Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • develop the ability to think critically and work collaboratively;
  • develop the ability to evaluate data and scientific literature;
  • develop the ability to problem solve, expand technical skills, and design rigorous and reproducible experiments;
  • develop the ability to communicate their scientific findings and knowledge via both written and oral methods to a variety of audiences; and
  • prepare for independent careers as leaders, investigators, and educators in cutting-edge research, teaching, and service in basic and applied immunology.

The Doctor of Philosophy in immunology requires 72 s.h. of graduate credit. Students must maintain a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.00 to earn the degree. The program provides interdisciplinary training in the concepts and methodologies of basic and applied immunology.

They complete coursework in immunology and related disciplines, and are directly involved in laboratory research throughout their study. Immunology graduate courses are offered not only to teach students the current concepts and paradigms within the field, but to emphasize the scientific approaches and methods used to attain this understanding.

The Ph.D. with a major in immunology requires the following coursework.

Core Curriculum

IMMU:6201/MICR:6201Graduate Immunology3
IMMU:6211Immunology Seminar1
IMMU:6247/MICR:6247Graduate Immunology and Human Disease4
BMED:5207Principles of Molecular and Cellular Biology3
BMED:7270Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research I0
BMED:7271Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research II0
PCOL:5204Basic Biostatistics and Experimental Design1

Typical Curriculum

First Year, Fall

IMMU:6211Immunology Seminar1
IMMU:6247/MICR:6247Graduate Immunology and Human Disease4
BMED:5207Principles of Molecular and Cellular Biology3
PCOL:5204Basic Biostatistics and Experimental Design1

First Year, Spring

IMMU:6201/MICR:6201Graduate Immunology3
IMMU:6211Immunology Seminar1
Elective (optional)1-3

Second Year, Fall

IMMU:6211Immunology Seminar1
IMMU:6241Writing a Scientific Proposal2
IMMU:7221/MICR:7207Advanced Topics in Immunology3
BMED:7270Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research I0
Elective (optional)1-3

Second Year, Spring

IMMU:6211Immunology Seminar1
BMED:7271Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research II0
Elective (optional)1-3


The following are possible elective choices.

ACB:5218/BIOL:5218/MICR:5218Microscopy for Biomedical Research3
BIOS:4120Introduction to Biostatistics3
BMB:7251Introduction to Protein Structures1
BMB:7252Enzymes, Carbohydrates, Nucleic Acids, and Bioenergetics1
BMB:7253Metabolism I1
BMB:7254Cellular Biochemistry1
BMB:7255Metabolism II1
BMB:7256Molecular Biology1
MICR:6240Graduate Eukaryotic Pathogens and Human Disease2
MICR:6259Graduate Bacteria and Human Disease3
MICR:6260Graduate Bacterial Physiology and Cell Biology2
MICR:6267Graduate Viruses and Human Disease4
MICR:6268Biology and Pathogenesis of Viruses2
MICR:6270Graduate Microbial Genetics2
MMED:3310/BMB:3310/CBIO:3310Practical Data Science and Bioinformatics3
MMED:6220/ACB:6220/MPB:6220Mechanisms of Cellular Organization3
MMED:6225/ACB:6225/MPB:6225/PCOL:6225Growth Factor Receptor Signaling1
MMED:6226/ACB:6226/MPB:6226Cell Cycle Control1
MMED:6227/ACB:6227/MPB:6227Cell Fate Decisions1
PATH:5270/IGPI:5270/MMED:5270Pathogenesis of Major Human Diseases3
PCOL:6207Ion Channel Pharmacology1
PCOL:6208G Proteins and G Protein-Coupled Receptors1
PCOL:6209/MPB:6209/NSCI:6209Steroid Receptor Signaling1

Additional Requirements

Laboratory Rotations

Prior to selecting a laboratory for dissertation work, students are expected to perform three laboratory rotations, with each rotation lasting approximately 12 weeks in duration. During the first semester, students should become acquainted with the research interests of the faculty members in the immunology program. This learning process is facilitated by faculty presentations in IMMU:6211 Immunology Seminar during the fall semester. Students also are encouraged to meet with specific faculty to discuss their research programs. This enables students to make an informed decision about their laboratory rotations, with the guidance and approval of their advisor and the graduate studies committee.

At the latest, students should begin their first rotation within the first week of graduate study. Medical Science Training Program (MSTP) students and students with M.S. degrees that included a research-based dissertation may be excused from one rotation. Students having difficulty choosing a laboratory for dissertation work may perform a fourth rotation.

The rotations are graded either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. This grade is based upon a number of criteria including attendance and work habits. When not in classes or seminars, students are expected to spend the remaining portion of the day in the laboratory. Without a strong commitment to the rotation project, it is difficult to fulfill the purpose and aims of the rotation. A satisfactory grade is required in each of the laboratory rotations. If a satisfactory grade is not received in one of the rotations, an additional rotation is assigned. Failure to receive a satisfactory grade in the extra rotation results in the student being placed on academic probation. Following each rotation, an evaluation is given to each student by the faculty member and submitted to the graduate studies committee.


Students complete a teaching requirement lasting one semester. A variety of courses are available in several departments, and the program leadership place students in courses based upon interest, expertise, and scheduling.

Publication Requirements

It is expected that the dissertation project be of sufficient breadth, depth, and novelty to result in first-author research publications in high quality peer-reviewed journals. A minimum of one peer-reviewed paper must be published or in press prior to the completion of the Ph.D. degree. In addition, a second publication, in which the student is a coauthor on a peer-reviewed article, a review, or book chapter must be published or in press prior to the completion of the degree. Students are not permitted to schedule a dissertation defense until it has been demonstrated that both of these requirements have been met.

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination is generally taken in the spring semester of the second year of study. MSTP students or students entering the program with a M.S. degree may choose to take the examination in the fall semester of their second year.

Students taking the comprehensive examination prepare a single abstract of an original research proposal. The examination committee determines if the abstract topic is appropriate as nonoverlapping, and if the abstract is scientifically sound to potentially serve as the basis for a defensible research proposal. After the abstract is accepted, students are given four weeks to complete and submit the written comprehensive examination proposal. The oral defense is scheduled 10-14 days after the exam is submitted, depending on availability of the committee members. The comprehensive exam is written in the form of a NIH-style pilot grant proposal based on the abstract and instructions from the comprehensive examination. A detailed student handbook is available on the Immunology Program website.

Final Examination

The five members of the thesis committee serve as an advisory body for preparation of the thesis. The committee meets with each student to review the material that they expect to be incorporated into the thesis. Although meetings with the committee should be yearly, the candidate, thesis advisor, or the committee can request a meeting at any time. A final draft of the thesis must be given to all members of the committee two weeks before the final examination.

The final examination takes the form of a seminar presented to the program. This presentation is announced according to Graduate College policy. Questions, comments, and discussion follow. After the seminar, the candidate meets with the committee for the final thesis defense. In some cases revisions may be required. The degree is not awarded until the thesis is signed.


Students may work toward the Doctor of Medicine degree and a Ph.D. in immunology in a combined degree program offered by the Graduate College and the Carver College of Medicine. Applicants must be admitted to both programs before they may be admitted to the combined degree program. See the Medical Scientist Training Program (Carver College of Medicine) in the Catalog.

For information regarding admission and application procedures, visit the Immunology Graduate Program website.

Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations on the Graduate College website.

Tuition and fees are paid for, and students receive a competitive stipend as well as health and dental benefits. Continued support beyond the first year is guaranteed, provided that progress toward degree completion of requirements is satisfactory. Sources of support include departmental funds, training and research grants, and individual fellowships.