The Curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology is an interdepartmental PhD program directed by Dr. Robert J. Duronio of the Department of Biology that was established in 1963 and has had continuous NIH T32 support since 1975. The goal of the program is to train students to be creative, sophisticated research scientists in the disciplines of genetics and molecular biology. The training emphasizes the acquisition of basic knowledge in genetics and molecular biology, the ability to communicate scientifically, and the development of the ability to formulate experimental approaches to solving contemporary problems in the biological and biomedical sciences. The Curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology is the only UNC- Chapel Hill program that specifically emphasizes genetics, and has enabled many faculty with superb research programs to train predoctoral students in this discipline. The 82 training faculty have appointments in all of the basic science departments in the School of Medicine as well as the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. They participate in student training by acting as dissertation sponsors, serving on dissertation committees, teaching in Curriculum sponsored courses, inviting speakers for the Curriculum's seminar series, and serving on administrative committees such as the Written Qualifying Exam Committee. There are currently 81 students enrolled in the Curriculum and they are training in over 50 different laboratories on the UNC-CH campus. Student research in the Curriculum is quite broad, but some strengths include the generation and characterization of mouse models of human diseases, the characterization of molecular mechanisms of replication, recombination and repair, gene therapy, the control of gene expression, and the genetic basis of cancer. All students take courses in genetics and molecular biology, attend sessions on responsible conduct of research, attend faculty research seminars, act as teaching a assistant for one semester, present annually in a student seminar series, participate in the Annual Retreat, pass written and oral qualifying exams, and write and orally defend a PhD dissertation. All students are also required to publish at least one first-authored research paper in a peer-reviewed journal.
Genetic analysis is arguably one of the most important tools of basic biomedical research, and focused training in genetics and molecular biology provides a considerable foundation research biologists in any discipline. Molecular and genetic analyses have led to a sophisticated understanding of the basic mechanisms of cellular processes and provide a level of understanding needed to stimulate novel approaches to the treatment of all human diseases.
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