Immunology & Microbial PathogenesisOverview

Immunology and microbial pathogenesis are exciting fields of research. Once a stand-alone discipline, immunology has evolved into a multi-focus science that today involves many facets of biology and medicine. The rich nomenclature in current use in immunology, which employs such terms as "Tumor"- "Molecular"- "Cellular"-"Developmental" and "host-pathogen” and “host-commensal microbiota” relationships, reflects this diversity. Conversely, the qualifier in "immuno-therapy" or "immuno-modulation" signifies integration into medical practice, coming full circle to the origin of immunology as the science of vaccination.



The Immunology & Microbial Pathogenesis (IMP) PhD program at Weill Cornell Graduate School (WCGS) draws together a diverse faculty who seek to understand how the immune system works both as a unique entity as well as an integral part of higher organisms. Various IMP faculty members are as much at home in cell biology, biochemistry, development, genetics, structural biology, bioinformatics, and systems biology as they are in their own chosen specialties in immunology or microbial pathogenesis.


IMP faculty are members of the Graduate School's partner institutions, Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC) and Sloan-Kettering Institute (SKI, part of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center). Some IMP faculty are affiliated with the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), a leading rheumatology and orthopedics institute adjacent to and closely affiliated with WCMC.


With its broad base, IMP offers an unusually rich training ground for the next generation of immunologists. Major areas of focus are microbial immunity, tumor immunology, molecular and cellular immunology, lymphocyte and leukocyte biology, autoimmunity and inflammation. The clinical relevance of these endeavors, together with the clinical partnerships, in which our three research institutions participate, create strong motivation and opportunity for translational research.


Because of its complexity, modern immunology poses the challenge of presenting a sufficiently comprehensive curriculum for its students. IMP meets this challenge by drawing its faculty from the basic science and clinical departments of its participating institutions. This collective expertise enables IMP to provide its students with high-quality, broad-based education necessary for their development as independent scientists.


IMP's philosophy of granting students maximum academic freedom encourages them to gain needed additional experience outside the framework of traditional immunology. Career goals may lead a student to work with, and choose as a mentor, a Graduate School faculty member from any of the participating institutions (WMC, SKI, and HSS) and from any of the seven graduate programs.


The program's curriculum likewise reflects a commitment to academic independence. While the first year of study is spent with didactic courses in immunology and cell biology, all classes are followed by student-run discussion groups. Laboratory rotations complement formal classroom learning. Students may take graduate courses offered by any other WCGS program as well as a course in Microbial Pathogenesis offered jointly with another neighbor, The Rockefeller University.


IMP students continue a balanced academic curriculum throughout their thesis research. Mini-courses in advanced immunology with rotating topics ensure that students keep abreast of new developments. A rich palette of seminars by invited speakers offers similar opportunities. Students also organize research-in-progress discussions of their own thesis projects. As a graduate program of intermediate size, IMP has a favorable student/mentor ratio of close to 1 to 1. The accessibility and openness of faculty make for exceptional community spirit, fostering scientific independence and simultaneously preparing young scientists for the necessary collaborative endeavors ahead.

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