After a formal application and interview process, successful Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. candidates are admitted into the Immunology Training Program through either the Department of Microbiology or the Department of Pathology. The course requirements vary somewhat for students admitted into the different departments, but all students are expected to develop a strong background in multiple areas of the biomedical sciences and a solid foundation in molecular and cellular immunology.
In addition to the successful completion of the prescribed course work, Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. candidates also must complete laboratory rotations, participate in seminars and journal clubs, pass a qualifying examination, and successfully defend a dissertation based on original laboratory research.
All Ph.D. and M.D.-Ph.D. students who are admitted to the Department are automatically considered eligible for full financial aid. Financial aid consists of a stipend, tuition, activity fees and health insurance. For the 2014/2015 academic year, the stipend will be $31,000 for entering students, and $32,00 for students who have passed their qualifying exams.
Students are also eligible to compete for support from outside agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. While in graduate school, students are also eligible to compete with other students in the Division for research and travel awards from the Department and Boston University School of Medicine.
The curriculum for students in the ITP offers flexibility in training and is designed with the interests of the student and his/her prior background and training in mind. Formal coursework emphasizes breadth and depth in various areas of immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry. There are slight differences in the coursework for students in the Department of Microbiology and Pathology.
Formal coursework is normally completed within the first 2 years of study, with the majority of courses taken during the first year. Students complete 28 credit hours of graded coursework, taken from an approved list of required and elective courses that span several disciplines including basic and advanced immunology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and human genetics
All predoctoral students are required to complete laboratory rotations. The purpose of laboratory rotations is to help students acquire a complete set of research tools, to experience different approaches to research, and to identify a major advisor for their dissertation research. Students are normally required to rotate through 3 laboratories before choosing one for their dissertation research. Students are strongly encouraged to begin their laboratory rotations during the first semester of their first year of graduate study. In some cases, rotations can begin the summer before commencement of class work.
During the fall and spring semesters, the immunology program sponsors a weekly seminar featuring a nationally or internationally recognized immunologist. Students are encouraged to attend all of these seminars and to join the speaker over an informal lunch. In this way students are exposed to leading edge concepts in a rapidly advancing field and are able to discuss the science with the immunologists driving these advances. Making connections with invited speakers also is important for networking for postdoctoral positions or other jobs after completion of the doctoral thesis. In addition, all Immunology Training Program students are expected to attend and participate in their respective Departmental seminars and in seminars offered by a variety of divisions and centers throughout the BU Medical and Charles River Campuses. This menu of seminar choices affords the student ample opportunity to sample multiple diverse areas of interest from cutting edge advances in molecular biology to the ethics of human genome research. Students may also attend a variety of seminars offered by our neighboring institutions including, but not limited to, Tufts Medical School, Harvard Medical School, MIT, Brandeis University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Students are expected to give at least one formal seminar a year.
A broad range of immunology research is conducted in the laboratories of the ITP faculty members. Particular areas of interest and expertise include adaptive immunity, innate immunity and inflammation, cytokine and chemokine biology, immune tolerance, autoimmunity, cancer immunology and immunotherapy, immunotoxicology, microbial and viral immunology, and stem cell biology.
Teaching is an integral part of the learning process. In order to provide students with some teaching experience, all students in the Department of Microbiology are expected to teach at least one semester in either the FiBS core courses or tutor medical students. Students receive remuneration for this service. In addition, many students also have participated in the City Lab program at BU. This program is a BU-based educational resource, the goals of which are to introduce Boston High School students to the biological sciences.
Please see the Department of Microbiology website for specifics on the format for the Microbiology qualifying examination.
Please see the Department of Pathology website for specifics on the format for the Pathology qualifying examination.
Research is the central part of the graduate student’s training, and as such most of the time spent in graduate school is devoted to original laboratory research. This is carried out in the laboratory of a faculty member chosen by the student who serves as the student’s mentor and scientific advisor. A faculty research advisory committee, composed of scientists who provide additional expertise and guidance to the student, meets regularly to help direct the course of research. Students are expected to publish the results of their original research in refereed scientific journals.
Dissertation – Ph.D. Requirements
As part of the Ph.D. requirements, a written dissertation describing the student’s research accomplishments must be submitted and defended.