Epigenetic Epidemiology

Course dates

5-7 June 2017.

Course duration: 3 days (approximately 18-20 hours of lectures, practical exercises and group discussions).
Registration will being at 9.00am on the first day, the course will finish by 4.00pm on the final day.

Course tutors

Professor Caroline Relton (course organiser), Dr Hannah Elliott, Dr Gemma Sharp, Dr Rebecca Richmond, Dr Andrew Simpkin, Dr Matthew Suderman, Paul Yousefi.

Course aims and objectives

The aim of the course is to provide an overview of epidemiological principles that are relevant to epigenetic studies (and more broadly to molecular phenotypes). Participants will gain tuition in the design, execution and interpretation of population-based epigenetic studies.

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

  • discuss the utility of epigenetics in epidemiological studies;
  • outline the strengths and weaknesses of various epigenetic epidemiological study designs;
  • choose and apply appropriate statistical methods for different analyses of epigenetic data;
  • interpret findings of epigenetic epidemiological studies;
  • critically appraise epigenetic epidemiology literature;
  • design epigenetic epidemiology studies and justify choice of design;
  • 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 specialty. 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 (practical options for both those with and without experience of R will be provided). 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:

  • study design (discovery, validation, replication); 
  • statistical analysis (association testing, regression, longitudinal modelling); 
  • interpreting epigenetic data (the topography of the epigenome, genetics and epigenetics, gene expression and epigenetics, bioinformatic tools);
  • strengths and weaknesses of epigenetic studies; 
  • causal analysis methods; 
  • critical appraisal of epigenetic epidemiology literature.

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

Recommended reading

  1. Relton CL, Davey Smith G. Is epidemiology ready for epigenetics? Int J Epidemiol 2012;41(1): 5-9.
  2. Mill J, Heijmans BT. From promises to practical strategies in epigenetic epidemiology. Nat Rev Genet 2013;14(8):585-94.
  3. Horvath S. DNA methylation age of human tissues and cell types. Genome Biol 2013;14(10):R115.
  4. 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.


Please note bookings for this course have now closed.

We are currently compiling our 2017/18 course programme. Bookings will open at the beginning of October 2017. Please check back nearer the time for more details.

Course fees


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

Course venue

School of Social and Community Medicine
Canynge Hall
39 Whatley Road
United Kingdom

Map and directions

Lunch and refreshments

Coffee, tea, fruit and biscuits will be available to all students. A light lunch is provided for all paying participants. Please let us know if you have any dietary requirements.


Information about accommodation.

Related short courses


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