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University of Pittsburgh    
2017-2018 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 16, 2024
2017-2018 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Department of Human Genetics

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The Department of Human Genetics provides graduate training in the fields of human genetics, public health genetics, and genetic counseling. The mission of the department is to discover new knowledge about the genetic determinants of human health and disease through basic and applied research; to educate students, trainees, and other interested persons in that knowledge; and to apply that knowledge to improve the health of populations, families, and patients.

Contact Information

ATTN: Noel Harrie
Department Office: 3102C Parran Hall
Fax: 412-624-3020


In addition to meeting the Graduate School of Public Health’s general admission requirements, applicants to the MS and PhD programs should have completed courses in calculus and genetics. For the Genetic Counseling program, the preferred undergraduate background includes courses in each of the following: genetics, organic chemistry-general biochemistry, calculus, statistics, and a behavioral or social science. In some cases, deficiencies can be made up after admission. For applicants to the MPH program, these courses are suggested but not required. For information on admission and registration contact the Department of Human Genetics at 412-624-3066 or

Financial Assistance

Financial aid in the form of graduate student assistantships is often available for PhD students. For other degree programs, aid is not usually available, although it is often possible to arrange for hourly wage/stipend support from research mentors or other faculty.

Major Educational Areas and Programs

Courses offered by the department address the areas of human population and quantitative genetics, biochemical and molecular genetics, cytogenetics, bioinformatics, genome sequence analysis, public health genetics, and genetic counseling. In addition, courses aimed at genetic counseling students provide training in clinical genetics, cytogenetics/molecular diagnostics techniques, risk communication, counseling, and ethics.

The principle objective of the courses in human genetics is to train students to critically examine the role of genes and genetic variation in determining the distribution of health and disease in the general population.

To achieve this objective, training is provided in both experimental and statistical approaches to the direct detection or estimation of the impact of genes on the health of individuals, families and populations. Such approaches include the evaluation of the relative roles of genetic and environmental factors and their interaction in determining the distribution of disease in the population. The department offers degree programs in three areas: human genetics (MS, PhD), genetic counseling (MS), and Public Health Genetics (MPH)

Human Genetics-PhD and MS

This area is concerned with the study of the mechanisms of genetic variability and its impact on health at the individual and population level. An important component is the study of the fraction of genetic variability that leads directly to disease or determines an individual’s susceptibility to diseases caused by pathogens or adverse environments.

A PhD track in human genetics with an emphasis on genetic counseling is available to applicants with three to five years of work experience as a genetic counselor and who are certified in genetic counseling by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) or the American Board of Medical Genetics (ABMG).

Genetic Counseling-MS

The objectives of the program are:

  1. To provide a balanced program of study integrating courses in molecular genetics, medical genetics, and psychosocial and multicultural counseling including biomedical ethics.
  2. To provide extensive direct patient contact experience in a variety of clinical placements so that the student gains an appreciation of how the practicing genetic counselor functions in different work settings.
  3. To prepare students at the Master of Science level for entering the profession of genetic counseling and assuming the role of a professional in medical, research, and academic settings.

This is a full-time, two-year program. Course work occurs in the first year and is followed by a ten-month clinical rotation at nearby hospitals. The clinical internship involves laboratory experience and direct patient contact.

Public Health Genetics-MPH

The MPH program integrates genetics and the public health science disciplines of epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, and health services research, focusing on phenotypic disease prevention in populations.


Research in the Department of Human Genetics includes studies of basic genetic mechanisms of segregation and recombination; family and population studies of normal and disease phenotypes; chromosome structure and chromosomal mechanisms in disease; physical and genetic mapping of genes; interaction of genes with the environment; bioinformatics and sequence analysis; assessment of genetic risk; community outreach regarding genetics; educational projects for the public health care professionals; the process of genetic counseling including decision making, communication, and satisfaction with clinical service; and the detection of genetic disease. Application of this research is explored with research in ethics, genetic counseling and screening. The focus of faculty research is on human genetics but includes experimental studies in appropriate non-human animals and methodological work in statistical genetics.


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      Human Genetics

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