Training Program in Immunology (ITP)—PhD, MD/PhD
The Immunology Training Program (ITP) is an interdepartmental teaching and research program involving faculty participants from multiple disciplines within the Boston University schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Dental Medicine. This program is partially funded by the National Institutes of Health through a T32 Training Grant, “Research Training in Immunology.” Students can be admitted to the ITP through either the Microbiology or Pathology departments where they follow a modified track specifically designed for students in the ITP. The program of study includes a literature-based curriculum, prominent guest speakers, and spirited journal clubs as well as extensive hands-on laboratory training. Small class size and extensive interaction with the faculty provide students with the opportunity to customize their training according to their specific scientific interests.
Students may choose any of the ITP faculty, independent of department affiliation, for their research training. Particular areas of expertise within the ITP community include:
- lymphocyte development and differentiation
- self-recognition and autoimmunity
- cytokine/chemokine biology
- innate immunity and inflammation
- cancer immunology and immunotherapy
- transcriptional regulation
- host response to viral infections
- immunotherapeutics and vaccinology
Please see the individual faculty research descriptions for a more complete picture of ongoing research programs. The ITP is located on the Boston Medical Center campus and is administered through the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health. BUSM ranks among the top 20 medical schools nationally in extramural support. Most pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellows are supported through NIH training grants; all trainees receive full stipend, tuition, and health insurance. ITP faculty and students work in newly renovated research labs and have immediate access to state-of-the-art core facilities. One of the more notable aspects of the ITP is the extensive interaction among the basic science and clinical faculty—such esprit de corps is reflected in collaborative projects involving both basic and translational research.
Application information and forms are available through the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. Any further inquires can be addressed to the program director.
Applicants must apply for admission to the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS) through the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. Students enter the Immunology Training Program through either the Department of Microbiology or the Department of Pathology after completing the core PiBS curriculum. Departmental preference should be noted on the application.
All PhD and MD/PhD 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 2014-15 academic year, the stipend for entering students will be $31,000 and will be $32,000 for students who have passed their qualifying exams.
Students are also eligible to compete for support from outside sources, 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 apply for internal research and travel awards.
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 departments of Microbiology and Pathology. Formal coursework is normally completed within the first two years of study, with the majority of courses taken during the first year. Students should consult with their respective program directors for ITP specific course work.
Seminars and Journal Clubs
During the fall and spring semesters, the HPI Training Program and the Immunology Training Program sponsor a weekly seminar series featuring nationally or internationally recognized scientists. Students are encouraged to attend seminars and to join the speakers over an informal lunch. In this way, students are exposed to leading-edge concepts in rapidly advancing fields and are to discuss the science driving these advances. Making connections with invited speakers is also important for networking for post-doctoral positions or other jobs after completion of doctoral studies. Students are also expected to attend seminars offered by a variety of divisions and departments throughout the Medical and Charles River Campuses. Students are also encouraged to attend a variety of seminars offered by our neighboring institutions such as Harvard Medical School, Tufts Medical School, MIT, Brandeis, and Massachusetts General Hospital to name a few. Students are expected to give at least one formal seminar a year.
Two student-lead journal clubs are available to HPI and ITP students as part of the Trainee Seminar Series held at noon on Mondays. Journal clubs are held on a rotating basis with trainee research seminars.
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 must serve as a teaching assistant at least once in either the Medical School MS 220 DRx course or in one module of a Foundation in Biomedical Sciences (FiBS) course.
Students complete three 10 week rotations during his/her first year. Two of the rotations serve as the basis for the qualifying exam. The qualifying exam is given in two phases. Phase 1 usually takes place at the end of the fall semester in the second year. It is based on the first two rotations and consists of a written summary and a 30 minute oral presentation in a closed session with the Qualifying Exam Committee. Phase 2 takes places after completion of the third rotation usually at the end of the spring semester of the second year. It can be based on any of the 3 rotations except for the rotation in phase 1. Phase 2 consists of three parts: an abstract and a 5-7 page proposal on the student’s dissertation research, a 30-45 minute open research seminar, and a closed oral examination with the Qualifying Exam Committee.
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 Research Advisory Committee composed of faculty scientists provides additional expertise and guidance to the student. The Committee meets regularly with the student to help direct the course of research. Students are expected to publish the results of their original research in refereed scientific journals.
As part of the PhD requirements, a written dissertation describing the student’s research accomplishments must be submitted and defended.