The focus of the pre-doctoral training is obtaining a PhD. We continue to accept Human & Molecular Genetics, Psychology and Biostatistics students who have a special emphasis on quantitative or psychiatric genetics. Given that the degrees are obtained within the established programs in the Departments of Human and Molecular Genetics, Psychology and Biostatistics, graduate students entering this training program have to fulfill the requirements of their respective departments.
Psychiatric Behavioral and Statistical Genetics – Our custom-designed PBSG PhD program is an ideal source of trainees for the NIMH training program, because the courses have been added and designed to precisely fit our integrated training needs. Students are required to earn a minimum of 54 hours of graduate-level credits (32 in core and elective courses, and 22 in directed or dissertation research). The core courses include among others: a two semester introduction to human genetics; an introduction to R programming for statistical genetics, a two semester introductory sequence on statistics for genetic studies, epidemiology and assessment of psychiatric & substance use disorders, concepts and principles of behavior genetics, advanced quantitative and statistical genetics (for both genetic epidemiological and gene association studies); grant writing; and scientific integrity. These courses are primarily taught by VIPBG faculty. We have standardized statistical courses around the R programming language as far as possible. Instruction in the use of specialized software, including: PLINK, PLINK/SEQ, Haploview, GCTA, minimac, mach, GotCloud, EPACTS, Merlin, QTDT, Rare-Metal, JAG, Jamp, Tates, Sgene, KGG, KGGSeq, pspp, PennCNV, xhmm, Eigenstrat, BayeScan, Rplinkseq is also available. This field is rapidly changing, so course and seminar content is frequently updated. Specialized tutorials to reinforce application of new materials presented at international workshops, which trainees are encouraged (and funded) to attend also supplement statistical genetics education. In addition to the core course work, elective courses, seminars, individualized teaching and directed reading are determined in consultation with the PhD advisor. Graduate students are also encouraged to attend VIPBG and other pertinent seminars and journal club meetings. In most cases, four to five years of full-time study are necessary to fulfill the requirements. The majority of the course work is taken during the first two years, to allow the students to focus on their dissertation thereafter. Our curriculum is designed to set the tone of a life-long research career by developing the student’s knowledge of the field, and skills in writing, laboratory techniques, critical thinking, study design, data analysis and interpretation, literature research and review and integration of data from multiple disciplines.
Human & Molecular Genetics – The Department of Human & Molecular Genetics currently has 20 graduate students enrolled. Students working toward the PhD degree pass through two stages of graduate study. Within the Human & Molecular Genetics PhD program there is a recognized ‘Quantitative Track’ which is recommended for students with an interest in psychiatric or behavioral genetics. Students who enter the quantitative genetics track are situated at VIPBG. The course of study requires taking three advanced courses in quantitative genetics and two of three non-quantitative genetics specialty courses (clinical, biochemical-molecular, or cytogenetics). The minimum requirement is 36? credit hours.
Psychology – The Department of Psychology at VCU presently has over 150 graduate students enrolled. The Department offers five different tracks of graduate study: Clinical; Counseling; Developmental; Social; and Biopsychology. The psychology program is empirically based and is centered on the theme that state-of-the-art etiological, explanatory assessment, and treatment models for psychopathology should be broad enough to incorporate a wide range of biological, psychological, and sociological components, and therefore require a ‘biopsychosocial’ perspective. This theme is consistent with both the clinical training in the Department of Psychology and the research and training at VIPBG. Psychology graduate students have a heavy course load (90+ credit hours), leaving less time than desired for directed research, especially during the first three years of the program. Clinical psychologists also have an internship requirement, although this can be partly satisfied by project-related clinical duties at VIPBG.
Biostatistics – The Department of Biostatistics typically has 16 to 18 full-time students enrolled in its graduate program. The majority of these students are PhD candidates. Course work requirements are less demanding (56+ hours for a doctorate) than for Psychology, though there are also consultancy requirements. The department collaborates in biomedical research with other departments at VCU. Its faculty are nationally recognized for their biostatistical work in the areas of clinical trials, pharmacology and toxicology.