The UCSF Immunology Graduate Program is a component of both the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Program and the Program in Biological Sciences (PIBS). Currently, students interested in the Immunology Program are admitted into the BMS program and elect to follow the Immunology Track at the end of the first year. First year BMS students pursue coursework with an emphasis on mammalian cells and tissues, including the immune system. Modern approaches for understanding the molecular mechanisms of cell, organ, and immune system function are studied as are integrative approaches toward defining the physiological in vivo importance of these mechanisms. We believe that this coursework will provide an excellent knowledge base for graduate students with a strong interest in immunology and related fields such as infectious disease. In addition, first year students do three research “rotations” in different BMS/Immunology laboratories to learn experimental approaches hands-on and to aid them in choosing a thesis laboratory and project. For students who elect the Immunology Track, the Immunology Program provides continuing advanced training in current developments of immunology and in other aspects of modern molecular and cellular biology via a weekly immunology student/faculty journal club, an annual immunology retreat, a yearly advanced topics seminar course, and a weekly seminar series by outstanding immunologists from around the U.S. and occasionally overseas.
In addition to the above courses and activities, our connection with PIBS provides our students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty with close interactions with scientists studying cell biology, genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology, developmental biology, biophysics, and neuroscience. As these fields are highly relevant to modern study of immunology, these connections enhance the education of students in the Immunology Program.
The application deadline for fall 2010 admission is December 3, 2010.
Admission Requirements • Financial Support
Summer Research Training Program (SRTP) • Course Curriculum • Required Courses • Optional Courses • Research • Journal Club • Seminars & Workshops • Teaching • Student Evaluation
The following courses are prerequisites for admission to the program: general chemistry, zoology or biology, calculus, and biochemistry. Students deficient in some of these prerequisites may make them up either before admission or during the first year of study in the program. Also considered in the admissions process are GRE scores, letters of recommendation and, if possible, personal interviews (some of the leading candidates will be invited to come for an interview). All students who apply must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test. A subject test is not required, but we strongly encourage it. For applicants who choose to take the subject test, the choice of subject is up to you, but most applicants typically choose Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry or Physics. Foreign students must take the TOEFL exam and achieve a score of 560 or greater to be considered further. Evidence of exposure to scientific research, generally at least as summer participation in a research laboratory, is regarded as an important attribute of the successful application.
Students admitted to the Immunology Program are assured a full stipend, in addition to student fees, and non-resident tuition fees when applicable. Students are expected to become California residents as soon as possible. Every applicant should apply for a Graduate Division Fellowship on the form enclosed in the application packet. Students receive continued support provided they are making satisfactory progress. It is expected that students will complete their graduate work in about five years of full-time study.
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Summer Research Training Program (SRTP)
Laboratories in the Immunology program actively participate in the UCSF Summer Research Training Program. This is a 9-week program designed to give undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct research projects in UCSF laboratories.
More information about the program can be found at http://student.ucsf.edu/summerprogram/
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The program for graduate students consists of the following:
1. Theoretical training by formal course work in molecular and cellular immunology, tissue and organ biology, biochemistry, genetics and cellular biology.
2. An introduction to research through rotations in at least three faculty laboratories.
3. The selection of an advisor for research training leading to a Ph.D. thesis
4. Seminars given by visiting scientists
5. A journal club in which students present and analyze published research, as well as their own progress
6. An oral qualifying examination, which is taken at the end of the second year or early in the third year
7. An annual immunology program conference, where the research progress of each laboratory is discussed
8. Thesis research leading to a written thesisThe first year is devoted mainly to course work and laboratory rotations. In the second year, course work is decreased and the student's commitment to his/her own research increases. In the following years, the student is primarily engaged in full time research. It is anticipated that most students will complete their degree requirements in about 5 years.
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Our curriculum is designed to provide a solid foundation for thesis work in immunology. This course work will cover important areas related to the study of the immune system including cell biology, developmental biology, and genetics. Students work with their graduate advisor to select a schedule of both required and elective course work. Normally, six lecture courses (18 units) are taken in the first year and the normal course load per quarter for a first year student would be 2 courses and a laboratory rotation. The core Molecular and Cellular Immunology course is offered in the fall for first or second year students. Students may elect to take this course in the fall of their first year or second year. The spring quarter coursework is unique in that it involves the selection of three short mini-courses that provide a more in depth experience on specific topics that rotate yearly.
BMS 204. Molecular and Cellular Immunology. (Taken in Fall of First or Second Year)
This is the core course for the immunology graduate program. Each of 18 lectures will introduce a different aspect of immunology at a level accessible to students from all programs. Additional weekly small-group sessions will provide students with the opportunity to discuss selected landmark papers relevant to the week's lectures in greater depth. Topics to be covered include mechanisms of immunoglobulin rearrangements, cell biology of antigen presentation to T cells and of lymphocyte trafficking, antigen and cytokine receptor structure and signal transduction mechanisms, regulation of lymphocyte development and lymphocyte activation, mechanisms of cell-mediated killing of infected and neoplastic cells, whole organism immune response to infection, and diseases of the immune system, including allergy, autoimmunity, and AIDS.
BMS 225A Human Disease: Technologies & Biomedical Applications (fall).
This course combines lectures and workshops to introduce core concepts and tools used in biomedical and immunology research. A short series of lectures illustrate how tissues such as those of the immune system function in the context of the whole organism, and how dysfunction leads to disease. The workshops are a central part of the course and provide training in techniques such as Microscopy and Tissue analysis that are essential for study of the immune system. The course load is light and scheduled to allow BMS204 Molecular and Cellular Immunology to be taken concurrently.
