The PhD Program

Research within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology incorporates a wide range of modern biological study and approaches. Our graduate program similarly affords a multidisciplinary and integrated approach to biological research. The program is designed to provide students with a rigorous and thorough scientific education. Students acquire a solid foundation from their course work in molecular microbiology, immunology, cell biology and virology. Critical skills are developed and fostered through participation in journal clubs, research talks, and regular departmental seminars. Students undertake independent research in a chosen area of interest under the supervision of a faculty member. The Ph.D. degree is expected to require four to five years of study.

During their first year, graduate students complete fundamental, didactic course work that integrates molecular biology, microbiology, biochemistry, immunology, cell biology and virology. During their second year, students pursue advanced course work, involving more extensive student presentation and discussion, and elective topics of special interest. In addition, throughout their graduate careers, student participation in weekly seminar series (presented by distinguished guest speakers), in departmental journal clubs, and in the student research seminar series is required.

First year students are provided with the opportunity to rotate through three research laboratories. These three rotations allow students to gain first hand knowledge of the research projects and also to learn various techniques in the areas of molecular biology and immunology. After completing the three rotations, students select their permanent thesis advisor.

By the end of the second year, all Ph.D. students are required to successfully develop and defend their thesis proposal, and pass an oral preliminary examination. The purpose of the Preliminary examination is to ascertain the student's ability to present and defend a sound scientific proposal, and also to test the student's general knowledge in the same as well as other related disciplines. Prior to graduation, all students are required to orally defend their dissertations.

The variety of research projects ongoing in our department represents a broad and interactive approach to fundamental issues. We strive to provide rigorously critical training and a broad-based perspective to our students. It is the intention of this program to facilitate the growth and development of every student into an independent and rigorous scientist. And indeed, our graduates have established successful careers in government, academia and industry.