Immunology Curriculum

student working in the lab


Students in the Immunology Program complete required and elective didactic courses and participate in seminars and journal clubs that are designed to provide a strong knowledge base for their research and a deep understanding of Immunology. They also complete four research rotations.  Students typically select their research mentor at the end of May of the first year and begin dissertation research after successfully passing the qualifying examination in June. Thereafter, emphasis is placed on dissertation research. When the aims of the research project have been achieved, students write and defend their dissertations.

Didactic Courses

A series of required courses that are specifically designed to provide a broad, yet deep knowledge of immunology are offered.  These courses are sequenced to provide students with the knowledge needed to attack a problem in related to any aspect of our discipline. Students also receive strong grounding in biochemistry and scientific ethics. Electives are also available.

More information about the curriculum and specific courses can be found in the GSBS Catalog.

Qualifying Exam

All Immunology Program students complete a qualifying examination by the end of the spring semester of the second year. PhD students must pass this examination to begin full-time thesis research.

The exam requires the preparation and defense of an original research proposal that is not related to future dissertation work or to prior research experiences. The exam is designed to measure originality and independence and requires that the student suggest a feasible research project on a biologically significant problem, outline a potential experimental approach to its solution, and discuss the likely data that could be obtained. An oral defense of this proposal is designed to probe the ability of the student to integrate and evaluate material learned in more abstract settings.

Preparation for the examination is directed by a Qualifier Advisor who mentors students in topic selection and assists students in shaping the focus of their topic.

Seminar-based Courses

Seminar Series

Our invited seminar program brings speakers from laboratories around the world to interact with the students and other members of the Program. The seminars integrated with two other graduate programs, Genetics and Molecular Microbiology and the Geographic Medicine group.  Each speaker has an informal lunch with interested students (and no faculty). Frequently, students hold a journal club to discuss the recent work of the speaker. Each year students invite and host several guest speakers.

Of particular interest is the annual Sidney Leskowtiz Memorial Lecture. Given each spring, this Lecture honors the memory of Dr. Sidney Leskowitz, the founder of the Immunology Graduate Program and a consummate teacher. In addition to the featured lecture, the honoree moderates a minisymposium in which selected students and fellows present their current work. Past speakers include Emil Unanue, Susumu Tonegawa, Pippa Marrack, Charlie Janeway, Craig Thompson, Max Cooper, Paul Allen, Art Weiss, Richard Locksley, Michael Neuberger, Tasuku Honjo, and Harald von Boehmer.

Check the GSBS Calendar for the schedule

Student Research Workshop

Once a year each student engaged in thesis research is required to present a 40 - 50 minute seminar describing his/her current findings and plans for future work. These workshops are held weekly and are attended by all students and by faculty, postdoctoral fellows, research associates and technicians. The presentations provide the opportunity for research students to benefit from the experience of the members of the audience. The presentations are also used by the members of thesis advisory committees as a measure of the student's progress. These seminars also provide valuable training in presentation skills.  First year students also present, using work done for one rotation as the subject of the seminar.

Check the GSBS Calendar for the schedule.

First Year Journal Club

All students participate in a journal club. The club meets for several hours on one afternoon each week throughout the first semester. At these sessions each student presents a precis of a significant paper in the field, reviewing the question under study, the experimental approach, the significant findings and the implications of the observations. The papers are chosen by a faculty advisor such that topics are covered in parallel to material studied in IMM212 (Introduction to Immunology). The course aims to train all students in the critical reading of the scientific literature, to make the current literature available to the students and to provide significant opportunities for students to hone their presentation skills.

Advanced Journal Club

Students in the research portion of their training hold a weekly journal club in which they discuss a paper from the current literature. The emphasis is on critical analysis, identifying the reasons that the paper is significant, and understanding how the findings extend current knowledge.