Human Genetics

The graduate program in Human Genetics is the home within the Division of Biological Sciences for the study of basic principles of genetics and genomics as applied to human phenotypes. We provide broad training in experimental and computational genetics and genomics, statistical and population genetics, bioinformatics, and clinical genetics. A common theme throughout our research is the application of basic genetic principles and strategies to the study of disease mechanism, disease susceptibility, and the genetic architecture of complex traits. Within this framework, the goals of our program are to:

  • Educate students broadly in the basic concepts and practices of human genetics and the disciplines of genomics, population genetics, bioinformatics and systems biology.
  • Introduce students to the growing importance of evolutionary concepts and insights to the study of human disease and genetic variation.
  • Prepare students for a new world of genetic medicine that will follow basic discoveries in our understanding of multifactorial inheritance.

Students are encouraged to take advantage of interactive and collaborative relationships at departmental, divisional, and university-wide levels. Our faculty bridge between basic and clinical research and train students for careers in academia, industry, and medicine. Recent graduates have obtained post-doctoral positions at Cornell University, Harvard University, the National Institutes of Health, Sanger Centre, UC Berkeley, UCSF, and UCLA. Other graduates hold faculty positions, practice medicine, or work in leadership positions in the biomedical industry.

Students may choose between two tracks: the Experimental track and the Computational track. These two tracks share the following required courses: Genetic Analysis of Model Organisms (MGCB 31400), Human Genetics I (HGEN 47000), and Human Variation and Disease (HGEN 46900). The remaining coursework depends on the track.

The Academic Program

First Year of Study

Regardless of previous academic or laboratory experience, the first year of PhD study is spent taking classes, exploring research opportunities, and performing laboratory rotations. Students join a lab at the conclusion of the first year of study, after successfully passing a preliminary examination.

Before joining a lab, students attend bi-weekly seminars (informally referred to as “Allstars”) where divisional faculty present their research programs. They also undertake two or three laboratory rotations to acquaint them with the full spectrum of research and trainers available to them.

The Second Year

Students spend the second year developing a research project and preparing a written proposal of dissertation research. This proposal is defended before a qualifying examination committee at the end of the academic year. Students satisfy any remaining course requirements and complete at least one of the two required Teaching Assistantships during this year.

The Third Year and Beyond

After the qualifying exam, the student performs full-time thesis research while continuing to participate in departmental events such as seminars, journal clubs, etc. Students are welcome to audit courses in which they have an interest. Finally, in the final year of the program the student writes a dissertation describing his or her research, presents the work in a public seminar and defends it before his/her faculty examining committee. Please view the Human Genetics Handbook for a full description of the academic program and the courses available to our students.

Clinical Genetics exposure

Students are encouraged to interact with the diagnostic genetics labs and to attend the clinical case conferences.

Who Should Apply?

We admit highly-qualified, academically-curious scientists to our program. Many applicants enter the PhD program directly from undergraduate study, while others come to the program after working in research laboratories or industry. Successful PhD program applicants present excellent academic credentials in biology and statistics and strong letters of recommendation. We seek applicants with superior writing skills and substantial research experience. We strongly encourage applications from underrepresented minorities in the biological sciences.

Application Deadline and Process

Our application deadline is December 1 for admission the following October. Note that we only admit students for entry in the Autumn quarter.

Student Funding

Full financial support is guaranteed to all students for the first five years, subject to satisfactory academic performance. This includes payment of tuition, fees, health insurance, and a stipend of $31,500 per year plus a $700 one-time moving expense reimbursement.