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Course Descriptions

CEA Course Descriptions

EMB-519 Introductory Genetics

This course is an introduction to human cytogenetics, with the discussion of chromosomal structure, cell division, gametogenesis and embryogenesis as well as both genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of inheritance. There is also a brief introduction to newer developments in ART.

EMB-520 Introduction IVF, Laboratory Tech and Skills Development

Laboratory science and technology are at the foundation of the Clinical Embryology Laboratory, and ART success rates are largely dependent on the quality of the laboratory environment and the knowledge and skill of laboratory personnel. This course covers the basic laboratory skills and techniques used in the IVF and Andrology laboratories.  A required, on campus component includes hands-on training and skills evaluation.

EMB-521 Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology

This course presents the basic principles of cellular structure and function which are the infrastructure for understanding clinical endocrinology and embryo metabolism.  This 4 module course examines the structure of biological components and their roles in biochemical processes: metabolism, molecular feedback through hormones, signal transduction, cellular physiology and molecular biology.  Case study discussion boards and current journal article discussions connect the basic science content to IVF.

EMB-504 Gametes and Embryos

The objective of this course is to present the recent understanding of the development of gametes and embryos to connect the participants with the molecular principles behind the practice of IVF laboratory.  Using the historic and current literature this course covers the molecular aspects of the origin of germ cells, oogenesis, spermatogenesis, meiosis, fertilization and preimplantation, development, implantation of embryos, gamete pathology and aging.  The students are taught how to evaluate a current journal article and write a research paper to discuss their findings.

EMB-511 Current Topics In IVF

This course is a journal club format designed to give basic instruction for reading the literature as students prepare to take courses in the following semesters that depend on journal articles as a supplement to or the sole source of reading.  Another purpose for this course is to introduce current topics in IVF prior to thesis topic selection in the second semester.  The students will work in groups to present papers selected by the program faculty.  The online meeting format will be used to present and record the sessions; these sessions can be attended synchronously or asynchronously.  Discussion boards will also be used to review and critique the presentations.

EMB-525 In Vitro Fertilization

In vitro fertilization has given its name to the field of reproductive medicine.  This course presents a historic overview of the field of IVF and all current techniques and regulatory issues including: how to collect, recover, assess, prepare, fertilize and maintain gametes and embryos, the basic protocols for IVF, ICSI, GIFT, ZIFT, TET and ET, the types of culture media and culture systems used in IVF, how to design and maintain a quality IVF laboratory, the principles and application of Quality Assurance (QC, proficiency testing), laboratory safety (security, fire, electrical, patient issues, staff issues), the operation and maintenance of common lab equipment, record keeping,  personnel issues and standards of good practice, how to trouble-shoot problems that may arise in the IVF lab and finally topical subjects, such as derivation of embryo stem cells from blastocysts and cloning.  Assigned asynchronous discussions with faculty and students connect the students with current topics allowing them to present their own experiences and to review the current literature for changes in the field. 

EMB-503 Female Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility

This course provides an introduction to endocrinology, female reproductive anatomy the latest information in basic reproductive physiology of the female at all life stages, including puberty, mid-reproductive life and menopause. Chronic reproductive abnormalities will be discussed in detail using the current literature; including hypothalamic amenorrhea, polycystic ovarian syndrome and premature menopause. The role of gonadotropin hormone therapy in ovulation induction and controlled ovarian stimulation along with complications, such as ovarian hyperstimulation and multiple births; will also be discussed. The use of agonists and antagonists in ART and stimulation protocols for difficult cases, such as the poor responder and hyper-responder, will be covered, along with donor egg and surrogacy and ethics.  

EMB-526 Research Methods and Capstone/Thesis: Statistics and Master's Project Proposal

Statistics and research study design are essential tools in any scientific endeavor.  Developing a thesis research study design and understanding the background literature needed to create a capstone review requires a rudimentary knowledge of basic statistics.  In this course, students will receive training in biostatistics, which is the study of statistics used in medical and basic biological research. Students will (a) learn the fundamental principles of biostatistics, (b) study applications of biostatistics in clinical medicine, (c) participate in statistical problem-solving, and (d) learn the fundamental components of a research study design.   The final aspect of the course is the selection of a Master's project.  The students research a topic area and write a mini-literature review, develop a formal Master's project proposal, and present their projects at the second residential program.

