Graduate Program Overview

The Graduate Program in Animal Biotechnology & Biomedical Sciences (ABBS) provides rigorous and comprehensive training at the graduate level through the Department of Veterinary & Animal Sciences.  The general requirements for the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in ABBS are those of the Graduate School.

The ABBS Graduate Program offers research opportunities that foster creative excellence, technical mastery, intellectual independence, and recognition within the field of molecular and cellular biology.  Our graduate faculty research encompasses various areas of immunology, infectious disease, developmental biology, reproductive biology and toxicology. Research topics focus on issues directly relevant to humans and agiculturally important animals. The strong commitment of our faculty to quality graduate education is evidenced by the continued placement of graduates in excellent career and post-doctoral positions.  

The ABBS Graduate Program is housed primarily in the Integrated Science Building, a newly built, state-of-the-art research facility that houses laboratories equipped for tissue culture, micro-manipulation of cells and embryos, protein purification, genetic engineering/molecular biology, fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry. 

Degrees Offered

The Animal Biotechnology and Biomedical Sciences graduate program, a part of the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences offers the following degrees:

  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Program Goals

  • To prepare scientists for future careers in academia or industry in the areas of animal biotechnology and/or biomedicine by providing them with experience in hypothesis formulation, problem solving and experimental design.
  • To provide research opportunities in areas of immunology, infectious disease, developmental biology, reproductive biology and toxicology.
  • To instill in students an understanding of hypothesis-driven experimental design and the desire to deepen scientific knowledge.

The core of the graduate program is the deep commitment of the active research faculty to provide a quality graduate education. The collaborative environment of our research groups strengthens the learning environment for graduate students. The involvement of faculty within interdisciplinary programs brings a wide variety of students to our laboratories and seminars and promotes interactions across campus. The faculty attract post-doctoral fellows from around the world and their presence invigorates the research enterprise, thus students do not work in isolation but are part of both the departmental program as well as interdepartmental research communities including the Molecular and Cellular Biology ProgramNeuroscience and Behavior Program, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Program and the Collaborative Biomedical Research Program.

Research in the Animal Biotechnology and Biomedical Sciences graduate program is supported by a variety of sources. Faculty hold grants from the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development as well as from private industry, foundations and the Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station.   Our graduates are continually placed in excellent career and post-doctoral positions, nationally and internationally.

Program Requirements

See the ABBS Graduate Handbook for details on program requirements, courses, rules and milestones.

The main emphasis of the graduate program is hands on laboratory research. Students supplement lab work with a variety of coursework as well as research seminars  and journal clubs. Required courses provide a strong foundation in biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, immunology and infectious diseases, as well as genetics and developmental biology.   Doctoral students must pass written and oral comprehensive qualifying exams and both Ph.D. and M.S. students must pass a final oral defense of their thesis research. All graduate students form a thesis committee of faculty members who meet regularly with the student to provide guidance and assess progress.

The Fifth Year Masters is for students who are undergraduates in the department and begin research in a laboratory during their junior year. During their senior year they develop their research skills and take 6 credits of coursework towards their Masters degree. To complete the Fifth Years Masters requires 12-15 months after the B.S. degree and includes a combination of research work for independent study credit plus 6-8 additional coursework credits.

Application & Admission to the Program

Our program accepts new students in the Fall semester only. The application deadline is January 15th. Masters with thesis and Ph.D. students are accepted by individual faculty members directly into their laboratories, that is, students generally do not undertake laboratory rotations. Thus students are encouraged to contact individual faculty members directly about their research programs and the availability of space and financial support available in their laboratory.

Research Faculty

The Role of ADAM (A Disintegrin And Metalloprotease) Proteins During the Early Development of the Frog Xenopus laevis.
alfandar [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Kathleen F. Arcaro    
Environmental Toxicology- Health Effects of Exposure to Complex Mixtures of Environmental Pollutants
karcaro [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Cellular Immunity: Intracellular Microbes and gd T-cells
cbaldwin [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Molecular Basis of Immunity Against Parasitic Protozoa
sblack [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry- Mechanisms of Action & Resistance to Insecticides, Minimization of Exposure to Pesticides
jclark [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Tumor Suppressor Genes and the Cellular Basis for Susceptibility to Breast Cancer
jjerry [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Ca2+ Release Mechanisms in Mammalian Eggs During Maturation and Fertilization
rfissore [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Epigenetic regulation during development, lineage decisions in the early mouse embryo.
jmager [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Notch Signaling in Autoimmune Diseases
lminter [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Induction of Apoptosis in Lymphocytes; Immunoglobulin Gene Diversification
osborne [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Molecular Neuroendocrinology of Reproduction
spetersen [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Signaling During Mammary Gland Development and Carcinogenesis
sallie [dot] schneider [at] bhs [dot] org
The Role of RUNX Family Transcription Factors in Immune System Development
telfer [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Specification of Cell Identity During Organogenesis; Precursor Cell Populations and Transcriptional Cell Fate Regulation
kdtrembl [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Signal Transduction Pathways During Sperm Capacitation
pvisconti [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu
Applicants must include a completed application form, two letters of recommendation and completion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). International students who are not from an English-speaking country (i.e., one whose national language is English) must also take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and score at least 550 (paper based test) or 80 (computer based test). This includes students from non-English speaking countries even though their degrees may have been awarded in English.

Applications are available online or can be obtained from the address below. Frequently asked graduate school admission questions can be viewed here, For general information, visit the UMass Graduate School web site. 

To check on status of your application, please go here.

Graduate Admissions
Phone: 413-545-0722 (8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Mon-Fri)
Email: gradadm [at] grad [dot] umass [dot] edu

For other inquiries about the program itself:

Graduate Program Director
Dr. Lisa M. Minter
Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences
427K ISB
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, Massachusetts 01003

Email: lminter [at] vasci [dot] umass [dot] edu

Financial Aid

Students (U.S. citizen and foreign) are eligible for research or teaching assistantships. Except for non-thesis masters students, graduate students accepted into the program are provided with financial support from individual faculty members (that is, the research supervisor). Research assistants and teaching assistants receiving full-time renumeration receive approximately $17,000/year as a salary stipend in addition to having tuition, curriculum fees and medical insurance paid for, for a total combined value on average  of $25,000/year. Students must pay their own program fees which range from $100-$500/year. Students admitted to the program are responsible for finding their own transportation to and from Amherst, Massachusetts. International students must remain registered as full-time students during their stay to maintain visa status.  In addition to the research and teaching assistantships, students may apply for competitive pre-doctoral fellowship at:

Interdepartmental Graduate Programs

Students admitted through other graduate programs on campus may join the research groups in our department if the major advisor (PI) is a member of that program. Interdepartmental programs which our students may be interested in include: