Graduate Program

A World-Class Department

The Department of Human Genetics is a basic science and clinical department where faculty and students conduct a broad range of basic and translational research in both wet and computational dry labs. Many PhD students combine both wet and dry lab work in their thesis research and all students are encouraged to take advantage of interactive and collaborative relationships at departmental, divisional, and university-wide levels. Our PhD program in Human Genetics prepares graduates for positions in academia and industry. Recent graduates have obtained post-doctoral positions at Cornell University, Harvard University, the National Institutes of Health, Sanger Centre, UC Berkeley, UCSF, and UCLA. Others graduates hold faculty positions, practice medicine, or work in leadership positions in the biomedical industry.

Research Opportunities

Our 17 primary and 14 secondary faculty members conduct research in a wide variety of areas of human genetics including:

  • Complex Human Diseases and Phenotypes
  • Population and Evolutionary Genetics
  • Genomics of Gene Expression
  • Animal Models of Human Diseases
  • Systems Biology
  • Epigenetics and Stem Cell Genetics
  • Neurogenetics/Psychiatric Genetics
  • Pharmacogenetics

Before joining a lab and developing their own research proposal, 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 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.

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.

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. Information on how to apply may be found at this link. 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 $30,000 per year plus a $700 one-time moving expense reimbursement.

Postdoctoral Research Opportunities

A wide range of postdoctoral research opportunities are available in the Department of Human Genetics. We currently employ over 50 post-docs in faculty labs. Please review the faculty research pages to determine your interests and contact faculty members directly.