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Pathology & Immunology

Houston, Texas

Pathology and Immunology
Pathology & Immunology
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Immunology Graduate Program

Program in Immunology

John R Rodgers, PhD
Graduate Program Director

Richard N. Sifers, Ph.D.
Graduate Program Director

The Graduate Program in Immunology leads to a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences and offers ongoing research programs in molecular aspects of lymphocyte differentiation and function, including MHC expression and peptide interactions; class I MHC structure and function; germinal center biology; HIV pathogenesis; immune responses to gene therapy; inflammation and allergy; signal transduction.

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Students in the program conduct a wide range of cutting edge basic and translational research in the field of immunology. Our students learn how to think critically and communicate their ideas clearly: these are essential skills for careers in research and education. The Graduate Program in Immunology offers a dynamic curriculum and personalized attention, as well as the resources and opportunities of a large, well-integrated institution.

Two Immunology Graduate Students

The required and elective courses, completed in the first year, provide students with a broad exposure to molecular biology, biochemistry, genetic engineering, genetic vaccines and gene therapy, cellular and clinical immunology. Our students also complete a specialized course, Introduction to Graduate Research, which emphasizes problem solving, critical thinking, oral and graphical data presentation, and grant writing. Small classes and seminars permit close interaction with faculty members.

In addition to taking courses, first year students have the opportunity to rotate through as many as four laboratories to find the best project/mentor match from among more than 35 faculty members.

After the first year of classes, students concentrate on laboratory research; participate in advanced seminars; pass a qualifying exam, which consists of writing and presenting an NIH-style grant; and prepare a dissertation.

The department has state-of-the-art research facilities that offer the open space design popular in laboratories today, with the north windows offering a terrific view of the Houston skyline.

The department currently provides generous assistantships of $29,000 per year, as well as health insurance, to qualified first-year students. Support for subsequent years is provided from funds of the faculty members. Students able to procure extramural funding are rewarded with financial benefits.

Graduates of the Department of Pathology & Immunology graduate, postdoctoral, and fellowship programs are located in different academic, government, and industrial institutions throughout the world, including the NIH, small liberal arts colleges, biotechnology companies, and academic positions.

Admission Requirements

An applicant must hold a bachelor or more advanced degree, or be in the final stages of a program leading to a bachelor degree or equivalent. An applicant should have completed courses in biology, general and organic chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Acceptance is on a competitive basis and a GPA of 3.0 or higher is required. The GRE general test is required and the advanced subject test is strongly recommended. In addition, foreign applicants are required to take the TOEFL Examination. Applicants to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences are encouraged to use the online application.


The academic year at Baylor College of Medicine comprises five (terms and course work is generally completed within the first year. View the Immunology Graduate Program Curriculum. Required and elective courses for the Graduate Program in Immunology offer first year students a broad exposure to the fields of molecular microbiology, bacterial pathogenesis, virology, cellular immunology, immunogenetics, genetic engineering, biochemistry and molecular biology. Courses from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Core Curriculum are also required. Students also gain extensive experience in grantsmanship and oral presentation of data.

All students may attend, as optional electives, courses offered by other institutions such as Rice University, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, or University of Houston without payment of additional fees.

Research Rotations

Students arrange research rotations with immunology faculty for three or more terms. Most students begin laboratory rotations with potential research mentors during term one of the first year. M.D./Ph.D. students begin research rotations during term one. All students will be required to have become settled in a laboratory at the end of the eleventh month of the first year, unless special circumstances intervene.

Qualifying Examination

The Graduate School at Baylor College of Medicine mandates that all students must successfully pass the Qualifying Examination, administered by their department, in order to be admitted into candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. The Department of Immunology Qualifying Exam consists of a written research proposal, in the form of an NIH grant application addressing a topic in immunology. The examination also includes an oral defense of the proposal before a standing committee of faculty members. Students are required to pass the Qualifying Examination before the end of the second year in the program.

Thesis Advisory Committee

The Thesis Advisory Committee is made up of the student's major advisor, at least three other faculty members of the Department of Immunology and at least one member with a primary appointment outside the department. Students form their thesis committee within their second year in the program. The Graduate School requires that students meet with their thesis committee at least twice a year. The Thesis Advisory Committee gives direct input into the student's research, conducts the qualifying examination, and the final written and oral Ph.D. examination.

Defense of Dissertation

All students are required to publish at least one first author manuscript in a peer reviewed journal as a requirement of graduation. Students must also produce a written thesis and make a public oral presentation of their research as well as an oral defense of their thesis to their advisory committee.

Group photo of immunology department retreat attendees

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