What’s it like to do a PhD in Human Genetics?
As a Human Genetics PhD student, you’ll develop a wide range of skills in and out of the laboratory, from having the technical ability to perform gel electrophoresis and western blots to polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Out of the laboratory, you’ll have excellent time management to plan your experiments, which can often span several days, and you’ll have gained a wide range of subject knowledge from reading the literature surrounding your speciality.
Some typical research topics in Human Genetics include:
- Investigating novel genetic links to diseases such as atherosclerosis
- Developing improved methods of assessing genetic risk for disease screening
- Researching the possibility of mRNA treatments
- Studying the genetics of inherited conditions
- Investigating gene regulation e.g. during an immune challenge
The majority of Human Genetics programmes are advertised projects with the scope of the project determined by the supervisor. Many of these come with attached funding, while a few ask you to find your own funding, which can be challenging as you’ll need to cover PhD and bench fees. The difficulty self-funding also makes proposing your own project uncommon in Human Genetics.
Day-to-day you’ll be in the laboratory conducting experiments, puzzling over data and analysing it using techniques from Bioinformatics and you’ll speak to your colleagues and supervisor about your current and future work.
To be awarded your PhD you must complete a thesis of about 60,000 words that contributes to the knowledge of your field and be able to defend it during your viva exam.