Coursework

Coursework

Today's Immunology is a highly interdisciplinary area, with investigations that go from isolating a gene that modifies the immune response to making or using knockout and transgenic mice, identifying specific antigenic peptides, to defining the phenotype using current approaches in cell and molecular biology.  Therefore, to conduct cutting-edge and top-quality research in immunology, the students need to be prepared in general cell and molecular biology, as well as some genetics.  The Immunology Training Program emphasizes course work that gives in-depth exposure to contemporary topics in immunology, along with a general cell and molecular biology training.

The goal of our coursework is to provide a strong foundation in modern cellular and molecular biology and a comprehensive understanding of the immune system, its structure and function. Beyond simply absorbing information, our coursework develops student skills in analytical thinking, experimental design, grant and paper writing, and oral communication. BIMS has established a curricular structure that provides a uniform experience for all graduate students in Fall year 1 (Y1). It balances traditional emphasis on didactic coursework with early laboratory research experience (see figure below).  The School of Medicine has renovated exceptional space for the BIMS program that serves as a classroom, seminar room, and focal point for interactions among BIMS students in their 1st year and beyond. Semester long courses have largely disappeared, and have been replaced by half-semester course modules. All BIMS students take a new “core” course (BIMS 6000 - Core Course in Integrative Biosciences). This is a fully immersive, 12-week comprehensive survey of cell and molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry, and the integration and practical reinforcement of these core areas. Didactic sessions are combined with small group interactive sessions that are designed to teach students to think and communicate science, learn about broad experimental approaches, read, integrate and manage scientific literature, develop evaluative and analytical skills, identify important problems and ask good questions.

The experience of ITP trainees is enriched by 5 required course modules and a flow cytometry training component that are specialized and distinguish the ITP from all other graduate and medical school training programs.

 

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Basic Modules

Building Blocks of the Immune System (MICR 8200) assumes a basic background in immunology and provides detailed coverage of the different components of adaptive and innate immunity. It focuses on development and molecular pathways regulating the immune system. Lectures and readings provide background material but focus on experimental approaches to study the immune system and emphasize discussions of recent literature. It meets 3 times per week for 1.5 hours for half a semester.  To see the current syllabus click here.

Integration and Diversification in the Immune System (MICR 8202) covers how the components of the immune system are integrated and how this integration influences further maturation and differentiation under physiological and patho-physiological conditions. Responses to different types of pathogens are described and discussed. Lectures and readings provide background material but focus on experimental approaches to study the immune system and emphasize discussions of recent literature. It meets 3 times per week for 1.5 hours for half a semester. MICR 8200 is a pre-requisite.  To see the current syllabus click here.

 

Advanced Modules

Current Topics in Immunology (MICR 8204) examines topical issues in Immunology in a journal club/round-table discussion format. Two to three topics are chosen each semester and taught by different ITP mentors. Literature readings are chosen to highlight both fundamental conceptual advances and recent progress relevant to each topic. While faculty provide introduction, background, and amplification at each session, trainees are responsible for reading all papers, presentation, and discussion. At the request of our trainees and in consultation with the course directors, advanced students and postdoctoral fellows have taken responsibility for selecting one of the topics, and have served as lecturers and discussion leaders, providing them with teaching exposure. Their performance is evaluated by the course director or other ITP mentors. This course meets twice a week for 1.5 hours for half a semester.  Syllabus will be posted soon.

Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology (Path 8280) provides students with an introduction to clinical conditions caused by aberrant performance of the immune system. In 2013 the focus was diseases associated with aberrant IgE production (primary immune deficiency and allergic disorders) and autoimmunity. The course provides an understanding of the clinical presentations and their underlying pathological and immune dysfunctions. Discussion centers on contemporary immune research that address critical components of each disease’s pathogenesis using current literature. This course meets twice a week for 1.5 hours for half a semester.  To see the current syllabus click here.

Tumors and the Immune System (PATH 8300). This module provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the extensive interactions between the immune system and neoplasia. The course focuses on discussion of contemporary literature, and will require students to have a strong knowledge of innate and adaptive immunity. This course meets twice a week for 1.5 hours for half a semester.  To see the current syllabus  click here.

Flow cytometry workshop. We now expect all trainees will complete an intensive workshop in Flow Cytometry offered by the Core Facility director, Joanne Lannigan, which includes both didactic and hands-on elements.

Other coursework. Additional requirements in Spring Y1 include Research Ethics (BIMS 7100, to see syllabus, click here) and a journal club style colloquium in which students present. To fulfill curriculum requirements of both the GSAS and the chosen department, and to meet their evolving research interests, our trainees complete their formal course work by selecting one or more courses from a series of advanced elective courses in an area of interest. This coursework is chosen in consultation with the trainee's thesis advisor and the training program Graduate Advisory Committee. One of many advantages of our curriculum is the opportunity to expand additional specialized course offerings for ITP students. For example, students interested in immunity to infection usually take MICR 8400/8401 (Molecular Principles of Bacteriology and Virology/Microbial Pathogenesis) in Spring Y1, or in Y2. Students interested in immunity to Cancer usually take MICR 8040/8044 (Fundamentals in Cancer Biology/Cancer Signaling and Therapeutics).  To view a comprehensive pdf of advanced elective courses offered to our trainees click here.