2000-01 Bulletin Entry for:

Genetic Counseling


Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling

The Master's Degree Program in Genetic Counseling is a two-year course of study integrating course work with clinical experience in an environment that encourages close student/faculty interaction. The program places a strong emphasis on human molecular genetics while providing in-depth coursework in counseling theory and technique as well as extensive clinical training. Graduates of the program are expected to have a clear understanding of human and medical genetics, recombinant DNA technology, gene mapping, and developmental biology; a familiarity with many genetic diseases and birth defects and the various techniques used to detect and/or treat them; an understanding of how genetic counselors function in a variety of work settings and their roles and responsibilities within a medical team; the ability to present relevant genetic information to individuals and families from diverse cultural backgrounds in an informed, compassionate manner and to help families obtain the medical and social services they may need; a sensitivity to the needs and options of children and adults (including parents and potential parents) with mental retardation, developmental disabilities, and other genetic disorders; an awareness of the legal, ethical, and public policy issues raised as a result of new DNA and reproductive technologies and the Human Genome Project; an understanding of research methodology, experience in the design and execution of research projects, and in the preparation of completed projects for professional publication and presentation; and finally a familiarity with the relevant scientific literature and computer-based tools.

Ordinarily the program is completed in two academic years and the intervening summer. The program is accredited by the American Board of Genetic Counseling and prepares graduates for the certification examination in genetic counseling and employment as genetic counselors.

How to Be Admitted to the Graduate Program

The general requirements for admission to the Graduate School, given in an earlier section of this Bulletin, apply to candidates for admission to this area of study. The specific requirements for admission to this program are: one year of general chemistry, one year of biology, and one semester each of genetics (course should include Mendelian and molecular genetics), organic chemistry, biochemistry, psychology, and statistics. Applicants lacking one or more of these courses are invited to consult the program's director on how to fulfill these requirements. Volunteer or work experience in an area related to counseling, developmental disabilities, or genetics is recommended.

Applications should include three letters of reference, the results of the General Graduate Record Examination, and a personal statement describing your interest in the field of genetic counseling. After initial review of applications, potential candidates will be invited to Brandeis for a personal interview.

Partial scholarship assistance is available for a limited number of exceptional applicants.

Faculty Advisory Committee

Judith Tsipis, Chair and Graduate Advising Head


Joseph Cunningham


James Haber


Elaine Hiller


Kathryn Spitzer Kim


Attila Klein


Marty Wyngaarden Krauss

(Heller School)

Barbara Lerner


Marvin Natowicz


Philip Reilly


David Rintell


Lawrence Wangh


Kalpana White


Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science

Program of Study

The academic component of the curriculum consists of the following: graduate-level courses in molecular biology, human genetics, medical genetics, human reproductive biology, counseling skills, research methodology, and biomedical law and ethics; two seminars in genetic counseling; and one or two electives chosen from the biological sciences, medical sociology, psychology, and health policy. Student participation in a proseminar and journal club are required as well.

Fieldwork and clinical internships are an important, integral part of the program. First-year students carry out a clinical genetics laboratory rotation during one semester and a community-based rotation during the other semester. Starting in the summer following the first year and continuing through the second year, students participate in three intensive clinical internships at prenatal, pediatric, general, cancer, or specialty genetics clinics. Satisfactory completion of the three clinical internships is required for graduation from the program. Attendance at two professional meetings is also required in the second year. Funds are available to defray costs.

Residence Requirement

The residence requirement for this program is two years of full-time study.

Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement for the master's degree.


A master's project is required. Students may work with a genetic counselor to design and evaluate an innovative educational tool or counseling strategy relevant to their clinical work, or should their interest lean toward basic research, they may pursue either a laboratory-based project, or a qualitative or quantitative study in the field.

Courses of Instruction

(100-199) For Both Undergraduate and Graduate Students

BIBC 105b Molecular Biology

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Prerequisites: BIBC 22a and BIOL 22b. Section 2 is open only to students in the Genetic Counseling Program. Class work for this section is supplemented by special readings and lectures with a clinical focus.

Examination of molecular processes in replication and expression of genetic information and techniques by which this understanding has been achieved. Topics include recombinant DNA and other molecular biological techniques, structure and organization of DNA in chromosomes, DNA replication, transcription and regulation of gene expression, RNA structure and processing, mRNA stability, and other mechanisms of post-translational control. Usually offered every year.

Messrs. Rosbash and Sen

BIOL 128a Human Genetics

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Prerequisites: BIBC 22a and BIOL 22b. Enrollment limited to 50.

Survey of classical and non-classical patterns of inheritance; cytogenetics; applications of molecular genetics techniques in human genetics, analysis of variation, gene mapping, identification of candidate genes and genetic disease diagnoses; single gene vs. complex gene inheritance; issues in human population genetics; and hands-on use of computer tools in human genetics. Usually offered every year.


BIOL 160b Human Reproductive Biology

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Prerequisites: BIBC 22a and BIOL 22b. Signature of the instructor required.

