Master’s Degree (MS) in Biology

The University of the District of Columbia, in partnership with the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC) at Georgetown University, offers a unique Master’s Degree Program in Biology, where students can apply their aptitude in science toward changing the healthcare disparities that challenge the Washington D.C. community. The program is jointly administered and taught by UDC and LCCC faculty, and enables students to benefit from UDC’s focus on community behavior and outreach and Georgetown’s research capacity. By learning from active faculty researchers and taking advantage of opportunities to engage with the community, students can make a difference in addressing health disparities and contribute to cutting edge research. The program was launch by grant funding from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.  Since tits inception, several grants have been award to the program and many of its students have acquired doctorate degrees or advancements in their careers.

Curriculum and Requirements in the UDC Master’s Degree in Biology Program

Students applying for admission into the Master’s Degree Program in Biology must meet the following criteria:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from an accredited educational institution; or have earned an equivalent degree in biology or natural sciences from a recognized college or university in another country.
    • A degree in a discipline or area other than biological sciences will require an evaluation by the Graduate Advisory Committee and admission may be on a conditional basis.
  • Have a minimum overall grade point average of 3.00.

The master’s program requires 36 credits for graduation through a plan of study that incorporates classroom study, research, and community work. Students are exposed to topics such as:

  • Cancer Epidemiology
  • Cancer Education, Outreach, and Field Study
  • Tumor Biology
  • Principles and Practices of Behavior Science in Cancer Control

Student Organizations and Activities in the UDC Master’s in Biology Degree Program

Students in the master’s program have the opportunity to participate in a number of research-oriented institutes and programs, including:

  • The STEM Center for Research and Development is a valuable resource for biology students and other students in STEM disciplines. The center offers course, research, and enrichment activities designed to strengthen students’ academic skills and engagement, as well as increase graduation rates.
  • Minority Access to Research Careers grant programs expose degree program students to current technologies and state-of-the-art equipment through hands-on research opportunities.

Faculty Spotlight: UDC Biology Master’s Degree Program

Carolyn Cousin, Ph.D., professor and program director, is an experienced cell biologist and parasitologist with a longstanding research interest in the area of schistosomiasis. She has received more than $5 million in grants from the NIH and the Agency for International Development to fund this research. Cousin also has served as the principal investigator on a USDA-funded grant to examine the current perception of African Americans on cancer in the District of Columbia. She has received numerous awards and accolades for her teaching and research, both from within the university and from organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, the Washington Post, Beta Kappa Chi Scientific Honor Society and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.


Year 1: Fall Semester 
Tumor Biology (508)* 3hrs
 Cancer Epidemiology 3hrs
 Research Methods & Career Dev 1 hr
Biostatistics (502)* 3hrs
Research & Applied Ethics 2hrs
Molecular Epidemiology 1hr
 Total 13hrs

* Existing course in LCCC’s Tumor Biology Program


Year 1: Spring Semester 
 Prin & Prac of Behavior Science in Cancer 2hrs
 Dietary Cancer Prevention 2hrs
 Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory 3hrs
Cancer Education, Outreach & Field Study 4hrs
Environmental Health 2hrs
 Total 13hrs


Course Offerings for the Second Year

Research Project, 3-9 credits for each semester

Journal Club and Seminar (1 credit hour will be conducted with tumor biology graduate student from LCCC

One elective is required:

  • Topics in Epidemiology (3 credits hours) to be determined
  • Molecular Genetics (3 credit hours) Jan Blancato

 Course Descriptions

  • Tumor Biology – Cellular and Molecular Aspects of the Transformed Cell (3 credits): This course is designed to provide students with an integrative overview of mechanisms of growth control and malignant transformation by physical, chemical, and viral mechanisms. Introduction to growth factors, oncogenes, and suppressor genes. Includes an introduction to means of reverting or blocking malignant behavior with a particular emphasis on biochemical and molecular mechanisms
  • Environmental Health (2 credits): This course stresses understanding of the basic principles governing the behavior of toxic agents in the environment and their effects on humans. Emphasis will be on environmental agents that cause cancer
  • Cancer Epidemiology (3credits): This course will provide an introduction to epidemiological methods with a focus on methodological issues relevant to cancer research. Examples from “real” studies and issues will be used throughout the course. There will be “homework” assignments given each week for students to put into practice some of the material introduced in class. (Typically assignments will be given on Thursdays and either turned in or discussed in class on Tuesdays.) Completing assignments and/or participating in class discussions will be considered a requirement of the class and comprise at least 20% of the grade. Two short papers will be assigned as part of the class that will require the students to read and evaluate published epidemiology studies.
  • Research Methods Career and Development (1 credit): This course introducing students to methods in responsible conduct of research, procedures in searching scientific literature, preparing presentation and participating in scientific meeting. Also, sources, drafting, and submitting grants and fellowships will be discuss, also with career information
  • Biostatistics (3 credit hours): This course will address statistical analysis needed in research. Probability, distribution I and II, graphical approaches to data analysis, estimation and hypothesis testing, categorical data, linear and logistic regression and epidemiological statistics are some of the topics covered.
  • Research and Applied Ethics (2 credits): This course addresses responsible conduct in research and applied ethics. It details the proper ethical methods in conducting research (e.g. data sharing, ownership, publication issues, null results, credit, and plagiarism) human subjects, conflict of interest, and genetic counseling and policy issues.
  • Principles and Practices of Behavioral Science in Cancer (2 credit hours): This course provides an understanding of general principles and practices involved in cancer control through behavior and behavior change at the individual and population levels. In addition, it covers theory and applied aspects in this field.
  • Dietary Cancer Prevention (2 credit hours): This course will consist of presentations primarily by the faculty and postdoctoral fellows, and class discussions of any materials provided to the students in advance. Students may be required to read up to 2 papers per week, and to participate in all class discussions.
  • Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory (3 credit hours): In this course the student will be introduced to basic tissue culture techniques, microscopy, cancer cell lines and molecular biological principles and procedures that will help them in understanding of the subject and prepare them for the research assignment in the second year of the program.
  • Cancer Education, Outreach and Field Study (4 credit hours): This course is designed to acquaint students with the techniques and methods required to carry out cancer prevention and control activities. Health education theories and models, a basic overview of cancer, behavior changes and its connection to cancer prevention and control, basic counseling skills and communication techniques, life-style modifications and cancer prevention and control and organizing and implementation of cancer outreach projects will be presented and implemented.
  • Topics in Epidemiology (3 credit hours): This course will focus on the latest developments in the field of cancer risk assessment and explore how inter-individual variation contributes to cancer risk.
  • Molecular Genetics (3 credit hours): This course introduces the fundamentals of the molecular genetics and molecular cytogenetic of cancer. In addition, it covers diagnostic, clinical, and population-based aspects of this rapidly advancing field.
  • Molecular Epidemiology (1 credit hours): This course is designed to familiarize the student with literature sources and specific laboratory tests used in determination of risk factors involved in cancer and disease susceptibility. The criteria used assess molecular epidemiological studies will be discussed. The course will incorporate a first year journal club and students will make presentations in that forum.

Career Pathways and Prospects

By the time students graduate from the cancer biology, prevention and control master’s degree program, they will have already contributed to addressing health disparities and cutting-edge research on cancer biology and control. This preparation provides students with a distinct advantage when applying to PhD programs or pursuing occupations such as laboratory and field researchers. Through the joint assistance of the UDC and Georgetown faculty, students receive concrete assistance to achieve their educational and career aspirations.

Contact info:

Carolyn Cousin, Professor, Director

E: | T: 202.274.5874