The department was established in 1989, and was the first human genetics department in an American school of public health. It grew out of the division of population genetics in the Department of Biostatistics under the guidance of stalwarts in the field such as C.C. Li, Robert Ferrell, and Aravinda Chakravarti. Transformative research discoveries pertaining to a number of diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, lymphedema, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, and cancer, have originated from the cutting edge research conducted by investigators within the department. Since its inception, the department has granted degrees to hundreds of doctoral candidates who have moved on to exciting and prestigious careers in academics and industry.
A unique feature of the Department of Human Genetics is its setting within the Graduate School of Public Health (which is rare for the field) and close ties and interactions with clinicians and researchers across the schools of the health sciences. Doctoral students are exposed to the perspectives of public health professionals, with greater emphasis on the health and disease status of communities and individuals in the context of society. Additionally, students in the doctoral program can take advantage of the resources and research opportunities afforded by other schools of the health sciences, especially the School of Medicine, where many students find laboratories to join.
The doctoral program offers students the flexibility to shape their training experiences by choosing from three research foci: molecular genetics, genetic epidemiology, or genetic counseling. Elective courses from across the schools of the health sciences allow students to further tailor the degree program to their interests and career goals. In addition, the Graduate School of Public Health offers a variety of certificate programs which can be used to add an area of emphasis to doctoral students’ training.
Doctoral students will work closely with outstanding faculty mentors on original research projects using state-of-the-art laboratory equipment and techniques to investigate scientific questions critical to the field. Students can shape their research experience by joining laboratories and choosing mentors in areas of interest to them (see individual faculty members’ webpages for research interests). Pitt Public Health ranks among the top public health institutions in terms of securing research funding, thus opportunities for pursing doctoral research projects abound.
Pittsburgh is a great place to live and work. Most students adapt quickly to life in “The Steel City,” and love the amenities, convenience, affordability, and culture of this mid-sized, historic metropolis.
Doctoral students engaged in research activities in a laboratory or statistical research group will be appointed to GSR positions, which require at least 20 hours of work per week. GSRs will receive monthly stipends to cover living expenses. Typically doctoral students secure a GSR position soon after matriculation and maintain their GSR appointment throughout the course of the degree program. Students can switch laboratories and research mentors while maintaining their GSR appointment.
The department will pay tuition on behalf of doctoral students for each term that they hold a GSR appointment.