Gpss focus Group Report

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GPSS Focus Group Report

Statistical Genetics

April 2007
On April 18, 2007 the University of Washington Graduate & Professional Student Senate Special Assistant to the President facilitated a 70 minute meeting with graduate students in the Statistical Genetics Certificate program. The purpose of this focus group was to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the program from the perspectives of Statistical Genetics students. This report summarizes students’ feedback for consideration in the Graduate School Council’s review of the Statistical Genetics Certificate. All students were invited through department emails.

Program Requirements and Courses

  • Program curriculum is generally good; students mentioned they would like more attention to recent technology and discoveries. Having a class on current methods would be very helpful for students’ real world experience.

  • The seminar course, Genome 541, is not the best use of students’ time and experience. It is very easy for students to skim the papers they are given and not actually get anything out of it. It is also frustrating that the papers are written by students, this means students may not be getting accurate information as the levels of the student papers vary from excellent to very poor.

  • Students were very happy with the third quarter project requirement that includes grant writing practice.

  • Students are happy with the 550 series; the course is incredibly effective and provides students with a great foundation.

  • One thing students feel is lacking in the curriculum is a class on current software that is used in the industry. An introduction to linkage analysis and segregation analysis.

  • Students would like a medical genetics seminar to be added to the curriculum.

  • Students would like to have a list on the website of which professors are involved in what area of research. This would make it easier to obtain mentoring and support.

Mentoring and Student Support

  • Students mentioned two faculty members who are instrumental in their success, Elizabeth Thompson and Ellen Wijsman. Both of these individuals guide students, remember their names outside of the classroom and seek students out to give presentations in seminar classes even if the student is not enrolled in the seminar.

  • There needs to be support for new parents, mothers and fathers. Parents feel isolated in the department, and feel there is lack of flexibility and sensitivity to their needs. For example, having department retreats on weekends is frustrating, especially when there is never an option for having them during the week or during the day.


  • There needs to be a grant for statistical genetics students, the genome training grant is huge, and wish there could be the same grant for statistical genetics.

  • There are not enough TA and RA positions, specifically for statistical genetics students. Students can TA bio stat classes, but not stat genetics classes.

Labs, Offices and Facilities

  • Students expressed concern there is not enough office space at the stat genetics building. Students are forced to have offices off campus which isolates them. It is also time consuming to drive back and forth between classes and work.

  • There is a desire for a common space for students, a lab or lounge where they can get together. Statistical genetics students often feel isolated because they do not have their own space, this leads to a lack of relationships and camaraderie.

The statistical genetics certificate is still growing and trying to find its way. Students are happy with the program and are glad it is offered. There needs to be a balance between mass fundamentals versus current events, this is something the department is still trying to work out. The department needs to work on the community and leadership to bring students and faculty together, right now there is too much isolation, part of that is due to location, but part of it also has to do with the leadership in the department. The students in this group really want to see the certificate succeed and continue to grow; the changes presented in this focus group can start to put that certificate program on track.
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