This course deals with hormonal, cellular, and molecular aspects of gametogenesis, fertilization, pregnancy, and birth. We will also discuss pathological and abnormal variations that occur and the available medical technologies for intervention, correction, and facilitation of these processes. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Wangh

(200 and above) Primarily for Graduate Students

BIOL 202d Introduction to Genetic Counseling

A two-semester sequence that provides the historical and theoretical foundations for the practice of genetic counseling and the role of genetic services within the healthcare delivery system. Introduces students to some of the practical aspects of genetic counseling, including case preparation, pedigree construction/interpretation, and medical documentation. Usually offered every year.

Ms. Kim

BIOL 203a The Molecular Basis of Genetic Diseases

The course covers the molecular basis of muscular dystrophy, fragile X syndrome, cystic fibrosis, Huntington disease, and several inherited cancer syndromes. A historical perspective is used for each topic; molecular diagnostics and genetic counseling issues are addressed as well. Usually offered every year.

Ms. Tsipis

BIOL 204b Clinical Genetics I

Introduction to basic concepts of biochemical genetics, cytogenetics, and clinical molecular genetics. Makes use of clinical cases ranging from single gene disorders to multifactorially determined conditions and includes problems in dysmorphology, inborn errors of metabolism, and cancer genetics. A problem-solving approach is emphasized. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Natowicz

BIOL 205b Counseling Theory and Technique

A comprehensive overview of counseling theory and practice. Topics include listening, observation, and interview skills and strategies; family dynamics and development; coping and adaptation processes; referral and consultation procedures; and ethical principles. Students are provided an opportunity to integrate clinical experiences with the coverage of topics. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Rintell

BIOL 206d Genetic Counseling Journal Club


Informal biweekly meeting of students and faculty at which recent papers are discussed. Usually offered every year.


BIOL 207a Genetic Counseling: Case Conferences and Family Counseling

Taught by a team of health care professionals. Case studies provide the basis for discussion of a variety of genetic disorders and the application of counseling modalities. Students have an opportunity to share experiences gained during clinical internships. Discussions emphasize the interplay of medical, psychological, ethical, legal, social, and cultural factors in genetic counseling. Usually offered every year.

Ms. Kim and Mr. Rintell

BIOL 211a Genetic Counseling Fieldwork Placement: Part I

Students work one day per week in a community-based health service organization, school, clinic, or public health agency to develop awareness of disability-related issues and the variety of community-based services for individuals with special needs. Students also observe in a genetics clinic 20-30 hours over the course of the semester to gain exposure to concepts learned in BIOL 202d (Introduction to Genetic Counseling). Periodic course discussions supplement the fieldwork experience.

Ms. Lerner

BIOL 211b Genetic Counseling Fieldwork Placement: Part II

To begin preparing for clinical genetics internships, students participate in a variety of experiences that serve to foster and integrate the concepts introduced in courses and presentations. Students are exposed to procedures in clinical labs through lectures, site visits, and/or lab work. In addition, students continue observations in a genetics clinic and meet several times with a family with a child with a disability. Periodic course discussions supplement the fieldwork experience.

Ms. Lerner

BIOL 212a Genetic Counseling Internship I

Starting in the summer and continuing through the fall semester, students work two to three days a week under the supervision of a genetic counselor or clinical geneticist in a prenatal, pediatric, general, cancer, or specialty genetics clinic. Usually offered every year.

Ms. Kim

BIOL 212e Genetic Counseling Internship II

Students work two to three days a week under the supervision of a genetic counselor or clinical geneticist in a prenatal, pediatric, general, cancer, or specialty genetics clinic and meet once a week to discuss cases and develop counseling protocols for some common genetic disorders. Usually offered every year.

Ms. Kim

BIOL 213d Genetic Counseling Research Project

Students are introduced to the basic techniques of social science research and their grounding principles in a series of seminars. In consultation with the program's research coordinator, each student designs and carries out a project under the supervision of a research committee. Usually offered every year.

Ms. Lerner

BIOL 214c Genetic Counseling Process Group

In this small group setting, students can share and learn from their collective experiences in their field placements, courses, and individual lives and have the opportunity to process and integrate the experience of becoming a genetic counselor. Usually offered every semester.

Mr. Cunningham

BIOL 215b Readings in Molecular Biology

A combination of readings and clinical laboratory work to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the molecular biology of several human genetic diseases and the techniques used for their diagnosis. Usually offered every year.

Ms. Tsipis

BIOL 220a Clinical Genetics II

Prerequisite: Completion of BIOL 204b or permission of the instructor.

Continuation of BIOL 204b with emphasis on the genetic and developmental disorders of most major organ systems. A case-based, problem-solving approach is emphasized. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Natowicz

BIOL 236b Genetics, Law, and Social Policy

Explores advances in human genetics, the clinical and economic benefits promised by new tests, problems generated by our new ability to manipulate our biological future. We analyze the role of government in regulating technological development and the legal doctrines of privacy, informed consent, and professional liability. Usually offered in even years.

Mr. Reilly