Course Descriptions

Core Curriculum – Genes
Fall (1st half)
2 credit hours
Molecular genetics of model organisms; DNA replication, repair and recombination; transcription; RNA catalysis, processing and interference; translation; protein turnover; developmental biology; and genomics.

Core Curriculum – Proteins
Fall (1st half)
2 credit hours
The energetic basis of protein structure; stability; ligand binding and regulation; enzyme mechanics and kinetics; methods of purification; and analysis by spectroscopic methods.

Core Curriculum – Cells
Fall (2nd half)
2 credit hours
Cell structure; membrane biology; intracellular membrane and protein trafficking; energy conversion; signal transduction and second messengers; cytoskeleton; cell cycle; and introductory material in microbiology, immunology, and neurobiology.

Gene Expression
Fall (2nd half)
2 credit hours
Gene Expression expands on the fundamental concepts studied in the first-year Core Course emphasizing experimental strategies, reading of primary literature, critical evaluation of data and student discussion. Topics include mechanisms regulating gene transcription, including responses to inflammatory and hormonal stimuli, epigenetic and post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms, and microRNAs. Discussions of current research papers are used to delve into each of these topics.

Developmental Principles in Regenerative Science and Medicine
Spring (full semester)
3 credit hours
Consistent with the goals of the Genetics, Development, and Disease program, the Developmental Principles in Regenerative Science and Medicine course integrates the fundamental concepts of development and stem cell biology. We will explore the interrelated themes of pluripotency, cell fate specification, differentiation, organogenesis, regeneration, patterning, and morphogenesis with an emphasis on model systems and in vitro rodent and human models.

The first part of the course will survey developmental principles and discuss classic papers in embryology. The second part of the course will discuss pluripotent stem cells and the factors that regulate their growth and development into tissue specific stem cells. Subsequently, adult stem cells will be discussed in order to provide examples of the various types of tissue specific stem cells. The final part of the course will discuss how advances in cellular and molecular biology can be applied to regenerative science and medicine, with a focus on emerging “hot” topics such as human iPSC disease models and direct reprogramming.

Students will hear talks from expert guest speakers as well as participate in lab-based tours/workshops. There will also be an opportunity to “Meet-the-Stem-Cell-Professor” with a group-based lunch session. Toward the end of the course, students will write a short grant proposal based on an interesting topic or problem identified from the course lectures and present their grant proposal in a PowerPoint talk.

Grades will be assigned based on quality of both the written grant and oral presentations. We anticipate this to be a dynamic and interactive course with extensive group participation.

Advanced Genetics I – Model Systems
Spring (1st half)
1.5 credit hours
This course focuses on the power of genetic analysis as an approach to identifying and studying important processes in development. The model organisms covered are C. elegans, Drosophila, zebrafish, and mouse. The class combines lectures and discussion sessions, with heavy emphasis on critical reading of a small number of papers. Topics vary, but generally include areas of very current interest to developmental biologists.

Hypothesis-Driven Grantsmanship
Spring full semester (taken in second year simultaneously with qualifying examination)
1.5 credit hours
This course is required and specifically intended for graduate students who take the qualifying exam for the Genetics, Development and Disease Graduate Program in May. Experienced faculty members discuss how hypothesis-driven grant applications are written and evaluated; how to articulate scientific hypotheses; and how to test scientific hypotheses. Students design, compose and present their own grant proposals and evaluate their colleagues’ research proposals in small-group discussion sessions. The course culminates with a formal written proposal, mentored by an expert in the area of the student’s research proposal. Prerequisite: Declared candidacy for the Genetics, Development and Disease Graduate Program.

Professionalism, Responsible Conduct of Research, and Ethics I
Fall full semester
1 credit hour
Goals of education in RCR; professionalism; collaboration; teambuilding and professional behaviors; everyday practice of ethical science; mentorship; data management and reproducibility; animal research; genetics and human research.

Professionalism, Responsible Conduct of Research, and Ethics II
Spring full semester
1 credit hour
Codes of ethics and misconduct; building inter-professional teams; conflict of interest; sexual boundaries and professional behavior; applications of genetic testing; technology transfer and intellectual property; plagiarism, authorship, and citation; peer review; image and data manipulation.

Electives

Students may choose to take any electives of their choice in addition to the program’s degree requirements. Students in the Genetics, Development, and Disease Graduate Program are encouraged to consider the following:

Advanced Genetics II: Human Genetics
Spring (1st half)
1.5 credit hours
Introduction to the conceptual basis of human genetics research. Some classes review basic principles of medical genetics, as many students lack prior exposure to this subject, but discussions emphasize research applications rather than clinical problems. Topics include discovery of the molecular basis of Mendelian disorders and complex traits through molecular cytogenetics, genetic linkage, candidate gene, and genomewide association methods. Discussion of current research papers illustrates each of these approaches.