Immunology is the discipline of biology that examines the mechanisms of host defense against pathogenic agents. The study of the immune system offers a unique opportunity to analyze a complex multicomponent system consisting of molecules and cells that have documented physiologic relevance. Immunology has a strong foundation in biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology.
Washington University School of Medicine has a large community of investigators who make immunology their primary focus. The research within our program spans a broad spectrum, ranging from studies at the basic structural and molecular levels of host defense all the way to clinical applications directed at significant health problems, such as cancer immunotherapy. The program in Immunology has grown to include more than 50 research laboratories and continues to increase. This unusual concentration of immunologists was the stimulus that led to the founding of the Immunology graduate program in 1986.
Students in the Immunology (IMM) program will typically take four (4) to five (5) courses during their first year. Students will also participate in three laboratory rotations over the fall and spring semesters of Year 1 prior to selecting a thesis lab. Students are expected to complete the following coursework during their entire graduate education:
DBBS required courses
Graduate Research Fundamentals
Ethics and Research Science – typically taken in Year 2
Program required courses
Advanced Topics in Immunology
Fundamentals in Molecular Cell Biology
Two (2) to three (3) advanced electives
Molecular Microbiology & Microbial Pathogenesis
Biotech Industry Innovators
Nucleic Acids & Protein Biosynthesis
Systems Cell and Molecular Biology
ID Gateway: Translational and Public Health Aspects of Basic Infectious Disease Research
Special Topics in Microbiology
Pathobiology of Human Disease States – enrollment limited to students in the Markey Human Pathobiology Interdisciplinary Research Pathway
In the spring/summer semesters of Year 2, students must pass a Qualifying Exam (QE). Following a successful QE defense, students will identify and finalize their committee and complete their thesis proposal by December 31 of Year 3.
Thesis committee, proposal, and defense
In the summer and/or fall semesters of Year 2 after rotations are completed, students will select a thesis advisor and begin working in their thesis labs. Students will then select a thesis committee and complete their thesis proposal. Students will complete their thesis research, defense, and graduation over the rest of their graduate career. Most students graduate within five (5) to six (6) years of beginning their program.
IMM graduates pursue a variety of careers. Most program graduates go into academia, but many find paths in industry, government, and other fields, like science communication, law, and business and entrepreneurship.