BMS 260. Cell Biology. (fall)
This course provides immunology students with a solid foundation in cell biology. The scope of this course is to convey an understanding of the function and the organization of molecules and organelles inside and outside the cell, and how these are used to construct a multicellular tissue. Provides a critical foundation for understanding how immune cells divide, migrate, die, signal in response to antigens and cytokines, form immunological synapses, release cytolytic granules and secrete antibodies.
BMS 225B Tissue & Organ Biology (winter).
By providing cutting-edge training in developmental and stem cell biology, this course provides the immunology student with knowledge essential for understanding how the multiple hematopoietic lineages develop and how immune cells differentiate into effector and memory cells. Lectures and histology classes on pathobiological states of the major organ systems help illuminate how inflammation and tissue invasion by immune cells is a driving force in a myriad of disease from arthritis and lung disease to metabolic syndrome and cancer. There are lectures and small-group discussions of current papers from the literature.
BMS 255 Genetics (winter).
The use of genetic models and their analysis is central to many immunological investigations. With the rapid advances in genome analysis, remarkable new insights are emerging from genetic studies in humans and animal models of immunological disease. The pace and impact of these approaches makes it essential for the modern immunology student to have advanced training in genetics. The scope of this graduate level course is to convey an understanding of genomics and molecular genetics, use of genetic animal model systems and of the analytical principles of simple and complex human genetic traits.
BMS 270 Mini-Courses (spring).
The Immunology Program and BMS participate in a collaborative program with other UCSF graduate programs to offer a curriculum designed around mini-courses formatted as intensive, round-table discussions of current literature in specific topics. Students take three mini-courses lasting two to three weeks each during the spring quarter. BMS students must take two BMS mini-courses, and the third may be chosen from other program offerings depending on availability. BMS mini-courses include translational, single disease or organ systems topics. Topics will change every year but include several immunology-related offerings per year.
BMS 209. Advanced Topics in Immunology.
Discussion of selected areas in immunology. Topic varies from year to year but includes translational courses involving human disease and the immune system..
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Biochemistry 200A. Structure of Macromolecules.
Fundamental principles governing the behavior of, and modern techniques for study of biological macromolecules.
Biochemistry 201. Biological Regulatory Mechanisms.
The discovery of principles forming the foundation of molecular biology and recent advances in rapidly developing areas of field. Topics covered are RNA transcription and processing, protein translation, DNA replication, control mechanisms and genome structure and organization.
Biochemistry 246. Developmental Biology.
Modern aspects of cell biology and development with emphasis on structure-function relationships and multicellular organization.
Microbiology 208. Molecular Biology of Animal Viruses.
The nature of viruses: dynamics of virus-cell interaction with emphasis on animal virus systems, control of expression of virus-specific information in lytic and temperate infection and role of viruses in malignant transformation of cells.
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The graduate students select their research project in the area of one of the participating Immunology faculty or additional BMS faculty, generally at the end of the first year after completing three laboratory rotations.
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Each week, a faculty member, a postdoctoral fellow, or a student (under the sponsorship of a faculty member of his/her choice) presents a discussion of one or a few related articles published in research journals in the Immunology Journal Club. The article(s) should deal with research in molecular or cellular immunology, but more general topics in molecular or cell biology, genetics and evolution, and neurobiology are also welcome. Topics too close to one's own research specialty are not encouraged. After the fourth year, students have the option to give a research-in-progress talk.
This journal club is very well-attended and, together with the graduate course in Molecular and Cellular Immunology, forms the backbone of scientific exchange between faculty, students and postdoctoral fellows.
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Seminars and Seminar Workshops
The Immunology Program maintains a vigorous program of seminars by leading immunologists from outside UCSF to foster in-depth knowledge of the latest developments in immunology. The students and postdoctoral fellows also have the chance to meet with many of the most active researchers in the field, and, in doing so, also to establish scientific connections. All of the students and postdoctoral fellows are strongly encouraged to attend these seminars throughout their enrollment in the program.
1. Immunology Seminars
Scientists from outside UCSF present seminars once a week throughout the academic year. The trainees also benefit from seminar series in Biochemistry and in Biomedical Sciences.
2. Research Group Seminars
Each research group has a weekly discussion session in which members of the group present their experiments or discuss the latest literature pertinent to their own research. These sessions are informal but vigorous and critical, and are invaluable for getting suggestions for the research. They are also a rehearsal for more formal research seminars given to a larger audience.
3. Dissertation Seminars
The finishing student must present publicly his/her dissertation in a departmental seminar. These seminars are advertised to the entire campus, as well as to the local scientific community, and are usually well attended.
4. Immunology Program Conference
Each year, all the people participating in the Immunology Program have a conference. Principal investigators or members of his/her group give an overview of research in progress. In recent years, the Immunology conference has included the immunology group from UC Berkeley and has been held at the Granlibakken Conference Center in Lake Tahoe.
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During one quarter of their second year, students assist in the teaching of immunology courses offered by the Department.
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At the end of the first and second year, the Graduate Curriculum Committee meets individually with each student to discuss his/her plans and progress. The student is also judged on his/her performance in the courses, journal and research presentations and laboratory research.
The student then has to pass a qualifying examination. This consists of an oral examination and submission of two research proposals. One of the proposals centers on the student's thesis research while the other involves an immunological problem outside of his/her own research. The proposals must demonstrate a command of the literature pertinent to the research areas and the experimental strategies suggested for solving the problems. Four faculty members, excluding the student’s research preceptor, perform the evaluation. After passing the qualifying examination, the student's progress is monitored by a Thesis Advisory Committee at least once a year. This committee includes the thesis advisor and two other faculty members of the student's choice. A student can request a meeting of the Advisory Committee at any time.
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