Tuesday, July 7, 2020

By Victoria Brito

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – The University of Texas System Board of Regents recently approved a degree proposal for a doctorate in human genetics for the UTRGV School of Medicine.

The new PhD program – a full-time, four-year, 72-credit-hour degree plan – will focus on applications of human genetics to medicine.

Designed to address the growing demand for genetics expertise in biomedical research, biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry, the research-intensive program will provide broad training in human genetics and genomics.

“The field of human genetics is not only vital for our School of Medicine, but also for the region,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey said. “Human genetics plays an important role in how we look at diseases, especially those prevalent in South Texas. We are thrilled that the UT System Board of Regents supports our research and the demand for human geneticists in the region.”

The UT System submitted the PhD program proposal to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on June 2 for review of criteria and appropriate action.  

If approved by the THECB, a site visit will be conducted, with the goal of a fall 2021 start date for the first cohort.

The new PhD program will admit seven students per year until it reaches a steady state of about 25 students working toward their doctoral degrees.

The UTRGV School of Medicine’s Department of Human Genetics is focused on common diseases with high prevalence in South Texas, including diabetes, obesity and fatty liver disease. Much of the department’s research is conducted in the South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute.

The resources of the South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute include the Genomics Computing Center, one of the world’s largest computing clusters dedicated to human genetic analysis.

They also include a biorepository containing tens of thousands of samples collected over the past 30 years in long-term genetic studies of minority populations. 

Combined with the state-of-the-art scientific equipment available in the UTRGV Department of Human Genetics, the resources of the STDOI will provide PhD students with significant opportunities for dissertation research on diseases of high relevance to South Texas.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.