2013-2014 Program Requirements for UCLA Graduate Degrees
Applicable only to students admitted during the 2013-2014 academic year.
School of Medicine
The Department of Human Genetics offers the Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees in Human Genetics.
Applicants may apply to the Ph.D. program through UCLA Access to Programs in the Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences. Applicants may apply directly to the Ph.D. program only in exceptional circumstances and with the prior approval of the department.
6506 Gonda Center
Los Angeles, CA 90095-7088
Leading to the degree of
The Human Genetics department admits applicants whose objective is the Ph.D. and only under exceptional circumstances admits students into the M.S. program.
Admission Limited to
Deadline to apply
GRE (General and/or Subject)
GRE: General and Subject
Subject recommended, not required.
Letters of Recommendation
In addition to the University's minimum requirements and those listed above, all applicants are expected to submit a statement of purpose.
Applicants are expected to hold a bachelor's degree, with preparation in physics, biology and chemistry, and exposure through upper division courses in specific areas that may include: genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, developmental biology, microbiology, virology, physiology, and immunology. Because of the high mathematical content of some areas of human genetics, advanced courses in mathematics may be substituted for biologically oriented courses. More advanced degrees (M.S., M.D. or equivalent) are also acceptable.
A student entering the master's program is expected to identify a faculty mentor to serve as their adviser. If no faculty mentor is identified by the student, the departmental graduate adviser serves as the adviser.
Areas of Study
Areas of study include human genetics and related areas (for example, molecular genetics, mathematical modeling). Students should consult the department for additional information.
Foreign Language Requirement
Master's degree students take similar core courses in the first year as doctoral students (see under Doctoral Degree). In addition, all master's students must take Human Genetics 236A-236C. Elective courses must be taken to complete the minimum 36 units required for the master's degree. No more than two independent study courses (eight units) in the 500 series may be applied toward the minimum course requirement for the master's degree, and only one of these (four units) may be applied toward the minimum graduate course requirement for the degree.
Comprehensive Examination Plan
In general, the department prefers students to enter directly into the Ph.D. program. In lieu of taking a comprehensive examination, students who wish to receive a master's degree and who are not on the thesis plan are required to write and orally defend for their committee an original proposal formulated on a topic in human genetics that is not directly related to their dissertation research. Only in exceptional situations are students approved for a master's comprehensive examination in place of the original proposal.
Every master's degree thesis plan requires the completion of an approved thesis that demonstrates the student's ability to perform original, independent research.
A written thesis is required for master's degree students under this plan. A thesis committee composed of at least three faculty members helps the student to plan the thesis research and makes a recommendation on granting the terminal degree. If the first thesis submitted to the committee is unacceptable, the committee decides whether the student is granted additional time to revise and resubmit the thesis.
The time from entry into the program to completion of the master's degree is expected to be approximately two years.
The department's Graduate Adviser (appointed by the chair) is the adviser for students who have not yet selected a laboratory for their doctoral studies. After the first year, all Ph.D. students, whether coming through ACCESS or directly into the department, select a faculty mentor, who automatically becomes the student's adviser. A doctoral committee is constituted by the end of the second year, and its members act as additional advisers. Students are expected to meet with that committee at least once a year until graduation.
Major Fields or Subdisciplines
The field of human genetics is a discipline which includes genomics, cytogenetics, biochemical and molecular genetics, medical genetics, immunogenetics, cancer genetics, developmental genetics, population genetics, proteomics, and bioinformatics. The study of animal models is also an essential part of human genetics.
Foreign Language Requirement
Students entering the program follow ACCESS course requirements in the first year. In Fall Quarter, students take Biological Chemistry 254A-254D. In Spring Quarter, students may select from several specialty courses and must complete a course on ethics in research. The Human Genetics faculty offers at least one seminar course in the field of human genetics. Human Genetics 236A-236C are required of predoctoral students in Human Genetics, preferably during the second year of training.
Students who enter Human Genetics through ACCESS teach for two quarters as a teaching assistant in a department of the College of Letters and Science. The teaching is to be performed preferably in years two and three. Students who enter the department directly are required to teach only a minimum of one quarter. Students are encouraged to teach in Life Sciences 4 (the genetics component of the Life Sciences Core Curriculum) as teaching a general course in genetics reinforces understanding of fundamental aspects of the field. The area chosen for the second teaching obligation, if required, depends on student interest and departmental opportunities.
Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations
Academic Senate regulations require all doctoral students to complete and pass University written and oral qualifying examinations prior to doctoral advancement to candidacy. Also, under Senate regulations the University oral qualifying examination is open only to the student and appointed members of the doctoral committee. In addition to University requirements, some graduate programs have other pre-candidacy examination requirements. What follows in this section is how students are required to fulfill all of these requirements for this doctoral program.
The written qualifying examination and the University Oral Qualifying Examination (oral qualifying examination) must be passed before students are advanced to candidacy for the doctoral degree. The oral qualifying examination is administered by a doctoral committee composed of at least four faculty members selected by the student and approved by the department and the Graduate Division. The written and oral qualifying examinations are separate examinations and cannot be combined. The faculty mentor is excused from participating in the written qualifying examination, which is administered by the remaining members of the doctoral committee. All members of the doctoral committee, including the faculty mentor, administer the oral qualifying examination.
The written qualifying examination takes place during early stages of the student's dissertation research project, preferably during the second year (first year in the program for students transferred from ACCESS), although it must be passed by the end of the fourth year (end of the third year in the program for students transferred from ACCESS) in order to avoid a recommendation for termination from the program. The goal of the written qualifying examination is to evaluate the student's ability to think as a scientist, i.e., to propose and critically evaluate experiments or method developments that would potentially expand knowledge in the principal field of study. To this end, the student writes a proposal following the style of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Research Service Award (NRSA) applications, and, one or two weeks after submission of the written proposal to the doctoral committee, defends the proposal in an oral presentation. The topic of the proposal is related to the ongoing research project of the student in the laboratory of the faculty mentor. However, in the written qualifying examination the project itself is not under evaluation, as it is expected to be in its early stages. The oral part of the examination consists of a discussion of the proposal and of any additional questions posed by the committee to probe the student's general knowledge and understanding of human genetics.
The University Oral Qualifying Examination takes place before the end of the fourth year in the graduate programs (end of the third year in the program for students transferred from ACCESS), preferably one year earlier. The goal of this examination is to evaluate the dissertation research project, i.e., whether it represents original, independent research and constitutes a distinct contribution to knowledge in the principal field of study, as well as whether it is feasible for the students to complete the project within the expected time-to-degree. To this end, the student submits a written proposal that clearly states the title and specific aims of the doctoral dissertation and explains the significance, progress to date, and the approach(es) and time line to bring the project to completion. One or two weeks after submission of the written component, the student defends the proposal in an oral presentation before the doctoral committee.
The doctoral committee determines whether the student passes each of the two examinations and determines whether a student who fails the examination is allowed to repeat it. Only one re-examination per examination is allowed.
Advancement to Candidacy
Students are advanced to candidacy upon successful completion of the written and oral qualifying examinations.
Every doctoral degree program requires the completion of an approved dissertation that demonstrates the student's ability to perform original, independent research and constitutes a distinct contribution to knowledge in the principal field of study.
Final Oral Examination (Defense of Dissertation)
Required for all students in the program.
The time from entry into the program to completion of the doctorate is expected to be approximately five years.
Termination of Graduate Study and Appeal of Termination
A student who fails to meet the above requirements may be recommended for termination of graduate study. A graduate student may be disqualified from continuing in the graduate program for a variety of reasons. The most common is failure to maintain the minimum cumulative grade point average (3.00) required by the Academic Senate to remain in good standing (some programs require a higher grade point average). Other examples include failure of examinations, lack of timely progress toward the degree and poor performance in core courses. Probationary students (those with cumulative grade point averages below 3.00) are subject to immediate dismissal upon the recommendation of their department. University guidelines governing termination of graduate students, including the appeal procedure, are outlined in Standards and Procedures for Graduate Study at UCLA.
Special Departmental or Program Policy
Doctoral students must complete and pass the first of the two examinations no later than the end of the third year in the department (for those students who transferred from ACCESS), or by the end of their fourth year in the program (if they entered the department by any other means). Students will be allowed two opportunities to pass the examination within the above time frame and if the examination is not passed, the student will be recommended for termination of graduate study.