Human genetics is the study of how genes influence human traits, diseases, and behaviors, including how genetic and non-genetic factors interact. Public health genetics applies advances in human genetics and genomics to improve public health and prevent disease. Genetic counselors work as members of a health care team, providing information and support to patients dealing with birth defects or genetic disorders and those who may be at risk for inherited conditions.
The Department of Human Genetics is dedicated to genetics graduate programs which focus on research, teaching, and service, and embrace three major research missions:
- Investigating the genetic causes and treatment of hereditary and acquired human illness
- Understanding and exploring the impact of genetics on public health, education, and disease prevention
- Appreciating the role of genetic diversity within human populations
The program emphasizes the study of genetic mechanisms related to the transition from normal to disease states, and studies how genes and the environment interact to affect the distribution of health and disease in human populations.
Find a research program for your interests
Human genetics research has helped answer fundamental questions about human nature and led to the development of effective treatments for many diseases that greatly impact human health. Faculty in the Department of Human Genetics have developed and used genetic methods to investigate the causes and treatment of hereditary and acquired human illness and to understand and explore the impact of genetics on public health, education, and disease prevention.
Pitt Public Health human genetics faculty and students currently are involved in varied research projects, including...
- Finding genes that are risk factors for aging and age-related macular degeneration, and neurological and extracellular matrix disorders
- Studying the genetics of obesity and muscle development, pancreatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease
- Identify genes responsible for primary (or inherited) lymphedema, also known as Milroy's and Meige's Disease
- Studying a group of disorders with the shared trait of cutis laxa, a disease of prematurely loose, redundant, inelastic, and wrinkled skin
- Researching the genetic basis of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and lupus
- Developing and implementing state-of-the-art statistical methods for gene mapping and bioinformatics, especially next-generation sequencing
- Studying genetic mechanisms underlying various cancers
- Studying the influence of family health histories on risk perception
- Exploring individuals’ experiences of facing genetic risk
Pursue a career in human genetics
Graduates of Pitt Public Health’s human genetics program typically go on to positions in academia or in industry and usually are employed by their graduation dates. Alumni currently are working in clinical and research firms, including...
- Associate professor, operations director, and senior lab director, Emory Genetics Laboratory
- Staff, Labeling and Consumer Protection Division, USDA
- Research manager, Harris Interactive
- Clinical genetic counselor, Kaiser
- Associate director, Northwestern University Genetic Counseling Program
The Department of Human Genetics offers three master’s level programs, and two doctoral programs: