What is Molecular Diagnostic Sciences?
Molecular testing uses sensitive and specific laboratory techniques to detect and identify biomarkers at the nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) level. Molecular diagnostic tests are increasingly used in many major areas of medicine including genetic disorders, infectious diseases, cancer, pharmacogenetics and identity testing. A great example of a molecular-based test is the PCR test used to detect the SARS-CoV2 virus in COVID-19 patients; this test, along with the laboratory scientists trained to perform the test, played a major role in identifying COVID-19 cases during the pandemic. The number of molecular-based laboratory tests is expected to increase dramatically as more information is uncovered about the human genome and disease.
BSHS Programs in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences at GW
The online BSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences is a robust program for undergrads who recognize the impact and opportunity that molecular testing has in the future of health care solutions. Students who excel at science-based coursework and are passionate about the potential for molecular testing in medical science are a good fit for this program. This program provides theoretical knowledge and practical skills for positions in diagnostic clinical laboratories, public health laboratories, biotechnology companies, government and law enforcement agencies, and research institutes.
Click to expand the accordions below for more information about each program.
- Fully Online
- Available for students who have Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) certification through ASCP, AMT, or AAB.
- This program provides 100% of didactic (lecture) coursework online with a 6 week practicum experience in the student’s local area. All didactic (lecture) online courses are formulated to be flexible and asynchronous.
- Completion time: 2.5 years average duration
- Hybrid (Blended) Track
- Includes online and on campus requirements. Students need to reside in or temporarily relocate to the D.C. area for one semester and have completed an associate’s degree or a minimum of 24 credits.
- This program provides 100% of didactic (lecture) courses online, two in-person labs at the GW Virginia Science and Technology Campus (VSTC) in Ashburn, VA that can be taken in the same semester, and a 6 week practicum at an approved diagnostic laboratory.
- Completion time: 2.5 years average duration
Accreditation and Rankings
- Fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- #66 Best National University*
- #20 Best Online Bachelor's Programs*
* U.S. News & World Report's 2021 Best Colleges Rankings
- Qualify to take the ASCP Molecular Biology (MB) Board of Certification Exam*
- Graduate in as few as 28 months by transferring up to 60 credit hours from a regionally accredited institution.
Upon successful completion of the program, learners will be able to:
- Explain the methods of collection, transport and handling of various specimen types for molecular analysis.
- Apply molecular-based testing for laboratory utilization and clinical decisions for patient/client outcomes.
- Implement preventive and corrective maintenance programs for equipment and assays, as well as troubleshoot and evaluate appropriate actions for problem resolution.
- Apply knowledge of molecular and genetic theory and principles as they relate to human disease diagnosis.
- Analyze molecular data and patient results to determine test validity and quality.
- Apply ethical decision making to issues related to molecular laboratory practice.
While the completion of this program will make graduates eligible to register for an ASCP Board of Certification Exam, this does not automatically guarantee a graduate will also meet their state’s requirements for state licensure (if applicable). Since each state may have different requirements for licensure, each student is encouraged to contact their state’s regulating agency and review these requirements prior to beginning any degree program.
New York Residents – We advise applicants who are considering New York state licensure to review license requirements before accepting admission to the program.
Meet the Program Director
Marcia A. Firmani, Ph.D., MSPH, MT(ASCP)MBCM
Chair of the Department of Biomedical Laboratory Sciences, Director of the MSHS in Clinical Microbiology program, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Laboratory Sciences, Assistant Professor of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine.
Dr. Marcia Firmani has more than 20 years of experience in teaching and research. In addition to her administrative duties, Dr. Firmani both directs and teaches several courses within the BLS department, including Clinical Bacteriology, Molecular Diagnostic Sciences, Molecular Epidemiology, and Plagues, Pandemics & Epidemics. She also mentors undergraduate and graduate research projects and has published peer-reviewed articles with students.
Prior to her arrival at The George Washington University, Dr. Firmani was a principal investigator at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC), where she conducted and managed several research projects involving biothreat agent characterization. Dr. Firmani also held two previous faculty appointments.
From 2002–2007 she was an assistant professor in the CLS department at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) in New Orleans. She taught lecture and laboratory courses and directed a research lab where she performed basic and applied research on Mycobacterium tuberculosis and MRSA and mentored master’s student thesis projects.
From 2007–2010, Dr. Firmani was an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (UWM) where she taught various undergraduate CLS courses and graduate-level Biomedical Sciences courses. She also directed a research laboratory where she conducted NIH-funded research on Mycobacterium tuberculosis and mentored both undergraduate and graduate student research projects.
Dr. Firmani has taught numerous continuing education courses in the laboratory science field, including a DVD for the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) on emerging infections. She has authored several chapters focusing on infectious diseases in textbooks and has also published her research in peer-reviewed journals, such as Infection and Immunity, and the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.
- When you graduate from this program, you’re prepared to work as a laboratory scientist in:
- diagnostic molecular laboratories
- public health laboratories
- research institutions
- law enforcement agencies
- reference laboratories
- biotechnology firms
- pharmaceutical companies
- Molecular diagnostic scientists earn between $69,618 and $88,718 a year, based on experience, location and certification.