EMB-522 Advanced IVF, Laboratory Tech and Skills Development

Laboratory science and technology are at the foundation of the Clinical Embryology Laboratory, and ART success rates are largely dependent on the quality of the laboratory environment and the knowledge and skill of laboratory personnel. This course covers advanced laboratory skills and techniques used in the IVF and Andrology laboratories.  A required, on campus component includes hands-on training and skills evaluation.

EMB-506 Genetics of Reproduction and Infertility

Many aspects of medicine, including reproductive medicine, are beginning to revolve around underlying genetic causes or predispositions. This course covers many important areas of genetics including: the basis of sex determination with functional anomalies of the reproductive system, the origin of aneuploidy and other chromosomal abnormalities in oocytes, sperm & embryos, the epidemiology and genetic basis of pregnancy wastage, the current status of preimplantation/prenatal genetic diagnosis and its applications and the molecular techniques that are available for PGD and prenatal diagnosis.  Current journal article critiques and PGD design projects are used to connect with recent developments in the field.

EBM-515 Male Reproductive Function and Dysfunction

The emphasis of this course will be on the physiology and pathology of the male reproductive system in the context of evaluations for male infertility.  Knowledge of reproductive function by reviewing recent discoveries about the physiology and dysfunction of the male reproductive system will be presented using current articles and techniques.  Relevant areas include: normal and abnormal spermatogenesis, reviewing slides prepared from testicular biopsies, basic semen analysis, standard tests of sperm function using microscopy and specialized functional and “non-functional” sperm evaluating assays.  Also covered are disorders like testicular cancer, benign and malignant prostate and genetic causes of male infertility, male contraception and gender pre-selection using sperm.  Additionally students will be challenged with the evaluation of case studies in andrology.

EMB-514 Cryopreservation

The goals of cryopreservation are to preserve viable gametes, embryos, tissues, and even whole organs for future fertility options and to enable augmented pregnancy rates for IVF. In this course the biological effects of cooling and freezing will be covered in detail. Additionally the discussion will include the following: principles of cryopreservation using conventional, equilibrium cooling methods, vitrification as an alternative to conventional freeze-thawing, applications and adaptations of low temperature banking for different cell and tissue type as well as safeguards for quality assurance.  Assigned asynchronous discussion groups between faculty and students are used to have students present their own experience in the lab or to review current literature to discus recent changes in techniques.  

EMB-509 Ethics, Society and ART

The objective of this course is to provide the student with a historical background of various traditional beliefs about reproduction, as well as the comments of moral theologians, ethicists, philosophers, sociologists, and others, about these same beliefs. The student will be prepared to discuss with patients these sensitive subjects with considerable understanding. Specifically, the course will provide a limited amount of background material but will refer the student to original sources, as well as to selected commentaries. At the practical level, the student will be presented with clinical case histories and he or she will be expected to discuss the pros and cons of each case and offer a realistic resolution to the ethical or moral dilemma. Grades in this course will be determined by the students’ evaluation of these case studies and a take home exam.

EMB-518, 523, 524  Research Methods Capstone/Thesis: Writing and Thesis Development

The master’s project must be an original project of scholarship or research on a relevant topic in reproductive biology or medicine resulting in a paper. Students select either the review, QC/QI  or research track and in all cases an EVMS and possibly local advisors are selected to help determine proper approach to the project.  Depending on the track selected a detailed capstone research or QC/QI study design is developed.  To aid in capstone writing, a section of the courses have been developed to give the students an outline of the steps for writing their project.  Basic elements of the capstone project for the three different tracts are covered: development of a thesis statement, data commentary, introduction, background, discussion and conclusion; specific to the research thesis, materials/methods and results.  A major concern in publication today is plagiarism; this topic is also covered in detail.  All students in this program are required to take IRB, bloodborne pathogens, and HIPAA for research training during this course. 


Students are required to attend two 5-day Residential Courses at the EVMS campus in Norfolk Virginia.  In the first year it is at the end of the summer session the last week in July.  In the second year it is held during the last week of May.