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Michael Dougherty, PhD

Director of Education, ASHG


Michael Dougherty

The members of ASHG lead the world in genetics research. By harnessing that talent, we can develop educational initiatives that will raise the level of genetics education to an equivalent position.

- Michael Dougherty, PhD


Director of Education, American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG)
ASHG Administrative Office
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814-3998
Phone: 301-634-7300


Major Areas of Expertise

General genetics research; genetics education for the lay public; science education issues and curriculum development for genetics/science programs in schools


  • Interpreting genetics for lay audiences, including topics such as:

    • General biology/life sciences

    • Molecular biology

    • Protein structure and function

    • Patterns of inheritance

    • Behavioral genetics and complex traits

    • Epigenetics

    • Evolution

  • Science curriculum development

    • Building inquiry-based curricula

    • Using learning cycles to teach difficult concepts

  • Teaching critical thinking

  • Teaching the nature and methods of science




Dr. Michael Dougherty’s primary responsibility as the Director of Education for ASHG is to maintain and develop programs that educate a variety of audiences about the importance and role of human genetics and genomics in an era of rapid growth in understanding. In his own words, “The members of ASHG lead the world in genetics research. By harnessing that talent, we can develop educational initiatives that will raise the level of genetics education to an equivalent position.”

In his position as Director of Education for ASHG, Dr. Dougherty is responsible for coordinating the Information and Education Committee, Awards Committee, and Social Issues Committee for the Society. These committees assist the Board of Directors in establishing priorities for educational programs that extend from high school genetics through post-doctoral training.

Many of the Society’s genetics education programs engage ASHG members who have volunteered to assist with public education and outreach in their local communities. For example, some of these programs partner volunteers from the Society with high school biology teachers to educate students about genetics or serve as mentors for career development, while other programs engage ASHG members in public education and outreach efforts that serve external audiences in a public-service capacity.

Dr. Dougherty has 15 years of formal science education experience, which began when he joined the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) as a curriculum developer in 1993. During his time at BSCS, he co-authored and/or directed curriculum projects in behavioral genetics, the neurobiology of addiction, as well as textbooks and full-year multimedia curricula for high school and college general biology. He also served as associate director of the BSCS.

Drawing on his earlier experiences as a curriculum developer and administrator at the BSCS, Dr. Dougherty views accurate scientific content and the methods used in research as the core of any strong science curriculum. According to Dr. Dougherty, “If the content is weak, there is no possibility of meaningful education. Current and accurate genetics content, often based on data drawn directly from research studies, is essential for effective teacher professional development and student learning.”

Dr. Dougherty also emphasizes the equally important point that, “If the presentation of content is purely didactic and irrelevant to your audience, you will lose them. However, if you allow your audience to discover genetics principles by modeling the processes used by geneticists, you will engage them in building lasting understanding.”

Mike Dougherty earned his B.A. degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in molecular biology and biochemistry. He has been a Burroughs Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow, a Visiting Senior Lecturer and Member of Eliot College, University of Kent, UK, and the McGavacks of Loudoun Chair in Biochemistry at Hampden-Sydney College.





“An Overview of Basic Genetic Science”
Department of Biology, Hampden-Sydney College

“An Introduction to Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)”



Featured News Clips

[Click Featured News Clips to view]


Moving Beyond the Basics: Teaching the Genetics of Complex Traits (By Dr. Michael Dougherty)
Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (JAAPA) - May 21, 2010


High School Students Get to the Root of DNA

Connecticut Post - May 3, 2010


Job Opportunities in Genetics Research on Rise
Miami Herald - Dec 22, 2009


UD Professor and Centerville Teacher Get Grant to Develop New Genetics Curriculum
Dayton Daily News - Jul 17, 2009


Curriculum Reform Needed for an Informed Public When It Comes to Genetics, Expert Says
The Spittoon - Jun 25, 2009


Teacher Earns Genetic Certification
Arundel Digest - Sept 17, 2008





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