Diversity and Outreach Activities

Mission: The overarching goals of the Department of Human Genetics Associate Chair for Climate position are to improve diversity, equity and inclusion across the multiple dimensions of the departmental community and to cultivate a supportive climate that bolsters creativity, collaboration, productivity and personal satisfaction. 

The Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan Medical School is devoted to advancing the fields of genetics and genomics to further our understanding of biology and human disease.

The Master’s Degree Program (M.S.) in Human Genetics provides focused graduate coursework and laboratory research training in human genetics and genomics. Graduates from our M.S. program have successfully matriculated to top Ph.D. programs and medical schools and research positions in the biotech industry and academic laboratories. The course of study can be completed in 2-4 semesters.

The Department of Human Genetics recognizes the importance of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion within our academic community and the field. We strive to attract outstanding, highly motivated students from broadly diverse backgrounds and from groups who are underrepresented at the University and in the field of human genetics. Thus, we are pleased to announce the Human Genetics Master’s Student Merit Award Program, which provides substantial financial assistance to eligible students from underrepresented groups and covers the cost of tuition, health and dental care and a stipend for one year.

Complete details including eligibility and application information* are available on the DHG website. For additional information about the Human Genetics M.S. Program and Merit Awards, please contact Molly Martin (mollymu@umich.edu) or Dr. Thomas Glover (glover@umich.edu), Director of the Master’s Program.

*Early application deadlines: February 1 and March 1, 2022
Final application deadline: April 1, 2022

medicine.umich.edu/dept/human-genetics/academics/masters-degree-human-genetics

The Department of Human Genetics is pleased to announce the Pathway to Genetics and Genomics Doctorate Program for eligible Human Genetics M.S. students.

The Pathway Program provides an opportunity for our most outstanding Master’s Degree students to directly enter our Ph.D. Program after completing their M.S. Degree. 

Human Genetics M.S. students who are accepted into the Pathway to Genetics and Genomics Doctorate Program would be eligible for the following:

  • Waive the application fee to Rackham Graduate School
  • Apply directly to the Genetics and Genomics Ph.D. program
  • Matriculate into the Ph.D. program having completed the majority of required coursework
  • Begin Ph.D. training in August prior to the first semester of Year 1
  • Start thesis research during the first semester of Year 1
  • Potentially advance to candidacy after the first semester of Year 1

Application deadline: April 1, 2022

Complete details including eligibility and application information are available at the DHG website: https://medicine.umich.edu/dept/human-genetics/academics/ms-program/pathway-genetics-genomics-doctorate-program

For more information, please contact:

Graduate Student Coordinator: Molly Martin (mollymu@umich.edu)

Director of the M.S. Program:  Dr. Thomas Glover (glover@umich.edu)

The Genetics Immersion Program (GIP) will immerse students in hands-on genetic research, build their problem-solving skills, and allow them to explore their potential as scientists. High school juniors and seniors will be matched with HG trainee mentors to complete their on research project over a 6-week summer program.

The Program launch is planned for Summer 2022.

Wolverine Pathways seeks to confront the barriers that limit the college and career aspirations of highly motivated students from under-resourced communities. We believe that every student deserves the opportunity to pursue a wide range of professional and academic pathways. Toward this end, we provide free college preparatory enrichment and guidance for 7th through 12th grade students in Detroit, Southfield, Ypslanti and Grand Rapids.

Through engaging, hands-on activities presented in a fun, supportive environment, F.E.M.M.E.S. programs encourage students to learn and explore their potential in science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM). Our goal is to promote involvement in STEM by building curiosity and increasing confidence in students' academic skills so they may pursue their dreams without hesitation. Both parents and teachers often comment that after attending F.E.M.M.E.S. events, students become more motivated, participate more in class, and show a greater interest in school.

Each F.E.M.M.E.S. event features a series of experiential learning activities led by the University of Michigan faculty and student volunteers. F.E.M.M.E.S. uses women role models to demonstrate how women can -- and do -- excel in these fields. Our student volunteers' and faculty's genuine passion for their chosen fields inspires young participants at a critical developmental stage.

