICR 609.  
Directed research 22
HGEN 697 Directed Research in Genetics (If needed, six additional credit hours will be taken after the second spring semester) 22 (minimum)
Total graduate credit hours required (minimum) 59 (or 61)

*For HGEN 605, the student and faculty member will design a project that can reasonably be completed in 12 weeks. The student will spend approximately 12 weeks in that lab for a minimum of eight hours a week. The student’s performance in the laboratory will serve as the basis for the grade that is received for this course.

Typical plan of study

Many students often end up taking more than the minimum number of hours required for a degree program. The total number of hours may vary depending upon the program, nature of research being conducted by a study or in the enrollment or funding status of the student. Students should refer to their program websites and talk with their graduate program directors or advisers for information about typical plans of study and registration requirements.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Degree candidacy requirements

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Graduation requirements

Other information

School of Medicine graduate program policies

The School of Medicine provides policies applicable to all programs administratively housed in the school. Information on master’s programs is available in the Graduate Bulletin at



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