Pre-Doctoral Research Training in Human Genetic Epidemiology

Washington University

Director: D. C. Rao, Ph.D.
Address, phone, e-mail


The "Human and Statistical Genetics" (HSG) PhD program at Washington University in St. Louis offers an interdisciplinary approach to preparing future scientists with analytical/statistical, computational, and human genetic methods for the study of human disease. Students with a quantitative background will acquire the biological skills and statistical genetics knowledge necessary to become intellectual collaborators in all phases of human genetics research (such as disease gene identification, association mapping of genes for complex traits, or the analysis of large data sets), from initial experimental design through data analysis and interpretation. Biology students working in human genetics will acquire the skills to go from the bench to effective data analysis. The program encourages co-mentoring of students by wet lab human geneticists and dry lab statistical geneticists. Washington University has many outstanding faculty in the component fields and is committed to pursuing a novel program integrating research and training in this area. The training emphasizes less formal coursework and more hands-on training in the laboratory environment (both wet labs and dry labs). The required coursework involves biostatistics, mammalian genetics, human linkage and association, and ethics. Advanced electives cover a wider range of topics. All students are required to pursue at least three lab rotations, each lasting 10 to 15 weeks. At least one rotation must be in a wet lab and at least one rotation must be in a dry lab.

Areas of Special Emphasis

The overarching goal of this program is to train a new generation of genetic epidemiologists by integrating statistical and computational genetics with human genetics, bioinformatics, and biomedical research in general, in a "cross-culture" environment highly conducive to interdisciplinary research. Integration of (wet lab) human genetics with genetic epidemiology constitutes an area of special emphasis for this program. It is our hope that such an interdisciplinary training program can bridge the gap between the biological questions and data and the epidemiologic methods needed to maximize the information extracted from the avalanche of data. What is needed now is an organized effort to attract the best students into this interdisciplinary field and train them. While students are not required to undertake cardiovascular research, all students supported on the training grant are exposed to cardiovascular research through survey lectures in Summer and a regular seminar program in the Division of Cardiology. These exposures will provide the students with working knowledge of CVD science, and the opportunity to develop collaborative skills. Many program faculty have major cardiovascular research focus.

