Epigenetic Epidemiology

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information

The Short Course Programme in Population Health Sciences has been temporarily suspended.


We anticipate opening bookings in late November 2020.

Information on this page relates to the last run of the course and is for reference only. 

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We may need to make responsive changes to our future programme to follow the latest Public Health, Government and University guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19).

Please be aware that all information about short courses planned for 2021 is provisional and subject to change.

Course dates

16 - 18 March 2020

Course duration

3 days (approximately 17 hours of teaching).
Registration will start at 9am on the first day, the course will finish by 5pm on the last day.

Course tutors

Dr Matthew SudermanDr Gemma Sharp (course organisers), and others.

Course aims 

The aim of this course is to provide an overview of epidemiological principles that are relevant to epigenetic studies. The course will provide attendees with the knowledge, skills and code necessary to design, execute and interpret population-based epigenetic studies.

Course objectives

By the end of the short course participants should be able to

  1. discuss the utility of epigenetics in epidemiological studies;
  2. outline the strengths and weaknesses of various epigenetic epidemiological study designs;
  3. choose and apply appropriate statistical methods for different analyses of epigenetic data;
  4. interpret findings of epigenetic epidemiological studies;
  5. critically appraise epigenetic epidemiology literature;
  6. design epigenetic epidemiology studies and justify choice of design;
  7. discuss and apply possible approaches such as Mendelian randomization to strengthen causal inference in epigenetic epidemiology.  

Who the course is intended for

This course is intended for individuals engaged in population-based studies who wish to incorporate epigenetic measures into their research. Attendees may have a background in epidemiology, molecular genetics, statistics, public health or a clinical speciality. A basic knowledge of epidemiology is required and some understanding of molecular genetics terminology would be advantageous. Some practical knowledge of R would be helpful. The course includes information on laboratory based methods but this will be aimed at the non-specialist (i.e. those without first-hand lab experience).

Please note that this course attracts a highly multi-disciplinary audience. We do our utmost to accommodate this and ask that if in any doubt, prospective participants enquire prior to booking to check that the course is targeted at the right level for their needs.

Course outline

Topics to be covered include:

  1. the various uses of epigenetic data in epidemiology (including as an exposure, outcome, mediator, indicator and predictor);
  2. the role of epigenetics in development and disease;
  3. key considerations in the design of epigenetic epidemiological studies (including choosing appropriate technologies and statistical analyses);
  4. interpreting epigenetic data (including genetics and epigenetics, region-based approaches, integration with gene expression, the use of bioinformatics);
  5. strengths and weaknesses of epigenetic studies, and critical appraisal of epigenetic epidemiology literature;
  6. causality in epigenetics (including the importance of establishing causality to address certain research questions, examples of causal inference techniques, applying Mendelian randomization in epigenetic epidemiology).

Please note: Practical sessions of this course will be held in a computer lab, so you will not need to bring a laptop. This course makes use of R software.

Recommended reading

  1. Sharp GC, Relton CL. Epigenetics and noncommunicable diseases. Epigenomics 2017; 9(6): 789-791
  2. Relton CL, Davey Smith G. Is epidemiology ready for epigenetics? Int J Epidemiol 2012; 41(1): 5-9.
  3. Mill J, Heijmans BT. From promises to practical strategies in epigenetic epidemiology. Nat Rev Genet 2013; 14(8): 585-94.
  4. Horvath S. DNA methylation age of human tissues and cell types. Genome Biol 2013; 14(10): R115.
  5. Joubert BR et al. DNA methylation in newborns and maternal smoking in pregnancy: Genome-wide consortium meta-analysis. Am J Hum Genet 2016 Mar 30.

The whole course was very interesting and carefully thought through. All the lecturers were very passionate about the research they were teaching.

Course feedback, April 2019

Course fee


More information on course fees, fee waivers and reduced prices.

Course venue

Bristol Medical School
Canynge Hall
39 Whatley Road
United Kingdom

Map and directions

Course refreshments

We provide morning and afternoon refreshment breaks, including tea and coffee, biscuits and fresh fruit.

If you have specific dietary needs we ask that you let us know in advance.

Lunch is not included. There are a range of local cafes and supermarkets nearby for students to purchase lunch. 


Information about accommodation in the area.


For further information please email short-course@bristol.ac.uk.

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