​Although this program is targeted toward girls, it is open to students of any gender identity.

Entering its 36th year, the University of Michigan Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) is designed for outstanding undergraduate students who are underrepresented in their field of study.

Purpose Statement

In support of Rackham Graduate School’s mission, SROP expands access and opportunity to diverse students and facilitates their preparation as a pathway to doctoral studies at U-M, resulting in increased representation.

Vision Statement

SROP at U-M strives to increase the number of diverse students with unique experiences by supporting their preparation for graduate studies. Through intensive mentorship, active learning, and enrichment activities, SROP fosters a community of scholars who increase social and cultural capital and networking while mastering research skills and knowledge that advances their preparation as candidates for successful graduate study at U-M and success in future careers, increasing representation in professional fields.

Download the SROP flyer.

2022-23 Application Workshops

Application workshop dates:

  • Wednesday December 15, 2021 8:00 to 9:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday January 12, 2022 8:00 to 9:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday January 25, 2022 8:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Register for an Application Workshop

The science done in the department is critical to help understand the world we live in, in particular how organisms function in health and what goes wrong in disease. The pay-offs are knowledge and ultimately cures. Also crucial to our mission is to promote science in the community. Our trainees and faculty participate in a number of activities, including SEEK, Science Engagement and Education for Kids, which originated in MIP.

SEEK is a developing program that grew out of visits by Physiology PhD students to local elementary schools. Our students designed and led hands-on activities designed to introduce how the brain, heart, digestive, immune and breathing systems work. This program has grown at the grass-roots level through word-of-mouth and now has students participating from many programs at Michigan.

To provide elementary school students with a more enduring exposure to science, for the 2019-2020 academic year we incorporated more frequent, shorter visits to underserved schools to help prepare their students for the state’s M-STEP exams. This is a win-win: Michigan trainees get to make science a part of the curriculum for kids and also gain valuable teaching and communication skills.

There are multiple ways to be involved with SEEK.

Please contact seek.leadership@umich.edu(link sends e-mail) with any questions or if you would like to be added to the general SEEK listserv or to specific listservs for any of the below activities! 

1. Year-long science curriculum: A group of graduate students developed a year-long curriculum that covers all the topics covered on the M-STEP. The lessons are self-contained and all materials (including a script) are included so interested volunteers will be able to teach any lesson. These lessons were designed to be given monthly in the 5th grade classrooms from mid-October - mid-April (~2 hours each session). 

FALL 2020 update

We are now working to adapt our curriculum and activities to a remote learning format to continue serving community students while adhering to COVID-19 related safety regulations. This will also allow us to extend remote lessons to additional schools. 

2. Half-day Physiology Fun Days: SEEK began by hosting half-day events that taught six organ systems through hands-on activities. Michigan graduate students designed 30-minute stations that focused on the cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, gastrointestinal, immune, and cell systems. 3rd and 4th graders rotated through all the stations over the course of a half-day. These events are usually a half-day commitment each and occur two to three times per academic year.  

3. Neuroscience lessons using Backyard Brains (https://backyardbrains.com(link is external)) kits: SEEK received a Michigan Medicine Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Mini Grant to purchase five Backyard Brains kits. These self-contained experiments are geared toward teaching elementary and middle school students about neuroscience through hands-on lessons. The lesson plans and materials are all provided within the kits to make the teaching easy. Volunteers lead the Backyard Brains initiative in 5th classrooms 1-2 times per year.

Michigan DNA Day

Michigan DNA Day is an annual event where scientists from the state of Michigan visit local high schools to present interactive, hands-on lessons about genetics, genomics, and biotechnology. MI DNA Day provides a unique opportunity for high school students to meet and interact with early-career scientists, which often clarifies misconceptions of what a scientist looks like and breaks down barriers for students to follow scientific career paths. Scientist ambassadors also discuss their own ongoing research with students and share exciting career opportunities in science and biotechnology. MI DNA Day allows early-career scientists to share their passion for science with students, fostering a spirit of public engagement leading to continued participation in science outreach throughout their careers.

