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Northwestern University

Curriculum and Program of Study

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The curriculum is rigorous and consists of focused reproductive science courses, laboratory instruction, and professional development. We offer a Thesis and Non-Thesis Track and both tracks earn Master of Science degrees from The Graduate School of Northwestern University. Both Thesis and Non-Thesis students complete core reproductive physiology, responsible conduct of research, advanced topic, and professional development courses as a cohort. The tracks differ in the research instruction.

Common courses to both Thesis and Non-Thesis Tracks

Course descriptions are detailed in the "Courses" section.
  1. REPR_SCI 405: Female Reproductive Physiology and Endocrinology (1 unit)
  2. REPR_SCI 407: Male Reproductive Physiology and Endocrinology (1 unit)Non-thesis vs Thesis track diagram
  3. REPR_SCI 425: Responsible Conduct of Research in Reproductive Science (1 unit)

  4. REPR_SCI 406: Human Reproductive Development (1 unit)
  5. REPR_SCI 420: Human Reproductive Health and Disease (1 unit)
  6. REPR_SCI 455: Research Proposals (1 unit)
  7. REPR_SCI 497: Assessment and Career Planning (1 unit)

Non-Thesis Track Requirements

 

  1. All common courses listed above
  2. REPR_SCI 442: Reproductive Research I (2 units)

  3. REPR_SCI 443: Reproductive Research II (2 units)

Thesis Track Requirements

  1. All common courses listed above.
  2. REPR_SCI 440: Reproductive Technologies Laboratory (1 unit)
  3. REPR_SCI 590: Research (3 units)
  4. REPR_SCI 591: Thesis (1-3 units)

Courses

MS-RSM courses include reproductive science core courses, a required responsible conduct of research course, research, professional development, and advanced topics courses. Students have the ability to complete course and credit requirements with electives from a variety of related disciplines. A basic understanding of physiology, biochemistry, cell and molecular biology are requirements for all MS-RSM core courses. Undergraduate Biology or Life Science degrees generally meet these requirements.

Core MS-RSM Courses (required-all students)

REPR_SCI 405: Female Reproductive Physiology and Endocrinology- Fall, every year, ABC grading, 1 unit

This course is a survey of female development of sex, reproductive organs and pregnancy. Throughout the quarter students will be guided through the basics of female reproductive anatomy, female reproductive organ tissue and cellular structure, the female reproductive axis function during development, puberty, adulthood and pregnancy, changes in endocrine hormone signaling throughout life, and the changes in female physiology during menopause. The topics covered in this class will be presented in multiple perspectives including molecular pathways, cellular behavior, organ function and disease. Each class will discuss a topic with relevant textbook material to be covered by students prior to the beginning of class.

REPR_SCI 407: Male Reproductive Physiology and Endocrinology- Fall, every year, ABC grading, 1 unit

This course is a survey of male development of sex, reproductive organs and procreation. Throughout the quarter students will be guided through the basics of male reproductive anatomy, male reproductive organ tissue and cellular structure, the male reproductive axis function during development, puberty, and adulthood, changes in endocrine hormone signaling throughout life, and the changes in male physiology during andropause. The topics covered in this class will be presented in multiple perspectives including molecular pathways, cellular behavior, organ function and disease. Each class will discuss a topic with relevant textbook material to be covered by students prior to the beginning of class.

Responsible Conduct of Research (required-all students)

Responsible conduct of research (RCR) training ensures that anyone involved in research is able to conduct the most ethical research possible with integrity and confidence.  RCR training is critical to prepare researchers to address ethical challenges that may arise when conducting research.

REPR_SCI 425: Responsible Conduct of Research in Reproductive Science- Fall, every year, ABC grading, 1 unit

The goal of this course is to provide instruction and guidance on the responsible conduct of research. NIH defines the responsible conduct of research as the practice of scientific investigation with integrity. The responsible conduct of research involves the awareness and application of established professional norms and ethical principles in the performance of all activities related to research. Students will receive instruction and discuss a variety of topics required to perform high quality research with integrity, transparency, rigor, and reproducibility.  These topics include authentication and validation of reagents, use of appropriate scientific method, mentoring relationships, authorship, misconduct, conflicts of interest, animals and humans in research, collaborations/team science, and peer review.

Advanced Topics Courses (required-all students)

REPR_SCI 406: Human Reproductive Development- Winter, every year, ABC grading, 1 unit

This is a lecture and critical thinking-based course designed to challenge students with foundational and contemporary concepts in reproductive science and to create context for future research problems and bench solutions.  The guide for this course will include educators whom are themselves making basic science breakthroughs. Topics covered will include male and female sex determination, ovary and testis development, gametogenesis, meiosis, fertilization, pre-implantation embryo development, implantation, and placentation. For each topic, didactics will include core textual readings together with analysis of 1) a classic paper which represents a paradigm shift in thinking, 2) a recent paper that updates the field, 3) a controversial paper that challenges present knowledge, 4) and a paper likely to become the next ‘classic’ for the reproductive science student of the future.  Students are asked to think critically about how problems are identified, what technologies exist or must be created to approach/answer the question, and what specific hurdles limit or slow reproductive science based on external factors (e.g. federal/global law, ethical issues, funding). Students are then directed to derive a series of ‘next generation’ fundamental questions that will improve knowledge regarding biological function, to map these ideas, and then to communicate them in lay and professional formats.  Communicating reproductive science is an explicit skill that will be developed in this course. This course is the first of three linked core curricula (reproductive science-reproductive medicine-reproductive endocrinology), and students are expected to learn how to think critically about the literature and to develop independent concepts for intellectual analysis.

