Research and Graduate Studies

Graduate Studies - Program Coordinators

Graduate Program in Human Genetics

The graduate programme in human genetics will enable students to pursue academic studies and research towards an MSc or PhD degree in a number of areas of genetics. Strengths of the faculty are in the areas of cancer genetics, genetic epidemiology, gene mapping, medical genetics, birth defects and population genetics. Faculty members from all three Divisions of the Faculty of Medicine (BioMedical Sciences, Community Health and Clinical Sciences) participate in the programme. This multi-disciplinary integrated approach to teaching and research training is designed to provide trainees with an understanding of human genetics which includes both theory and practical applications of human disease. The close association of basic and clinical researchers provide an ideal setting in which to obtain an integrated understanding of human genetics.

Students wishing to enter the programme will arrange a supervisor who will sponsor their application to the graduate programme and arrange for financial support with the School of Graduate Studies. In order to obtain an MSc or PhD degree, students will be required to have completed an advanced undergraduate course in genetics, a minimum of two graduate level courses and a thesis based on original research. Students admitted to or transferring to the PhD programme will be required to pass a comprehensive examination in accordance with the regulations governing the School of Graduate Studies.

Program Activities

Students will be expected to participate in the activities of the Genetics group. These include a weekly Journal Club/Research Discussion Group and a Genetics Seminar Series. The Journal Club/Research Discussion Group meets regularly and provides an opportunity for the presentation and discussion of recent research results, published articles or issues of general interest to the members of the group. Graduate students, faculty members and genetics counsellors act as regular presenters in this activity.

Graduate students will also be expected to attend all seminars presented by invited visitors of the Human Genetics Group.


  1. Human Population Genetics. (Medicine 6390). This course provides an overview of the genetic variation of human populations and the factors that influence it, and introduces basic concepts in genetic variation in liability to human disease.
  2. Selected Topics in Human Genetics. (Medicine 6391). In this course, a student will undertake a comprehensive literature review or other directed study pertaining to a human genetics topic of interest. The student will meet weekly with the course supervisor to discuss their progress. At the end of the semester the student will provide a detailed written review of the subject area and present a seminar (one hour) to the Human Genetics Journal Club/ Discussion Group. The grade will be based on both the written review and the oral presentation.
  3. Applied Human Genetics. (Medicine 6392).  This course will deal with the application of genetics to the understanding prevention and treatment of human disease. The classification, distribution and impact of these diseases will provide background to reviews of genetic counselling, clinical service delivery and evaluation, genetic screening and the role of registers and data bases. Approaches to treatment, including gene therapy, will be discussed and ethical issues which arise, as well as genetic education of the public will be emphasized. Topics such as connective tissue disorders, cardiac and renal anomalies and neurogenic disorders will be included as well as cancer genetics and pharmacogenetics.
  4. Human Molecular Genetics. (Medicine 6393).  This course is a summary of human genetics with an emphasis on molecular aspects. It will introduce such topics as polymorphisms, linkage analysis, gene mapping, molecular diagnosis, cancer genetics, genetic imprinting, haematological genetics and gene therapy. 
  5. Cancer Genetics ( Medicine 6394).  This course will include material from the broad field of human cancer genetics.  It will focus on the current knowledge of the molecular and clinical genetics of inherited predispositions to cancer.  Mutations predisposing to cancer, clinical characteristics, natural history and management of genetic cancer syndromes and the development of screening programs for hereditary cancers will be discussed.  Genetics aspects of sporadic ( non-Mendelian) cancers will also be addressed.

  6. Genetic Epidemiology (Medicine 6395)  Genetic Epidemiology is a rapidly developing and highly demanding research field in the genomic era. It holds great potential for personalized medicine and improved biological knowledge of disease processes. The course will provide students with an overview of genetic epidemiology and equip them with the skills to develop statistical methods and analyze genetic data. Specific topics include concept of genetic epidemiology, study design, ascertainment bias and confounding effect, quantification of genetic contribution to complex traits, linkage analysis, association analysis, genome-wide association, multiple testing issue, and gene*environmental interaction, Mendelian randomization. The use of genetic software will also be demonstrated. This course will provide students the necessary background and prepare them for advanced study and research in the area of genetic epidemiology.

There are a number of courses in other Graduate Programs which could be suitable for students in this program. Depending on the area of study, such courses as Med 6270 Epidemiology, Med 6580 Molecular Biology of Cancer, Med 6590 Molecular Biology I or 6591 Molecular Biology II may be taken to satisfy the course requirements for the programme. The course selections for each student are set by the supervisory committee in consultation with the student and are based on their area of study and past course credits.

Participating Faculty: