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 Boston University’s Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine and Schools of Public Health and Dental Medicine.

Immunology was established as a biomedical science studying the host’s response to the agents of infectious disease late in the 19th century. It has grown to encompass much greater areas of basic and clinical science than could have been anticipated by its founders. Immunology now encompasses the diverse ways that the “immune system”, initially identified in terms of infectious disease, interacts with all systems involved with health and disease. Its practitioners are consistently on the forefront of biotechnology and innovation.

The student successfully completing the ITP will have gained the knowledge and the experience to perform the role of research immunologist in either professional or academic settings, and will have become introduced to the community of immunologists through meetings and published works to establish themselves as a deserving member.

This program is 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 sizes 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
  • immunotoxicology
  • immunotherapeutics and vaccinology
  • computational immunology

Please see the individual faculty research descriptions for a more complete picture of ongoing research programs. The ITP is located on the Boston University Medical Campus and is administered through the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine. The Chobanian & Avedisian SOM ranks among the top 20 medical schools nationally in extramural support. Most predoctoral and postdoctoral 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 is reflected in collaborative projects involving both basic and translational research.

Application information and forms are available through Graduate Medical Sciences. Any further inquiries can be addressed to the program director.

Program Information

Admissions

Applicants must apply for admission to the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS) through 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.

Financial Support

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.

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.

Coursework

The curriculum for students in the ITP offers flexibility in training and is designed with the interests of the student and their 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 coursework.

Seminars and Journal Clubs

Seminars and journal clubs are important components of training at all stages of a scientific career and all students are encouraged to attend seminars in a variety of disciplines. In addition, all students in the Immunology Training Program are expected to attend and participate in departmental seminars throughout their graduate career.

The Department of Microbiology, National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL), and Immunology Training Program host a combined weekly seminar series. This joint seminar series includes invited speakers from other institutions and is held Wednesdays, 12–1 pm, in the NEIDL first-floor conference room. Following these guest speaker seminars, students may meet with the speakers over lunch to discuss research.

In addition, the Department of Microbiology and Immunology Training Program hold a Trainee Seminar Series and Journal Club which includes seminars and journal clubs by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows on Mondays, 12–1 pm, in the NEIDL first-floor conference room. Each ITP student is required to present at least one seminar per year. Alternating with trainee seminars are journal clubs, in which trainees discuss research papers chosen from the current scientific literature.

Research Laboratories

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

Teaching is an integral part of the learning process. In order to provide students with teaching experience, all students in the Immunology Training Program 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 (FBS) course.

Qualifying Exam

Please see specific departments for qualifying examination details.

Laboratory Research

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.

Dissertation—PhD Program

As part of the PhD requirements, a written dissertation describing the student’s research accomplishments must be submitted and defended.

For more information, please see our website.