Forensic Genetics

[Fields of Study]

Joseph Warren, PhD, Graduate Advisor, Professional Track for M.S.
Center for BioHealth, Suite 355
Phone: 817-735-5017

A specialized program designed to offer a focused learning experience in forensic science with an emphasis on hands on training in current and future DNA technologies. The program prepares individuals for careers in forensic DNA sciences, emphasizing the application of current methods and technologies to human identification. 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.

Program Requirements

Faculty will review all applicants for acceptance into the Forensic Genetics Master of Science Professional Program. The applications are evaluated on overall GPA, GPA in specific coursework related to Forensic Genetics, GRE scores, letters of recommendations, transcripts, student’s comments and experiences. A student must meet the general requirements of the graduate school as described in the current graduate catalog. All applications must be completed and received into the Graduate School according to the deadlines on the academic calendar posted by the Graduate School.

During the student’s first semester a major professor will be chosen by the student with the consent of the faculty member, from within the department and an advisory committee consisting of two other graduate faculty members will be determined. One of the two faculty members has to be from the MOMG department, the other can be a faculty member from another department in the GSBS, or school in the UNTHSC or at another university if their participation will aid a student in obtaining specific expertise needed for their thesis research. After receiving consent from all committee members, the student must complete and submit the Designation of Advisory Committee form for transmittal to the GSBS office. When the advisory committee has been formed, the dean will appoint a University Member. All advisory committee members must have UNTHSC GSBS graduate faculty status.

Students in the Forensic Genetics program are required to take the Core Curriculum courses that focus on Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Immunology.

Upon completion of the program’s coursework, the student will complete a moot court experience (FGEN 5095) which serves as their oral qualifying exam. Grading is on a Pass/Fail basis and the grade will be determined by the FGEN scoring criteria. 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 program.

Students may begin working on their thesis project anytime after they have a major professor and assembled their research advisory committee. The thesis research proposal must be approved by the research advisory committee and filed with the graduate school prior to the semester the student first enrolls in thesis (BMSC 5395). Beginning in the 2nd Spring Semester of the program the student is focused on completing their hypothesis-driven thesis research project. The student needs to be aware that completion of the thesis may take longer than the Second Spring semester and the student is required to maintain enrollment until the successful completion of the thesis.

The proposal is to follow the GSBS Proposal Guidelines. A finalized proposal, approved by their major professor, is to be submitted to their advisory committee no later than 5 working days from the beginning of their individual research project. Once a student has enrolled in thesis, he/she must maintain continuous enrollment in thesis (BMSC 5395) until the thesis has been approved and accepted by the Graduate School. Failure to maintain continuous enrollment will either invalidate any previous thesis credit or will result in the student’s dismissal from the degree program unless granted an official leave of absence by the graduate dean for medical or other exceptional reasons

Students will present their work in an oral presentation and written thesis. The oral presentation will be open to the public and will be followed by a private defense with the advisory committee. Students should coordinate the reservation of a seminar room with the department’s graduate secretary a minimum of one (1) month prior to the intended defense date. The major professor must approve the thesis prior to the student submitting it to committee members. Committee members must receive the approved thesis a minimum of ten working days prior to the scheduled defense date. Committee members can also review the thesis and direct comments to students prior to oral defense.

Following the defense, the major professor together with the other members of the committee will assign a Pass/Fail for BMSC 5395 based on guidelines outlined in the MS Defense Scoring Rubric. The student must submit the signed Report of Final Comprehensive Examination (Defense) form to the GSBS office. A copy of the approved Thesis must be submitted to the graduate school before graduation in accordance with the GSBS rules and time limits for the Master’s thesis as detailed on the GSBS Graduation website.

Degree Plan

The following curriculum is required for students enrolled in the Forensic Genetics Master of Science program:

MS Degree Plan for FGEN MS
Year 1: Fall
BMSC 6301 Integrative Biomedical Sciences I: Principles of Biochemistry 4 SCH
BMSC 6302 Integrative Biomedical Sciences II: Molecular Cell Biology 4 SCH
BMSC 5160 Biomedical Ethics 1 SCH
MOMG 5305 Introduction to Molecular Laboratory Methods 3 SCH
MOMG 5101 Forensic Hair Analysis 1 SCH
MOMG 5103 Seminar in Current Topics 1 SCH
14 SCH
Year 1: Spring
BMSC 6305 Integrative Biomedical Sciences IV: Immunology and Microbiology 3 SCH
MOMG 5103 Seminar in Current Topics 1 SCH
MOMG 5304 Forensic Anthropology 3 SCH
MOMG 5201 Overview of Forensic Sciences 3 SCH
MOMG 5306 Basic Methods in Forensic Molecular Genetics 3 SCH
13 SCH
Year 1: Summer 2
MOMG 5307 Advanced Methods in Forensic Molecular Genetics 4 SCH
BMSC 5400 Biostatistics for Biomedical Science 4 SCH
Year 2: Fall
MOMG 5400 Biological Evidence Evaluation 4 SCH
MOMG 5401 Forensic Genetic Data Analysis 3 SCH
MOMG 5300 Expert Testimony in Forensic Science 3 SCH
MOMG 5102 Blood Spatter Pattern Analysis 1 SCH
MOMG 5103 Seminar in Current Topics 1 SCH
12 SCH
Year 2: Spring
MOMG 5095 Moot Court (Oral Qualifying Exam) 0 SCH
BMSC 5998 Individual Research 6 SCH
BMSC 5395 Thesis 3 SCH

Student Success

Between the years 2001-2011, the UNTHSC Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics has produced 84 graduates with Professional Master of Science degrees. Below is a partial list of agencies that have hired our graduates as Forensic DNA analysts:

Texas Department of Public Safety- Austin

Texas Department of Public Safety- El Paso

Texas Department of Public Safety- Garland

Texas Department of Public Safety- Houston

Texas Department of Public Safety- Lubbock

Monroe County Public s Safety Lab- Rochester, N.Y.

Office of Chief Medical Examiner- N.Y., N.Y

US Army Criminal Investigation Lab- Atlanta, GA.

Harris County Medical Examiners Lab- Houston, TX.

Fort Worth PD Crime Lab- Fort Worth, TX

Houston Police Department Forensic Laboratories- Houston, TX.

South West Institute of Forensic Science- Dallas, TX.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Forensic Laboratories

Georgia Bureau of Investigation

Kansas Bureau of Investigation

UNTHSC Center for Human Identification DNA Laboratory

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension

Nebraska State Patrol Crime Lab

University of Nebraska Medical Center Human DNA Lab

Albuquerque Police Department Crime La-N.M.

Colorado Springs Police Department Crime Lab- Colorado

North LA. Regional Forensic Laboratory- Shreveport, LA.

University of Minnesota Gene Therapy Laboratory

Orchid Cellmark Laboratory- Dallas, TX.

Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation- Oklahoma City, OK.

DNA Reference Laboratories- San Antonio, TX.

Baylor University Medical Center, Kimberly H. Courtwright and Joseph W. Summers Institute of Metabolic Disease- Dallas, TX.

Several of our graduates have also gone on to further their education. They are either in the process of completing or have completed doctoral degrees in Medicine, Biomedical Science, Marine Microbiology, Molecular Genetics, Wildlife Genetics or Jurisprudence at the following schools:

University of North Texas Health Science Center- Fort Worth, TX.

Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine- Fort Worth, TX.

Texas Tech University Law School- Lubbock, TX.

Auburn University- Auburn, AL.

Texas A&M Medical School- College Station, TX.

Baylor College of Medicine- Houston, TX.

Trent University- Canada