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Life Science Alternative: WFU's Bioethics Grad Program

Catherine Hammack presenting her thesis The Law and Ethics of Using the Dead in Research, November 2014.  -- WFU photo

With the convergence of medicine, nanotechnology, computer science, molecular biology, genetic engineering, and business, biotechnologies are an important provider of life-saving and life-enhancing treatments.

Whether you’re working on a new antibiotic, conducting research on lab animals, exploring alternative food or researching renewable energy sources, bioethics has an important impact on many decisions and outcomes.

Wake Forest University launched the bioethics graduate program in 2009 to provide an educational opportunity in bioethics at the graduate level for current professionals including health care providers, researchers in biomedicine and the life sciences, lawyers, and professionals in religion, health and research administration, and the biotechnology industry.

Located in the newly renovated Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem, the program features small class sizes and versatile curricular options that enable students to tailor the program to their individual interests.

Designed for the realities of life in the life sciences

The faculty and staff in the bioethics program understand that employees in the biotechnology field encounter ethical issues on a daily basis and have designed the curriculum with this in mind. It may be the need to educate subjects in clinical trials or clearly communicate to management the ethical implications of a project. Having a graduate degree in bioethics gives employees a niche and leading-edge advantage that can enhance careers and propel professionals to another level.

The bioethics program is interdisciplinary, flexible and personal. Said Nancy King, JD, graduate program co-director, “In all our courses, our multidisciplinary faculty enables students to share diverse practice experiences and connect those experiences to scholarly literature and policy perspectives on ethical and social issues, including challenges arising in biotechnology. We provide the tools and resources to help students learn and prepare them to help teach their colleagues as well.”

Program offers MA or graduate certificate

The program offers a Master of Arts (MA) degree and graduate certificate options for working professionals seeking to enhance their careers. The program is flexible for both full- and part-time students:

The MA requires 30 credit hours total. All core bioethics courses are offered in the late afternoon or early evening to accommodate working professionals. Students have up to six years to complete the degree. Full-time students typically complete the degree in three semesters.

The graduate certificate program is a freestanding program of graduate study in which students attend the same classes as students seeking the MA. It requires 12 credit hours and is offered to increase the flexibility and attractiveness of graduate study in bioethics, particularly for working professionals who wish to add bioethics knowledge to professional practice.

The bioethics graduate program accepts applications on a rolling basis throughout the year. For more information, including program philosophy, course and faculty listings, and application procedures, please visit or contact Vicky Zickmund, associate director, at (336) 716-1499 or

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