MI DNA Day was founded at the University of Michigan but is looking to expand to all universities and scientific agencies across the state. MI DNA Day takes its name from National DNA Day, which was created to commemorate the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA’s double helix in 1953. There are currently six other states with their own DNA Day programs, and we are ecstatic that Michigan is now on that growing list!

H3Africa Kidney Disease Research Network
The H3Africa Kidney Disease Research Network team at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

One goal of our outreach efforts is to spread the knowledge of genetics across the globe to reach diverse and under-served populations. To this end, the Department of Human Genetics partners with programs such as the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) Initiative. This program, supported by the Welcome Trust and the National Institutes of Health Common Fund, was established to expand genetics research efforts across all of Africa by training young investigators and improving research infrastructure.

Last fall, two physician faculty members involved with H3Africa joined our Master’s degree program: Dr. Charlotte Osafo, from the University of Ghana, Accra; and Dr. Yemi Raji, from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.

Dr. Osafo and Dr. Raji are kidney specialists on a mission to learn the foundations of genetics to help them understand the genetic etiology of kidney disease. They are co-principal investigators of the H3Africa Kidney Disease Research Network, aiming to establish genomics labs and collect thousands of patient DNA samples in their home countries. But to have an impact, they need technical and analytical skills in genetics. They had both noticed a striking difference in the profile of patients with kidney disease in African versus western populations. Dr. Osafo noted that patients she saw during her nephrology fellowship in the UK had slowly progressing kidney disease, brought on by risk factors such as diabetes or hypertension. In contrast, most of her patients in Africa were young and without risk factors, and presented suddenly with aggressive kidney disease. Dr. Raji, who was pursuing his Nephrology residency in Nigeria, found the same pattern of aggressive kidney disease among the sub-Saharan African population. They both hoped hat genetic research could help unlock the clues to this mystery.

Dr. Osafo and Dr. Raji arrived in Ann Arbor eager to soak up genetic knowledge, despite being out of the classroom for nearly 20 years. Over the past eighteen months, they completed the rigorous Human Genetics curriculum and learned invaluable research skills in genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics from many department labs. Dr. Osafo and Dr. Raji will earn their MS degrees at the end of Fall 2017 and will return home with more than just their diplomas. As ambassadors of genetics, they will teach and mentor the next generation of researchers and clinicians in their communities. Their efforts will have a major impact in the practices and standard of care for the patients in their hospitals, as well as the educational experiences of their trainees at their universities.

Dr. Jake Mueller teaching the GENEius students about fruitfly genetics
Dr. Jake Mueller teaching the GENEius students about fruitfly genetics

This summer, a group of local 4th and 5th grade students made a visit to the Department of Human Genetics to meet scientists and get hands-on experience with genetics. Their visit was coordinated by Dr. Diane Robins and Dr. Cristen Willer.

The students were preparing to compete in the GENE-ius Science Olympiad event, where they would use their new-found knowledge of heredity, genes, DNA, and chromosomes to complete tasks like drawing pedigrees, analyzing Punnett squares, and reading codons. They spent the afternoon visiting three Human Genetics labs, participating in several fun genetics activities. In Dr. Willer’s lab, students extracted DNA from strawberries and got a primer in basic computer programming. Their next stop was the lab of Dr. Jacob Mueller, where they were introduced to fruit fly mutants. Students examined and classified the flies based on phenotype (stumpy wing vs normal wing, male vs female). They even received a souvenir vial of flies to take home with them!

To conclude their visit, they dropped by Dr. Sue Hammoud’s lab, where they viewed fluorescent mouse embryos under a microscope and discussed meiosis and fertilization with the help of some edible chromosomes made from licorice. Parents accompanying the group were impressed by how quickly the students engaged with each experiment and the enthusiasm with which the students asked questions like “how do you know?” When quizzed by graduate students on genetic concepts and facts (like the length of the human genome), they were quick to respond and difficult to stump. We hope the opportunity to visit our research labs and talk to genetics students and faculty will encourage the students to be curious about the world around them and continue science-related activities throughout their education. Perhaps they will ultimately pursue careers in STEM fields like Human Genetics!