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PhD Training Program in Microbiology and Immunology

Graduate Training Program in Microbiology and Immunology

The graduate program in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology provides a well-integrated curriculum designed to train students to become independent researchers in cellular, biochemical and molecular aspects of immunology, virology, and bacteriology.  In general students in the department complete their Ph.D. program within a period of 5-6 years.

The great majority of the coursework is completed within the first academic year, enabling students to begin their dissertation projects in the subsequent summer.  The most important element in our graduate program is training students how to effectively design and conduct a research project that leads to publication in the scientific literature. The quality of a person's track record of publication constitutes the main criterion by which success is measured in a research career. As evidenced by the strong publication record of our students and the quality of their subsequent career growth, our program has been very successful in developing these skills in students. In large part, our success has been dependent upon the strong mentoring skills of the faculty.

Another important aspect of our graduate training is to help our students secure the best possible position at the next step in their careers, which is usually a postdoctoral fellowship. The choice of postdoctoral position is a critically important element for success, since it is usually from a postdoctoral fellowship position that our graduates seek independent positions in the academic, government or commercial sectors.  Help and advice in choosing the appropriate postdoctoral position to match a student’s career goals is a high priority for every faculty member who serves as a mentor for our students.

Program Requirements

Coursework: Students in the program are required to take the three elective courses offered by the department: bacteriology, immunology and virology.  If these were not completed in the first year they can be taken in year two following entry into the program.  In years two and three, students also participate in Advanced Topics, a literature-based, discussion-oriented course in which students present and critique current research articles. As a part of this course, students receive training in grant-writing and review. 

Candidacy Examination: Students who have taken two semesters of Advanced Topics and have no less than a 3.0 GPA are eligible to take the PhD Candidacy Examination.  The student's Thesis Advisory Committee will serve as the Candidacy Committee.  Each student will prepare a research grant proposal on his/her proposed thesis work using the current NIH grant proposal format. The proposal is written in consultation with the advisor or any other resource person.  The student will submit the proposal to the Candidacy Committee at least two weeks prior to the examination date. The examination will be scheduled to occur prior to August 15th of the second year. 

Thesis defense: The Thesis Committee will consist of the members of the Advisory Committee.  The Chairperson of the committee shall be from another department.  The thesis defense will consist of a formal seminar on the thesis research presented by the student to the committee and other members of the University community.  This is  followed by a question period with the committee. The committee will provide an evaluation of the thesis defense according to the guidelines of the Graduate School.

Seminar series: Students attend the weekly departmental seminar series.  Research conferences on immunology, bacteriology, and virology are presented by invited faculty from other institutions.  In addition, students in the third year and beyond present research progress seminars in this venue.

Teaching requirement: As part of the training as teachers, each student will present a lecture to graduate students during their fourth year of training. The student may request to lecture in the core Bacteriology, Virology, or Immunology courses, or to direct a session of the Advanced Topics course.  The student will work with their advisor and the course director on the development of the lecture. 

Application for Admission

Students apply and enter through the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences interdisciplinary program

Quick Reference

Dr. David Ornelles, Recruitment Director

Office Phone 336-716-9332


Microbiology & Immunology 
Wake Forest School of Medicine 
Medical Center Boulevard 
Winston-Salem, NC 27157
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