Molecular Epidemiology of Complex Diseases

Epidemiology has been proven invaluable to identify associations between exposure and disease, in particular because it enables us to study long-term effects of ‘normal’ variation in exposure in populations. However, traditional epidemiology does so without obtaining information on the biological processes that underlie these associations. Molecular epidemiology has the power to open up this ‘black box’. Current advances in epigenetics and epigenomics have given a further strong impetus to this endeavour.

Molecular epidemiology not only enhances the measurement of exposure, effect, and susceptibility, it also gives insight into complex biological mechanisms, and generates novel hypotheses about disease mechanisms. Most chronic diseases are complex, multi-factorial conditions, affected by both genetic and environmental factors. Molecular epidemiology supports improved diagnostics and will increase opportunities for better targeted (public) health interventions.

Epigenetic mechanisms involve changes to the DNA that affect the activity of the genome, without changing the genetic sequence itself. The dynamic field of epigenomics studies these mechanisms in a genome-wide way; it has contributed importantly to our understanding of gene-environment interactions, with many new discoveries still to be made.

This course aims to facilitate the acquisition of the essentials of molecular epidemiology: combining information from molecular biomarkers as obtained through omics technologies, with lifestyle and environmental factors, to understand disease occurrence and prognosis in population-based studies.

Course coordinators

Course credits

1.5 ECTS for following the course, 2 ECTS when successfully completing a final assignment.

Course overview

The Molecular Epidemiology of Complex Diseases course offers you a challenging five days in which to grasp the essentials of molecular epidemiology: combining information from molecular biomarkers obtained through omics technologies, with lifestyle and environmental factors, to understand disease occurrence and prognosis in population-based studies. The challenges faced in this multidisciplinary endeavour are manifold. The course organisers from the Maastricht Molecular Epidemiology Expert (M2E2) team, cover the different fields of expertise involved in molecular epidemiological research in a comprehensive and integrated manner. Participants will be confronted with issues ranging from study design to statistical analysis, and interpretation of findings in the context of public health. The focus lies especially on methodological issues, with a variety of disease settings used as illustrations. Current methods, technologies and analytical approaches from the field of epidemiology, as well as from the domains of genomics and epigenomics will be addressed.

During the course, lectures will be alternated with hands-on practical trainings and demonstrations. Participants will have ample opportunity to interact with each other and with faculty members.

NB: It is required to bring a laptop to the course, further instructions on software to install in preparation for the course will be provided to all participants prior to the course starting.

Target audience

The audience targeted is two-fold, firstly PhD students, postdoctoral fellows, PIs, and all other researchers/R&D staff working in bioinformatics and systems biology, who want to extend, update or refresh their knowledge on this dynamic domain. Secondly, we also invite participants with a(n original) background in epidemiology, biology, biomedical sciences, medicine, statistics, and related fields, who want to become acquainted with this expanding research area.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course you will be able to:

  • recognize and better understand design issues specific to molecular epidemiologic studies;
  • recognize the challenges and opportunities of incorporating omics into large population studies;
  • critically appraise molecular epidemiologic and related omics literature;
  • understand how epigenomics studies can help unravel gene-environment interactions, which technologies are available, and how resulting data can be understood;
  • appreciate the bioinformatics approaches commonly used in molecular epidemiology;
  • understand statistical approaches to data analysis commonly applied in molecular epidemiology;
  • interpret results from such both such approaches;
  • understand the (public) health impact of molecular epidemiologic study results.

More information 

More information about the program (lectures and schedule) will be announced shortly .

Questions related to the program can be directed to coordinators Lars Eijssen or Rachel Cavill. If you have any questions about the administration procedure, please contact Petra Aarnoutse


Early bird registration fees (until April 16, 2023)  for this 5-day course are:

  • PhD student: 400 euro (excl. VAT)
  • Academic researcher (PI/Postdoc): 600 euro (excl. VAT)
  • Industry: 900 euros (excl.VAT)

From April 17th, 2023 onwards fees for this 5-day course are:

  • PhD student: 480 euro (excl. VAT)
  • Academic researcher (PI/Postdoc): 720 euro (excl. VAT)
  • Industry: 1080 euros (excl.VAT)

The course fee includes:

  • Course material
  • Catering: coffee, tea and lunch will be provided.

There is room for max. 25 participants.

You can register for the course by filling out this registration form. Find general enrollment information here.