Curriculum | PhD in Microbiology & Immunology

5-7 Years
34 Credits

Full-Time Study

Diverse Cohort of Students from Around the World

What You’ll Learn

Students will gain a thorough knowledge of microbial pathogens, the molecular basis of microbial pathogenesis and the protective immunological responses of the mammalian host. Coupled with a rigorous research program students will learn to dissect and investigate pressing issues in infectious diseases and become prepared to contribute to future advances in infectious disease research.

Degree Requirements

Required courses, electives, and research rotations are completed in the first 3 semesters of the program. Students have maximum flexibility in selecting their electives to tailor their training.

Comprehensive exams are completed in fall semester of the second year of the program.

By the end of the second year students are engaged in full-time research. Second year and onward students are required to present their research in our department seminars (MICB 6853) every Spring semester of their attendance. Upon completion of the research project, a thesis is written and defended.

Transfer Credit/Advanced Standing: A PhD student may make a written request for the transfer of credit for specific applicable courses or apply for advanced standing. Please speak with program leadership and review the policy on transfer credit and advanced standing.


☐ 9 Required Courses (26 credits)

☐ 8 credits of Electives

☐ 2-3 Research Rotations

☐ Qualifying & Comprehensive Exams

☐ Department Seminars

☐ PhD Dissertation

Students are required to complete 34 credits, in which 26 credits of required courses and 8 credits of electives. For more information about courses, visit the Courses page.

Students must complete 2 to 3 research rotations with Microbiology and Immunology research faculty. Research performance is assessed by the mentor(s) and documented in the Lab Rotation Form submitted by the student. Students should select a thesis mentor by the end of the first year.

Students must pass the qualifying and comprehensive exams before entering doctoral candidacy.

Qualifying Examination
The purpose of the qualifying exam is to evaluate a student’s basic knowledge of microbiology and immunology and their ability to formulate testable hypotheses and to design experimental strategies.  Students will identify a topic important for Microbiology & Immunology and prepare a research proposal on that topic. Students will select an examination committee at the end of the first year and must successfully defend this proposal to the committee by the end of the third semester. Students who fail this examination will be allowed to revise the proposal and defend it. In this case, the examination must be completed by the end of the fourth semester.

Comprehensive Examination
The comprehensive exam is designed to demonstrate that students have gained sufficient knowledge from their required coursework to continue in the program.

After completion of all examinations and coursework, the students will complete a doctoral dissertation in accordance with the regulations of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. You can also use this Checklist for Dissertation Writers for more guidance.

General Dissertation Guidelines
Common Mistakes

  • The title and name on the dissertation must match the name on the student’s transcript.
  • 12 point font 
  • Double-spaced.
  • 1-inch margins (top, bottom, left, right) and the page numbers must also have 1-inch margins.
  • The abstract is limited to 350 words.
  • Items in Table of Contents must match the headings and subheadings in text.

The thesis committee will determine when the dissertation is acceptable.

The dissertation must be accepted by the Graduate School after completing the formatting review no later than May 1 by 5:00PM in order to participate in the May graduation of that year.

PhD students are responsible for submitting their dissertation forms to our BGE Student Services Office to Holly Sanders. Dissertation forms can be founded on the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences website.