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Immunology Program Web Site

The Immunology Graduate Program is specifically designed to provide strong training in cellular and molecular immunology, with an in-depth knowledge of the pathogenesis, diagnosis, prevention, treatment and epidemiology of diseases in which inflammation plays an important role. This approach, which we call Medically-oriented Research in Graduate Education-Inflammation (MERGE-INF), is unique, integrating clinical studies and patient contact throughout the training period.

The realization on the part of the scientific and medical communities that inflammation plays a role in many diseases, causing substantial morbidity and contributing to mortality, has fundamentally changed how we think about pathogenesis. Inflammation is directly involved in asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, stroke and psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, unipolar and bipolar depression, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Importantly, inflammation is involved in at least 8 of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States today. Given the prevalence of inflammation in the human population, it is clear that research in inflammatory disease and related mechanisms should be a major scientific and medical priority.

The faculty of the Immunology Program is drawn from multiple departments, including Cellular and Molecular Immunology, Developmental, Molecular & Chemical Biology, Medicine, and Molecular Biology & Microbiology. This diversity is a distinct strength of the Program, as it assures the student broad exposure to research topics and approaches. It also maximizes opportunities for a student to find a research faculty adviser to serve as thesis mentor. Students begin the program in the summer with introductory courses and by pairing with clinical mentors that provide direct contact with patients, their diseases and their physicians. This is a critical part of developing translational research approaches to health-related research. Five or six cases are examined in detail and include a variety of diseases, such as endocarditis, systemic lupus erythematosus, hepatitis, scleroderma and asthma. An associated problem-based learning course provides interactive training in the analysis of pathogenesis.

During the first academic year students complete an Introductory course in immunology, biochemistry, advanced cellular immunology, signaling in cells of the immune system and the genetic analysis of immune responses. Beyond the first-year Introduction to Immunology and Biochemistry courses, all courses are based on primary sources and are taught as interactive tutorials. Students also complete four laboratory rotations. These introduce the student to hands-on experience in a variety of techniques and research problems and familiarize them with potential thesis laboratories. Because of the flexibility designed into the program, a student may alter career objectives after admission.

An unusual feature of this program is that students take their qualifying examination at the end of the first year, allowing them to concentrate on their thesis research going forward. Students enter their labs at the beginning of year two. Each student has a clinical co-mentor who supplements basic science training with relevant clinical content until graduation.

The Immunology Program is dedicated to the premise that a diverse student body enriches the educational experience of all.

The Immunology Program aims to provide a supportive environment that helps each student realize his or her fullest potential. Students are encouraged to work hard, be creative and have the confidence to be exploratory, yet at the same time to understand that science flourishes in an atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration.

Upcoming Seminars

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Contact Information









Henry Wortis, MD
Program Director

Administrative Office
Stearns 514
Phone: 617-636-6836
Fax: 617-636-2990

Apply to the Sackler School


The priority application deadlines are as follows:

December 1: Basic Science Division PhD Programs

February 15: Building Diversity in Biomedical Sciences

March 31: Post-Baccalaureate Research Program

May 1: Clinical & Translational Science, MS in Pharmacology & Drug Development