Breck Duerkop

Breck A. Duerkop, PhD

Associate Professor and Director, Microbiology Graduate Program

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Sabrena A. Heilman, MBA

Principal Program Administrator, Immunology Graduate Program

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The Graduate Program in Microbiology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is a PhD program that prepares students to contribute to an understanding of microbial species, including archaea, bacteria, fungi, helminths, protozoa, and viruses, and their positive and negative roles in the health of humans. Despite progress and breakthroughs in public health, vaccination, therapeutics, and antibiotics, there are many ongoing and emerging challenges in the prevention and treatment of infectious disease. As we continue to learn about the complex populations of organisms that surround us and colonize us, rigorous training of future young investigators in microbiology will continue to be essential to human health. The principle aim of the Graduate Program in Microbiology is to help produce the next generation of microbiologists to address unsolved and arising questions in basic and translational microbiology research.

The Graduate Program in Microbiology provides advanced training and education for students with the desire and ability to thrive in a stimulating, research-oriented graduate program leading to careers in science in the academic, governmental, or private sectors. Close individual attention is given by the faculty to the needs and training of each graduate student. The Microbiology Program faculty includes members of the Departments of Immunology and Microbiology, Medicine, Neurology, Pediatrics, and Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. Faculty research interests include molecular mechanisms of bacterial and viral pathogenesis, the molecular biology of microbial gene expression, pathogen-host interactions, innate and adaptive immune responses to infection, mechanisms of immune evasion, the role of the microbiome in health and disease, structural biology, and development of novel therapeutics and vaccines.

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Microbiology Graduate Program Statistics

  • 40 training faculty members
  • 30 PhD students currently enrolled
  • ~300 students enrolled in various PhD programs at the Anschutz Medical Campus; students in these programs share many educational and scientific activities, as well as social and intramural sporting activities


  • The Graduate Program in Microbiology is committed to diversity and equality in the recruitment and retention of students to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. We actively seek persons from populations underrepresented in the biomedical sciences, which include, but are not limited to, underrepresented ethnic minorities, disabled persons, and those students who are disadvantaged, from rural areas, and/or first-time-in-family college graduates. Resources for these students are available through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the CU Disability Resources and Services.
  • For undergraduate students from underrepresented groups who are currently considering a research career in the biomedical sciences, the University of Colorado has a number of Summer Research Internship Programs.
  • The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has a long tradition of fostering diversity among its students, faculty, and staff. The metropolitan Denver community also has a rich diversity of ethnic backgrounds and cultures.

Learning Outcomes

The PhD program in Microbiology 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 current concepts in microbiology.
  • 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 academic research.

Student Support

Students accepted in the Microbiology PhD program are provided full tuition, health and dental insurance, and a stipend of $37,000 per year for living expenses (for the academic year 2023-2024). Continued support is contingent upon satisfactory academic and research performance by the student. When a student enters a thesis lab, the thesis mentor assumes complete responsibility for the student’s stipend, tuition, fees, and associated research costs.

Student Handbook

Microbiology Graduate Program Handbook 2023-2024

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