Learning Outcomes for the Immunology Graduate Program

Graduate education in general | Post-baccalaureate education is an essential component in the development of future leaders, academicians, and scientists. The influence of graduate education on society reaches essentially all aspects of our lives including our safety, economy, health, and overall quality of life.

Immunology program in specific | The immune system has evolved to defend host organisms against the vast number of foreign agents that may be encountered throughout life and that are capable of compromising health and leading to possible death. A doctoral education in Immunology specifically trains individuals to not only define the mechanisms by which the immune system accomplishes this task but also to establish possible interventions that preclude, attenuate or neutralize these threats.

The PhD program in immunology trains graduate students to become proficient and successful investigators who are able to:

  • Demonstrate a basic knowledge of central concepts in the biomedical sciences.
  • Understand the current concepts in immunology.
  • Read and critically evaluate the scientific literature.
  • Formulate hypotheses based on current concepts in the field and design, conduct, and interpret their own research projects.
  • Present research results in peer-reviewed publications and in a dissertation.
  • Communicate research results effectively through oral presentations at scientific seminars, conferences, and other venues.
  • Write a competitive application for research funding.
  • Develop ancillary skills, where necessary, to obtain positions outside of scientific research.




All students are required to enroll in a comprehensive cell and molecular biology core course taken in the fall semester of the first year.

Other required courses that are program-specific include a graduate level general immunology course taken in the first year and a series of special topics courses completed in the second year that explore in depth a range of specific areas including tumor immunology, clinical immunology, signal transduction and host response to infection.

Additionally, students are required to complete a professional training course, which presents important ethical, social and practical aspects of science as a career, including presentation preparation, scientific writing, ethics, and interview skills.

The required courses are outlined below


BMSC 7806 | Biomedical Sciences Core Course 1 | Fall, 6 credits

BMSC 7810 | Core Topics in Biomedical Sciences – Topics A | Fall, 2 credits

BMSC 7810 | Core Topics in Biomedical Sciences –Topics B | Fall, 2 credits

IMMU 7650 (001) | Research in Immunology (lab rotations) | Fall, 1 credit

IMMU 7650 (002) | Research in Immunology (lab rotations) | Fall, 1 credit

BIOS 6606 | Statistics for Basic Science | Fall, 3 credits

IMMU 7650 (001) | Research in Immunology (lab rotations) | Spring, 1 credit

IMMU 7662 | Immunology | Spring, 6 credits

IMMU 8990 | Doctoral Thesis | Summer, 1 credit




IMMU 7607 | Science as a Profession (including ethics) | Fall, 1 credit

IMMU 7650 (0V3) | Research in Immunology (Lab – Semester) | Fall, 3 credits


Choose 2 of 5 elective courses

IMMU 7602 | Special Topics in Cancer Immunology | Fall Alternate Years, 1 credit

IMMU 7603 | Special Topics in Clinical Immunology | Spring, 1 credit

IMMU 7604 | Special Topics in Leukocyte Receptor Structure and Signal Transduction | Fall Alternate Years, 1 credit

IMMU 7608 | Special Topics in Immunology of Infection | Spring Alternate Years, 1 credit

IMMU 7609 | Special Topics in Autoimmunity | Spring Alternate Years, 1 credit


IMMU 7605 | Workshop in Scientific Writing | Spring, 1 credit

IMMU 7650 (OV3) | Research in Immunology (Lab Semester) | Spring, 2-4 credits

IMMU 8990 | Doctoral Thesis | Summer, 1 credit




IMMU 8990 | Doctoral Thesis | Fall/Spring, 5 credits

IMMU 8990 | Doctoral Thesis | Summer, 1 credit (5**)


** If defending                



Preliminary Exam

At the end of the first year, graduate students take a written preliminary exam meant to test the academic progress they have made in their first year, based on graduate core curriculum and required Immunology coursework.

Comprehensive Exam

Immunology students prepare an NIH R21-like research proposal and must successfully orally defend this in a qualifying exam (comprehensive exam) at the end of their second year in order to advance to candidacy for the PhD degree. The topic for the exam is related to the student’s PhD thesis. The student receives guidance in how to write their proposal both through formal instruction in IMMU 7605 and through interactions and feedback with the exam committee chair, who coordinates the exams and with four other faculty evaluates the student in the exam.

Research-in-Progress (RIP)

A major component of our Immunology training program is the weekly Research-in-Progress (RIP) presentations in which graduate students, 2nd years and above, give a 30-minute presentation of their current work. Currently this RIP forum is held every Wednesday (September-June) at 10:30 am with two individuals speaking for 30 minutes. These RIP presentations are presented at the Anschutz Campus’ Hensel Phelps East auditorium and National Jewish Health’s Heitler Hall. The Immunology Program considers this an extremely important venue for our students. All program students are expected to attend.  Click here to see the current schedule.

Journal Club

Immunology students participate in a weekly journal club, guided and moderated by graduate students in the Immunology Program. Each week, one student will present a brief summary of a student-selected journal article, presents data, and offers interpretation of figures. Other Immunology students attend and participate in a guided discussion of the journal article. This is required for all second year and above Immunology Graduate Students.

Lab Rotations

Laboratory skills are necessary for successful completion of PhD programs in the biomedical sciences. A minimum of three laboratory rotations are required for first-year Immunology students. These rotations run concurrently with student enrollment in first year graduate coursework. First-year students identify and discuss potential faculty mentors for these rotations and discuss these with the Graduate Program Director prior to scheduling the rotation. Faculty trainers are typically selected from the list of Current Immunology Graduate Program Faculty. Rotations with faculty not currently listed as trainers may be considered in consultation with the Program Director. However, appointment as a trainer is required for a faculty member to mentor a PhD thesis student in the Immunology Program. Such appointment requires approval of the Steering Committee and is subject to a regular evaluation process that ensures faculty privileged to train students are active participants in the program and comply with program policies. Students begin their first rotation early in the fall semester.

Thesis Research

Thesis mentors and thesis projects are selected by mutual consent of the student and the training faculty member. The selection of a PhD thesis mentor occurs at the end of the first year (typically in May). Thesis research projects are developed and agreed upon by the mentor and student with an eye towards giving the student opportunities to master scientific techniques, learn about experimental design and interpretation, and to develop skills in scientific writing and presentation.

The thesis project should also advance mechanistic knowledge in the field of Immunology. The scope of a thesis project may evolve over the course of the thesis but should be completed within a 3 to 5 year time period.

A committee of faculty members is selected by the student with input from the mentor to assist in overseeing the development and progression of the thesis project and the student’s progress in the training program. This committee is assembled in the fall of second year and typically holds its first meeting before February 1. The thesis committee composition must include at least four faculty with appointments in the Graduate School, at least three (and a majority) of whom are regular training faculty in the Immunology Program. Immunology graduate students are expected to schedule a meeting with their thesis committee at six-month intervals. The thesis committee meeting is attended by the faculty mentor. The thesis committee format includes a discussion of the student’s progress in the training program, achievements toward the student’s stated career goals, and a presentation by the student of their thesis research progress and plans.

A requirement for Immunology PhD graduate students is that they publish their thesis work as first author in a peer-reviewed journal before graduation. The thesis committee, mentor, and Steering Committee may amend this requirement in specific individual situations.

Upon approval by their thesis committee, students write their thesis and present the work to the Immunology community in an open seminar format, followed by a closed oral defense.

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