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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 is a lecture-based course that provides a comprehensive survey of the structure and function of the female reproductive system. Throughout the quarter, students will be taught the fundamentals of female reproductive anatomy and reproductive axis function (hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal). Specific topics that will be covered include: female sex determination and differentiation, reproductive hormone signaling and action, the ovarian and menstrual cycles, oogenesis and folliculogenesis, pregnancy and parturition, and female reproductive technologies. Topics will be presented from molecular, cellular, and tissue perspectives and will span development, puberty, adulthood, and reproductive senescence. We will also consider perturbations to the female reproductive system that can lead to infertility, disease, or disorders. Lectures will be interactive and will consist of didactic fundamentals, deep dives into the historical literature, and examination of current and emerging topics in the field.

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

This is a lecture-based course that provides a comprehensive survey of the structure and function of the male reproductive system. Throughout the quarter, students will be taught the fundamentals of male reproductive anatomy and reproductive axis function (hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal). Specific topics that will be covered include: male sex determination and differentiation, reproductive hormone signaling and action, spermatogenesis, sperm capacitation and fertilization, male reproductive behavioral changes, and male reproductive technologies. Topics will be presented from molecular, cellular, and tissue perspectives and will span development, puberty, adulthood, and reproductive senescence. We will also consider perturbations to the male reproductive system that can lead to infertility, disease, or disorders. Lectures will be interactive and will consist of didactic fundamentals, deep dives into the historical literature, and examination of current and emerging topics in the field.

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 from experts in these areas and faculty conducting reproductive science research. 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. The responsible conduct of research requires proper safety training and comprehension of policies involving humans as research subjects. Students complete laboratory safety training and biomedical human subjects research training as part of this course. Students demonstrate understanding of course concepts through case studies, faculty interviews, and role playing exercises, the latter which enables students to practice responding to situations involving suspected research misconduct or ethical issues. The quarter culminates in a student written and led case study discussion. Contemporary misconduct cases and ethical issues from reproductive science will be integrated throughout the quarter.

Advanced Topics Courses (required-all students)

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

This is a primary literature and critical thinking-based course designed to challenge students with historical, contemporary, and emerging concepts in reproductive science and medicine.  The ultimate goal is to provide students with the intellectual and critical thinking skills to become the next generation of thought leaders who will tackle research problems and fuel discoveries.  Topics covered include ovary and testis development, gametogenesis, fertilization, preimplantation embryo development, implantation/placentation and emerging concepts in interdisciplinary reproductive science including oncofertility and engineering reproductive function. The course is team-taught by instructors who are active researchers and leaders themselves in these research areas. Students will delve into the literature to examine how research questions are identified and how technologies are enabled or created to address them. A basic understanding of cell and molecular biology is a prerequisite for this course in addition to prior completion of REPR_SCI 405 and REPR_SCI 407. Students who have not completed REPR_SCI 405 and REPR_SCI 407 should contact Dr. Beth Sefton with the Center for Reproductive Science, e-sefton@northwestern.edu for permission to enroll.

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

This course covers human reproductive health and disease from a clinical angle – from physiology to pathology to therapeutic interventions. Aspects of both male and female reproduction are covered. The course is team-taught primarily by clinicians and physician-scientists who are experts in reproductive science and medicine and who are active in research and patient care. Topics include sexual function and dysfunction, infertility, reproductive aging, reproductive cancers, endometriosis, uterine leiomyoma, and pregnancy complications. Class sessions are interactive, and discussions focus on pathology, risk factors, diagnosis, standard of care, and the current status of research. A basic understanding of cell and molecular biology is a prerequisite for this course in addition to prior completion of REPR_SCI 405 and REPR_SCI 407. Students who have not completed REPR_SCI 405 and REPR_SCI 407 should contact Dr. Beth Sefton with the Center for Reproductive Science, e-sefton@northwestern.edu for permission to enroll.

Research (required, varies by track)

REPR_SCI 440: Reproductive Technologies Laboratory- Fall, (for the 2017-2018 academic year, 440 will be offered Winter 2018), 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 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, and reproductive signaling. 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 visual, oral, and written approaches. Enrolled students should take REPR_SCI 405, REPR_SCI 407, and REPR_SCI 425 concurrently with REPR_SCI 440 or should have previously completed these courses as pre-requisites.

