The goal of the GCD program is to train postdoctoral (M.D. and Ph.D.) and predoctoral fellows in genetic epidemiology and statistical analysis of psychiatric and other complex diseases. Our mission is to train people who will be aware of all aspects of human genetic studies: study design, clinical aspects, phenotype definition, laboratory issues, and statistical analysis. The field of genetics is changing rapidly, and successful investigators must be competent in a broad array of techniques, must be able to speak the languages of fields outside their own, and must be able to collaborate effectively with scientists in other fields. Training has both a didactic and a research component. The didactic component includes both an academic program and a series of practical laboratory rotations.
The academic program comprises a series of academic courses in human genetics, epidemiology, statistical genetics, computer simulations, research communication skills, and responsible conduct of research. The laboratory rotations take place in a number of laboratories at Columbia University, where a rich and broad variety of genetic studies are being carried out. In the research component each Fellow works closely with a Preceptor on an independent research project of the Fellow's choosing; the Fellow prepares a clearly written research proposal, carry out the proposal, prepare an oral description of the study and its results, and prepare a publishable manuscript based on the completed study.
At the end of training, Fellows should understand: the biological underpinnings of genetic influences on disease risk; how to formulate testable hypotheses in human genetics and how to design studies to test those hypotheses; the critical importance of phenotype definition; the factors that go into selecting appropriate samples; issues of responsible conduct of research and Good Clinical Practice; the mathematical underpinnings of genetic analysis, including familial aggregation studies, twin studies, and segregation, linkage, and association analysis; laboratory techniques such as genotyping and sequencing, extracting DNA from blood, PCR, etc.; proper data management of genetic and clinical data through the use of a data base management system; how to use current genetic analysis programs, to interpret the results, and to test and evaluate new methods of genetic analysis as they become available; and microarray technology and other current molecular-biological techniques.
Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens. Pre-doctoral students are usually enrolled in a doctoral program at Mailman School of Public Health, but candidates from other doctoral programs will be considered. Post-docs must have a M.D. or a Ph.D. or equivalent.