MCDB&G PhD/MS in Genetic Counseling joint degree program*

*Please note, this program is currently on hiatus. We are not accepting new students into the MCDB&G PhD/MS in Genetic Counseling Joint Degree Program.*

Take advantage of the opportunity to pursue a research-focused Ph.D. while attaining the clinical knowledge and skills of a Genetic Counseling Master’s program in our Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology and Genetics (MCDB&G) Ph.D./Genetic Counseling Master’s program. Help us chart new territory in translating basic science research into clinical treatments.

Our mission:

Our overarching mission is to train academic research leaders that bring discoveries in genetics and genomics to the front line of precision medicine research. The program goals are to educate PhD-level researchers with genetic counseling knowledge and skills. We will accomplish this goal by:

  1. providing students with rigorous quantitative training in the fundamentals and state-of-the-art advances in genetics, genomics, and computational biology;
  2. leveraging the strong research-intensive program in genetic counseling at our institution to provide new interdisciplinary research training opportunities; and
  3. generating a diverse cohort of well-trained research scientists to integrate their broad skillset and their enthusiasm for lifelong learning into their work across the biomedical workforce.

Upon completion of this comprehensive training program, students will be exceptionally well positioned to contribute to the development of the growing genomics field in both academic and clinical settings through their translational research and scholarship.


This program will prepare pre-doctoral trainees over a five-year span to be research leaders able to generate new knowledge, incorporate evidence-based treatments into clinical practice, and serve the public good through precision medicine research and applications to clinical care.

In designing the combined PhD/MS degree curriculum, we sought to ensure that the program would:

  1. provide dual-degree students with the same high-quality research training as other PhD students;
  2. maximize interdisciplinary graduate education;
  3. efficiently provide comprehensive learning opportunities; and
  4. foster diversity and inclusion among academic genetic counselors.

The typical academic program for our trainees is shown below. Students complete their course work for the PhD degree by the end of their second year and the coursework for the MS degree by the end of their third year. The third year in-person curriculum is condensed into one day of classes each week to maximize research and clinical internship time. Years 4 and 5 will be devoted to PhD related-research only.

Academic Program for Trainees Seeking a Combined PhD in Genetics and Genomics with an MS in Genetic Counseling

Fall Year 1

August: Itasca Laboratory and Academic Workshop (MCDG 8920, 2 credits).


Advanced Molecular Genetics and Genomics (GCD 8131, 3 credits).


Cellular Biochemistry and Cell Biology (GCD 8151, 4 credits).


Student Seminar (MCDG 8900, 1 credit).


Thesis credits (MCDG 8888, 4 credits)

Rotation 1

Rotation 2

Spring Year 1

Computational Genomics (GCD 8920, 3 credits).


Ethical and Legal Issues in Genetic Counseling (GCD 8914, 2 credits).


Student Seminar (MCDG 8900, 1 credit).


Thesis credits (MCDG 8888, 8 credits)

Rotation 3


Summer Year 1:

Literature Analysis/Grant Proposal Writing Course (GCD 8171, 2 credits). Written Preliminary Examination (end of summer)

Fall Year 2

Medical Genetics I (GCD 8917, 3 credit).


Genetics & Genomics in Human Health (GCD 8073, 3 credits).


Introduction to Genetic Counseling Skills and Practice (GCD 8911, 3 credits).


Professional Development Seminar 1  (GCD 8921, 1 credit)


Thesis credits (MCDG 8888, 2 credits)


Oral Preliminary Examination (January)

Spring Year 2

Medical Genetics II (GCD 8917, 3 credit).


Special Topics - Cytogenetics Labs (3 credits)


Genetic Counseling in Practice (GCD 8912, 3 credits).


Professional Development Seminar 1 (GCD 8921, 1 credit)


Thesis credits (MCDG 8888, 4 credits)





Summer Year 2:

Clinical Internship I (GCD 8001, 3 credits).

Fall Year 3

Psychosocial Issues in Genetic Counseling I (GCD 8913, 3 credits)


Clinical Internship II (GCD 8002, 5 credits)


Behavioral Genetics (PSY 5137, 3 credits)


Professional Development Seminar 2 (GCD 8922, 1 credit)


Thesis credits (MCDG 8888, 2 credits)

Spring Year 3

Psychosocial Issues in Genetic Counseling II (GCD 8913, 3 credits)


Clinical Internship III (GCD 8003, 5 credits)


Professional Development Seminar 2  (GCD 8922, 1 credit)


Thesis credits (MCDG 8888, 5 credits)



Applicants to the joint program will apply to the MCSB program and MS in genetic counseling separately and concurrently. Applicants must be accepted into both programs in order to be accepted into the joint program. Genetic Counseling MS Program admissions is typically run through the National Matching Services. Applicants must normally register with the match and participate in a ranking process to be matched with a masters program. Since the PhD admissions timeline will be outside the match date, we have obtained permission to admit PhD/MS students outside of the match period by the Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors (AGCPD). Students will have a set amount of time to accept or refuse the MS in genetic counseling positions and then the next set of applicants will be offered the training program slots. A separate admissions process was chosen to allow for students to opt out of the joint program after interviewing with both programs and to conform to the AGCPD requirements. Students selected for admission into the combined Ph.D./ Genetic Counseling program will incur an additional year of tuition and fees.

Current Students

Caroline Andrews was born and raised in Ham Lake, Minnesota. She graduated summa cum laude in 2019 from Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan with a BS in Biology and a minor in Classical Education. In Hillsdale, she served as a resident assistant, biology tutor, and TA, enjoying mentoring and supporting other students. She worked as a research assistant at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas studying allelic imbalance in cancer using computational techniques, as well as did on campus research in population genetics and virology. She volunteered with the American Cancer Society, visited local high schools to advocate for students exploring diverse career options, and coordinated a volunteer program to lead recreational sports for underserved kids in the county, through which she loved coaching middle school girls basketball. In the summers, she worked in junior golf with the MN PGA and still dreams of becoming a professional golfer someday (maybe after retirement). She loves playing and watching all kinds of sports as well as reading, spending time with her (many) siblings, and enjoying the outdoors.

Jacque Lyman grew up in Chandler, Arizona and graduated summa cum laude from Northern Arizona University with degrees in Biology and Spanish and a minor in Chemistry. During her undergraduate career, she worked as a researcher in conservation genetics and developed a noninvasive assay to detect environmental DNA of an endangered mammal. She studied abroad for two semesters in Spain at the University of Alicante where she took classes in ocean sports, culinary arts, and molecular genetics. Additionally, she interned in an andrology research lab optimizing gamete selection for assisted reproduction. Jacque was an Honors student mentor, crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line, and a volunteer for children with limb differences. She founded Northern Arizona University’s first multidisciplinary campus organization for Women in STEM to promote inclusion and advancement for underrepresented students. Jacque is an only child, despite being raised alongside a blue and gold macaw named Booboo. In her free time, Jacque enjoys hiking, snowboarding, and petting dogs.


For questions about the program, please contact one of the Co-Directors. For genetic counseling-related questions contact Dr. Heather Zierhut, and for PhD-related questions contact Dr. David Greenstein. For logistical or administration questions, please contact Gina Goettl at or 612-626-3267.