REPR_SCI 595: Research in Reproductive Science and Medicine- Fall, Winter, Spring, every year, ABC grading, 1 unit (Thesis Track)

Students on the MS-RSM thesis track earn credit for thesis research through enrolling in REPR_SCI 595. Each student on the thesis track will work with the Director of Graduate Studies to identify a laboratory in which they will conduct mentored research leading to a master’s thesis in reproductive science and medicine.  Students will have a large selection of faculty members within the Center for Reproductive Science. Students will identify their research mentors by the end of their first quarter and start working in thesis laboratories the beginning of their second quarter. Although the thesis project will be mentored, students are expected to generate a research hypothesis, develop an ability to independently design and interpret experiments that address the hypothesis, and propose future experimental directions. Students will become integrated members of their laboratory or research group and commit a minimum of 20 hours per week to research. Research mentors will evaluate student research commitment and progress and assign the REPR_SCI 595 grade.  As outlined in the student handbook, specific milestones are associated with earning a letter grade for REPR_SCI 595, such as identifying thesis committee members during quarter 2, completing a thesis proposal during quarter 3, and progress report during quarter 5. Students receive an incomplete (X) grade until milestones are met. REPR_SCI 405, REPR_SCI 407, REPR_SCI 440, and REPR_SCI 425 are pre-requisites for this course.

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

Students completing the MS-RSM thesis track register for REPR_SCI 591 during quarter 6 of the program to earn credit while completing the thesis. During this course, students will prepare a written thesis describing their research project including the research question/hypothesis, rationale and significance, a literature review, experimental approach, data and results, and future directions. The thesis is formatted as a scientific manuscript. Formatting instructions and document guidelines are provided by the DGS. Students present their thesis findings and conclusions during their quarter 6 thesis defense committee meeting. Students must complete at least 3 units of REPR_SCI 595 prior to enrolling in REPR_SCI 591. Students may enroll in 1, 2, or 3 units of REPR_SCI 591.

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 research project stemming from current research questions in reproductive science including but not limited to: factors important to reproducitve organ development, signaling pathways that inform reproductive organ function, and molecular and cellular pathways implicated in reproductive disease. Each quarter students will be engaged in a laboratory research project, conducted in independent groups of 2-3 students, where students will be guided through research project design, experimental methodology and techniques, proper data management and analysis, and presentation of accumulated work. Experimental techniques utilized in this class will be initially workshopped so that students can gain understanding of protocol application and troubleshooting. To gain a scope for the multi-faceted nature of reproductive science and emerging techniques in experimental execution, this class will explore and utilize specialized facilities that focus on live and fixed specimen imaging and state of the art biological analysis and screening. Techniques that will be covered include: molecular biology, cell culture, protein biochemistry, immunohistochemistry, and microscopy. REPR_SCI 405, REPR_SCI 407, and REPR_SCI 425 are pre-requisites for this course.

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

This course is a continuation of REPR_SCI 442, which is designed to lead students through a hypothesis driven, discovery based research project stemming from current research questions in reproductive science including but not limited to: factors important to reproducitve organ development, signaling pathways that inform reproductive organ function, and molecular and cellular pathways implicated in reproductive disease. 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.  However, while REPR_SCI 442 is focused primarily on developing foundations in experimental inquiry, design, and execution, emphasis in REPR_SCI 443 will shift to advancing data acquisition and analysis, expanding project design directions and enhancing oral and written scientific communication. REPR_SCI 405, REPR_SCI 407, REPR_SCI 425, and REPR_SCI 442 are pre-requisites for this course.

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 on how to assemble and write a research proposal according to the format of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R03 proposal. The course is team-taught by various content experts including scientific writers, research administrators, biomedical science librarians, and faculty with extensive proposal writing and supporting document experience.   Students receive instruction on how to construct specific aims, significance and innovation, preliminary data, and research approach sections of the proposal. Introductions to supporting documents, such as biographical sketches, are also included to provide a complete foundation on NIH style proposals. Students will practice writing, editing, and giving constructive criticism on faculty and student research proposals through class interactions. The NIH grant review process is also covered.  Students demonstrate understanding of the review process and essential proposal elements by serving as reviewers on a mock study section, which is chaired by a CRS faculty member. The course closes with students presenting their proposals to peers.

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 receive instruction on self-assessment and professional development planning. Students complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP), explore career paths and the skills required to succeed within specific paths. Importantly, students will select a career path that interests them and set goals to explore that path during the quarter. To practice professional networking, students identify someone actively engaged in a profession that interests them and conduct an informational interview with that individual. Students write a report on their informational interview experience, reflect on their IDP findings, and how well they achieved their career planning goals. This course is team taught with the Northwestern Career Advancement Office (NCA), and lectures on resumes, CVs, and cover letters as well as the job search process and interviewing provide a well-rounded approach to professional development. This course does not specifically prepare students for any one career. Rather, recognizing that professional development is a continuous process, this course provides students the skills and resources to uncover their unique strengths relevant to the professional world of reproductive science and medicine.

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:

*Course open to clinical fellows and PhD students.
Contact our DGS Dr. Beth Sefton (e-sefton@northwestern.edu, 312-503-6306) with questions or to be involved in teaching.
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