Javascript is currently not supported, or is disabled by this browser. Please enable Javascript for full functionality.

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

Human Genetics, PhD

Return to Graduate School of Public Health Return to: Graduate School of Public Health

The doctoral program in human genetics prepares students for careers leading genetics and genomics research in academia or industry. The flexible curriculum provides a broad background in the field while allowing customized emphasis on molecular genetics/genomics, statistical genetics and genetic epidemiology, or genetic counseling. Typically four to ten doctoral students are admitted each year, including external applicants and internal applicants currently pursuing Master’s degrees within the department. In addition to core coursework and advanced classes in a chosen area of concentration, doctoral students pursue mentored research projects culminating in the production and defense of a dissertation. The doctoral program is accredited by the Council for Education on Public Health (CEPH).


The doctoral program offers training in molecular genetics, statistical genetics and genetic epidemiology, and genetic counseling. This includes advanced coursework and outside-of-the-classroom training and research experiences. For example, during the second year and beyond, doctoral students will choose advanced courses in Human Genetics and elective courses across the Schools of the Health Sciences pertaining to their area of interest. Across all years, students will participate in workshops, laboratory meetings, and scientific conferences, and attend seminars offered to the University community, that enhance knowledge and skills in their chosen area of study. Research experiences including dissertation research will provide in-depth, hands-on training in the chosen area.

Students entering the doctoral program can tailor their training based on their research interests and career goals:

Molecular Genetics

Students pursuing training in molecular genetics or cytogenetics will carry out research projects performing benchtop experimental studies in laboratories within the department or across the Schools of the Health Sciences. Students can further customize their training by choosing among many elective courses in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology, Cellular and Molecular Pathology, Immunology, Molecular Genetics and Developmental Biology, Molecular Pharmacology, and Molecular Virology and Microbiology.

Statistical Genetics and Epidemiology

Students pursuing training in statistical genetics and genetic epidemiology will carry out applied analysis or methodological research projects related to clinical or epidemiological studies. Students will work as members of statistical and computational research groups within the department or across the School of the Health Sciences. Students can further customize their training by choosing advanced coursework in Biostatistics, Biomedical Informatics, Computational and Systems Biology, and Epidemiology.

Genetic Counseling

Students holding a MS-GC degree who wish to pursue a doctoral degree with a focus in genetic counseling will carry out original research in their area(s) of interest. In addition to addressing basic science or clinical research questions, students’ projects will explore the medical, psychological, and familial implications of genetic contributors to human health and disease. Students can further customize their training by choosing elective courses from across the Schools of the Health Sciences in consultation with the Director and Assistant Director of the Genetic Counseling Program.


The goal of the doctoral program is to prepare students for careers leading genetics and genomics research in academia or industry. Toward this end, students will gain proficiency in the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to begin a career as an independent scientist. These educational goals are organized into eight doctoral program competencies. After successful completion of the doctoral program, students will be able to:

  • Describe basic genetic mechanisms and how they affect proteins, chromosomes, cells, individuals, and populations of organisms in normal and disease states
  • Describe mechanisms by which genes and the environment interact to affect the distribution of health and disease in human populations
  • Demonstrate familiarity with a broad range of molecular, clinical, and analytical methodologies for genetic studies, and demonstrate mastery of a substantial subset of methods
  • Analyze published research in human genetics at the level needed for effective research and teaching
  • Use their in-depth experience with a specific research project in genetics to generate and test research hypotheses, design experiments, analyze data, and interpret research results
  • Communicate their own research ideas and results, orally and in publishable written form
  • Apply fundamental principles of grant-writing
  • Apply fundamental principles of laboratory and research program management, and of ethical practice


Integrity: Commit to honest and ethical conduct in research and scholarship 

Scientific Rigor: Dedicate to excellence in the pursuit of knowledge 

Cooperation: Commit to collaboration, mentorship, and academic-private partnerships 

Collegiality: Respect independence of thought

Cultural Competency: Embrace diversity; respect and value differences and individuality

Required Human Genetics Courses


Coursework for doctoral students is typically undertaken during the first two years in the program, although advanced courses may be taken in later years. All doctoral students will complete the four core Human Genetics courses as well as the core Public Health curriculum. Advanced courses offered through Human Genetics and other departments will provide students instruction in their chosen area of concentration. Certificate programs offered through the Graduate School of Public Health can be pursued to further customize the education of doctoral students.

A minimum of 72 credits is required.

Return to Graduate School of Public Health Return to: Graduate School of Public Health

Catalog Navigation