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The Immunology Academic Program

Core Coursework

In the first year of study, each student takes a core set of courses emphasizing basic molecular principles and how they apply to understanding immune function. In addition, each student meets with the first year advisor and plans three 12-week rotation experiences where he or she will carry out a short-term research project. Students are also expected to attend Immunology related seminars, research conferences and journal clubs.

Course #ME.250:722 Fundamentals of Immune Recognition and Response August through September
Course #ME.100.709 Macromolecular Structure & Analysis August through October
Course #ME.100.710 Biochemical & Biophysical Principles August through October
Course #ME.110.728 Cell Structure & Dynamics January through March
Course #ME.250.703 Graduate Immunology February through May
Course #ME.250.709 Immunology Core Course All Year Course
Course #ME.250.804 Introduction to Immunology Research All Year Course
Course #ME.260.708 Genetics October through December
Course #ME.260.709 Molecular Biology & Genomics October through November
Course #ME.260.802 Special Studies and Research All Year Course
Course #ME.360.728 Pathways & Regulations January through March
Course #ME.800.707 Bioinformatics November through January


The Fundamentals of Immune Recognition and Response is an introductory level course that is meant to give each entering student the basic knowledge needed to fully participate in Immunology program seminars, journal clubs and faculty/student discussions. The Immunology Core course allows students to read research papers relevant to topics being covered in the other required courses. The papers are discussed in a small group setting with faculty members from the Immunology program leading the discussion. The course also includes problem sets and laboratory demonstrations in which students are introduced to important experimental methods such as flow cytometry and protein modeling. In addition we have instituted a weekly “Introduction to Immunology Research” course. This course is intended to give the first year students an opportunity to learn about the research programs of the Immunology faculty and consists of a series of informal chalk talks where the faculty describe, in a small group setting, their research program. Once the chalk talk phase of the course is ended (mid-November) then first year students attend the Friday noon journal club.

Elective Coursework

Students need to take a total of 5 elective courses for graduation. One can begin taking electives in the spring of the first year. A number of advanced level graduate course are offered at the School of Medicine, the School Public Health and the School of Arts and Sciences. The Immunology Program specifically offers several advanced Immunology courses. These include Innate Immunity, Recognition to Response, Autoimmunity, Tumors, Transplants and Tolerance, Transplantation Immunology, Viral Immunology and Developmental Immunology. Each of these courses utilizes small group discussion, in which students read and discuss current and seminal research papers on the selected topic.

Research Rotation Projects

During the first year, each student engages in three short-term research projects. Rotations begin on October 1, January 1, and April 1. Each project lasts three months and is carried out under the direction of a faculty member. Additional rotations may be scheduled based on student interest. The projects are designed to give you an introduction to experimental research and an opportunity to learn more about specific areas of immunology prior to choosing a thesis laboratory and project. After completing the research rotations, the student will select a mentor for his/her thesis project.

Journal Clubs

Immunology Journal Club is intended to provide all graduate students in the immunology training program the habit of reading a diverse range of immunology journal articles early in their graduate career. Presenters are generally encouraged to present new developments and findings that are less related to their research focus. This will allow participants to explore new areas of immunology, familiarize themselves with key investigators in the immunology field and to develop sharp and valid criticism of sound experiments. This is an invaluable opportunity to keep abreast of new advances as well as hone one's presentation skills in an informal setting.

Immunology Seminars and Lectures

The Immunology Training Program sponsor and promote several activities that provide the setting for interaction among graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty interested in immunology throughout the University. The major activity includes a weekly seminar series where seminar speakers from various institutions in the United States and abroad come to speak as well as meet with faculty and trainees. For speakers, we frequently arrange an informal lunch with students, which afford a valuable opportunity to interact with a leader in the discipline. In addition, our students invite several speakers each year. On this date, the students extend the invitation, organize the schedule and take them to dinner. Collectively these activities provide a powerful training opportunity allowing trainees to not only hear an interesting seminar, but also to develop the skills and confidence enabling them to enter into scientific dialogue with a gifted scientist.

The Immunology Training Program, the Henry Kunkel Lectureship, an annual endowed lectureship given in the later winter by distinguished senior immunologists. Recent speakers include Drs. Fred Alt, Tasuku Honjo, Hidde Ploegh, Antonio Lansavechia and Ralph Steinman.

Floor meetings

Trainees and faculty of the Immunology Program gather every Wednesday at noon for a lunch research “floor meeting” conference. At each conference, two speakers (graduate students, fellows, etc.) gives 30 minute presentations of their latest research. These presentations are designed to allow for the exchange of ideas and for constructive criticism. The atmosphere is informal and interactive plus lunch is provided. This provides trainees with important experience in organizing and presenting research data.

Annual Immunology Program Retreat

Each fall we hold an all day retreat off site. The retreat is attended by faculty, post-doctoral fellows and all graduate students. The retreat features two keynote speakers of which one is a program graduate, student talks, a poster sessions and lots of food, drink, and good conversation!

Oral Examinations

Students are required to take the Graduate Board Preliminary Oral Examination by December of their 2nd year. This examination serves as a means of evaluating the student’s cumulative knowledge in biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, biophysics, genetics, and immunology and his/her preparedness to carry out research for the Ph.D. degree.

Selecting an Advisor and forming a Dissertation Advisory Committee

After the first year of study is completed, each student chooses his or her dissertation adviser and begins dissertation research. During the spring of the second year, each student also sets up a dissertation advisory committee. The committee is an advisory team consisting of your dissertation adviser and 3-4 other faculty members. The sole purpose of the committee is to help the student proceed in their research. At the first meeting the student will present a written proposal prepared in the format of an NIH grant. The committee meets to discuss progress and dissertation advisory committee recommends that the student begin to write the final thesis.

Dissertation and Final Seminar

To fulfill requirements for the Ph.D., the dissertation must be found acceptable by two readers, your thesis adviser and one other full-time faculty member. When the dissertation is complete, each student is also required to present one formal seminar on your findings before students and faculty members of the University.