Type of Training: Pre-doctoral

Key Faculty Available as Preceptors

Ingrid B. Borecki, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Genetics and Biostatistics. Identification of the genetic and environmental factors influencing diseases and/or their risk factors, especially obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cervical and breast cancer.
Anne M. Bowcock, Ph.D., Professor of Human Genetics, Pediatrics, and Internal Medicine. Human genetic approaches to simple and complex disease, autoimmunity and cancer.
Mario Castro, M.D. Ph.D., Associate Professor of Internal Medicine. Pathogenesis of asthma and health-care delivery issues in asthma.
James M. Cheverud, Ph.D., Professor of Anatomy & Neurobiology, and Genetics. Evolutionary quantitative genetics, genetics of growth and morphology, quantitative trait locus mapping for complex traits in model systems.
Perren J. Cobb, M.D., Professor of Surgery and Genetics. Molecular mechanisms of cellular adaptation to injury, with an emphasis on the interactions of stress responses, and specific gene-directed therapies to treat multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS).
F. Sessions Cole, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Cell Biology, and Physiology. Genetic lung disease, Surfactant protein B, and rare diseases in infants.
Seth Crosby, M.D., Assistant Research Professor of Genetics. Provision of microarray based molecular and genotyping technologies.
Justin C. Fay, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Genetics. Population and evolutionary genetics, computational and experimental genomics.
Victor Davila-Roman, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine, Anesthesiology, and Radiology. Phenotype-genotype association studies in cardiovascular disease. Use of noninvasive cardiovascular imaging techniques to evaluate heart function. Study of hypertension, which affects the heart (hypertensive heart disease), and is associated with high morbidity and mortality is a major focus.
Michael DeBaun, M.D., MSc., Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Biostatistics, and Neurology. Treatment and management of overt and silent strokes in sickle cell disease and the genetic epidemiology of overgrowth cancer predisposition syndromes.
Gage, Brian M.D., MSc., Associate Professor of Internal medicine. Antithrombotic therapy and stroke prophylaxis
Alison Goate, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Genetics, and Neurology. Molecular genetics of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and alcoholism.
C. Charles Gu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Genetics. Statistical genetics and bioinformatics, high-dimensional data analysis and complex systems modeling, developing novel methodologies for detecting complex disease genes and characterizing their function.
Andrew C. Heath, D.Phil., Professor of Psychiatry, Genetics, and Psychology. Behavioral and psychiatric genetics, genetic epidemiology, particularly focusing on the interplay of genetic and environmental risk factors in the etiology of human traits. Formulation of models, development and implementation of methods of data analysis, and data collection to resolve the joint contributions of genetic and environmental effects on human complex traits.
Patrick Y. Jay, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Genetics. Genetics and genomics of cardiac development and heart failure.
Michael Lovett, Ph.D., Professor of Human Genetics, and Pediatrics. Human genetic diseases, genome technologies, systems biology, functional genomics of hearing loss and craniofacial development.
Jeffrey D. Milbrandt, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pathology & Immunology, Neurology, and Internal Medicine. Axonal degeneration, regulation of myelination, neuronal energetics and mitochondrial function in neuropathy and neurodegenerative disease.
A.J. Muslin, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine, Cell Biology & Physiology. The molecular mechanisms that govern ligand action in the heart.
M. Alan Permutt, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine, Cell Biology and Physiology. Pancreatic islet cell genes and diabetes genetics research.
Michael A. Province, Ph.D., Professor of Genetics and Biostatistics. Developing novel statistical/ mathematical methods for linkage, association, gene discovery/ validation, heterogeneity, and meta-analysis, with applications to genetic epidemiological studies of cardiovascular disease, cancer and longevity.
D.C. Rao, Ph.D., Professor of Biostatistics, Genetics, and Psychiatry. Research interests include the development and evaluation of timely statistical genetics methods, including longitudinal data analysis, gene-gene and gene-environment (including gene-age) interactions, multi-stage analysis of GWAS data on complex disease traits, and Bayesian Network analysis. Substantive applied research includes cardiovascular disease and risk factors (obesity, hypertension, diabetes) and metabolic syndrome.
John P. Rice, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics in Psychiatry, Biostatistics, and Genetics. Development of novel statistical genetics methods for the study of complex diseases and disease-related traits; genetics of affective disorders; linkage analysis; diagnostic stability/validity; analysis of multivariate data; survival and logistic analyses.
Treva K. Rice, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor of Biostatistics and Psychiatry. Genetic and environmental etiology of cardiovascular disease and their risk factors, especially including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Nancy L. Saccone, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Human Genetics. Development of new statistical genetics methods, including linkage analysis and association analysis, as needed for the study of complex human diseases.
Gustav Schonfeld, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine. Endocrinology/Lipid Research.
Clay Semenkovich, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine, Cell Biology & Physiology. Lipid metabolism and how it promotes atherosclerosis in the setting of obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes. Our work is translational, spanning cultured cells, animal models and humans.
Gary D. Stormo, Ph.D., Professor of Genetics. Computational biology, bioinformatics, protein-DNA interactions, RNA structure prediction, gene regulation.
Brian K. Suarez, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Genetics. Genetic epidemiology of psychiatric disorders, linkage studies of Mendelian diseases with emphasis on theoretical issues involved in mapping recessives in endogamous populations.
Alan R. Templeton, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, Biomedical Engineering, and Genetics.- Application of molecular genetic techniques and statistical evolutionary genetics to the study of genotype/phenotype associations and the evolution of the human genome.
Robert Thompson, M.D., Professor of Surgery, Radiology, and Cell Biology & Physiology. Molecular and cellular pathophysiology of abdominal aortic aneurysms, as well as the development of novel pharmacological strategies for the treatment of aneurysm disease.
Dwight Towler, M.D.,Ph.D., Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Molecular Biology & Mineral Diseases. Determine the role of Tdbn100 during murine development, its contributions to FGF signaling in bone and vasculature, and regulation by Msx2.
Zsolt Urban, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Genetics. Human genetic diseases of the elastic fiber system.
Herbert W. "Skip" Virgin, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pathology & Immunology, Molecular Microbiology, and Medicine. Viral immunology and search for new pathogens.
Mark A. Watson, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pathology & Immunology. Use of microarray technology and other 'whole-genome' approaches to molecularly classify human malignancies and to identify genetic pathways associated with tumor progression.

Last updated: September, 2008

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