REPR_SCI 420: Human Reproductive Health and Disease- Spring, every year, ABC grading, 1 unit

This course is designed to examine the disorders of reproduction, with an emphasis on human, and current therapeutic approaches. The course is organized around the key topics of female reproductive tissues, male reproductive tissues, infertility, reproductive aging, mood disorders related to reproductive processes, and sexually transmitted diseases. Experts who are active in research and patient care will present the disorders covered this quarter. Discussions will include the pathology, molecular pathways, cellular behavior, organ function, treatments, and the current status of research in each topic.

Research (required, varies by track)

REPR_SCI 440: Reproductive Technologies Laboratory- Fall, every year, ABC grading, 1 unit (Thesis Track)

This is an intensive laboratory-based course designed to provide students with exposure to a range of topics and associated technologies used in reproductive science and medicine.  All of the experiments in this course will use the mouse model system, not only to avoid ethical issues, but also to allow results to be obtained under the time constraints of an academic quarter. Modules will cover topics including gonad architecture, gametogenesis, meiosis, fertilization, preimplantation embryo development, reproductive signaling, stem cell biology, and epigenetic regulation.  Techniques that will be acquired include, but are not limited to, collection and micromanipulation of reproductive tissues and cells, immunohistochemistry and immunocytochemistry, biomaterial-based culture methods, microinjection, in vitro fertilization, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, live cell imaging, and advanced microscopy.  In addition, students will learn firsthand how to conduct experiments using the principles of the scientific method and how to communicate their results via various mechanisms. Students are also expected to complete laboratory safety training in preparation for laboratory activities.

REPR_SCI 590: Research in Reproductive Science and Medicine- Fall, Winter, Spring, every year, ABC grading, 1 unit (Thesis Track)

Each student will work with the DGS to identify a laboratory in which they will perform mentored research leading to a master’s thesis. Students are expected identify research mentors by the end of the first quarter and begin working in thesis laboratories the beginning of their second quarter. The project will be mentored, but the student is expected to develop an ability to independently design and interpret experiments and propose future directions to address the hypothesis. Students will register for 1 unit of REPR_SCI 590 during quarter 2, quarter 3, and quarter 5. Students enroll in TGS 512 during quarter 4, which is the summer quarter.

REPR_SCI 591: Thesis research- Winter, every year ABC grading, 1, 2, or 3 units (Thesis Track)

Students will register for REPR_SCI 591 quarter 6 of the program to complete their research project and produce a written thesis. In "Thesis Research" students will prepare a paper describing their research project including the research question/hypothesis, rationale and significance, a literature review, experimental approach, data, and future directions. The paper is formatted as a scientific manuscript. The completed thesis will be submitted to the thesis committee who will assign a final grade and recommendation for the Master of Science degree.

REPR_SCI 442: Reproductive Research I- Winter, every year, ABC grading, 2 units (Non-Thesis Track)

This course is specifically designed to lead students through a hypothesis driven, discovery based investigation of current research questions in reproductive science including but not limited to: factors important to reproducitve organ development, signaling pathways important to reproductive organ function, and molecular pathways implicated in reproductive disease. Each quarter students will be engaging in a laboratory research project, in a group format, that will provide an overview of research project design, experimental methodology and techiques, proper data management and analysis, and presentation of cumulated work. Experimental techniques utilized in this class will enhance the students understanding and application of a range of techniques important to investigating current research in reproductive biology including: molecular biology and gene expression, cell culture techniques, protein biochemistry, immunohistochemistry, and microscopy.

REPR_SCI 443: Reproductive Research II- Spring, every year, ABC grading, 2 units (Non-Thesis Track)

This course is specifically designed to lead students through a hypothesis driven, discovery based investigation of current research questions in reproductive science including but not limited to: factors important to reproducitve organ development, signaling pathways important to reproductive organ function, and molecular pathways implicated in reproductive disease. This class is a continutation of projects generated in REPR_SCI 442. Each quarter students will engage in a laboratory research project, in a group format, that will continue to reinforce skill sets in research project design, experimental methodology and techiques, proper data management and analysis, and presentation of cumulated work. To provide a continuation to the research project established in the first quarter, students will utilize a new set of experimental techniques important to reproductive research including: cell biology techniques aimed at investigating cell proliferation, cell death and cell migration, as well as continued used of molecular biology and cell culture techniques as modes of experimental validation.

TGS 512: Summer research- Summer every year, Pass/No-pass, 1 unit (Thesis Track, optional for Non-Thesis Track students)

TGS 512 is a continuous enrollment course that maintains full-time status for students during the summer quarter. Students pay reduced tuition when enrolled in TGS 512 and may not enroll in courses other than TGS 512. Students are expected to work in the laboratory full-time towards completing their thesis research.

Professional Development Courses (required-all students)

REPR_SCI 455: Research Proposals- Winter, every year, ABC grading, 1 unit

The goal of this course is to provide instruction and guide students through writing a research proposal. Proposals are based on NIH style R03 grants. Students will practice writing, editing, and giving constructive criticism through assignments and group activities. The class culminates in a mock study section.

REPR_SCI 497: Assessment and Career Planning- Spring, every year, ABC grading, 1 unit

This course is designed to provide students with skills and resources to evaluate themselves in light of their career and professional goals. Students will receive instruction on self-assessment and professional development planning, resume, CV, and cover letters as well as job search, interviewing, using social media for professional networking. Students will complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP), explore career paths and skills required to succeed within specific paths, and conduct an informational interview. Importantly, students will select a career path that interests them and set goals to explore that path during the quarter. Students will write a report on their informational interview experience, reflect on their IDP findings, and how well they achieved their career planning goals.

Electives

Students may choose to take electives to complete their degree. Electives enable students to tailor their degree to professional and personal interests. Electives span several related disciplines:

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