Cell Biology, Immunology and Microbiology

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Rance E. Berg, PhD,
Graduate Advisor
Research and Education Building, Room 416E
Phone: 817-735-2121
E-mail: Rance.Berg@unthsc.edu

Infectious diseases have a major impact on health around the world. New infectious agents have emerged, and diseases caused by known pathogens have reestablished themselves. Many of these infections result in life-threatening diseases. To complicate matters, many of these infectious agents have developed resistance to antibiotics routinely used in treatments. Thus, prevention and treatment of these infections are of tremendous importance. The development of new antibiotics and vaccines is dependent on an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms of disease caused by these organisms and their basic biology.

Immunology is the study of the defense mechanisms of the host against infectious pathogens, cancers and other pathologic conditions. By inducing immune responses, as in the case of vaccines, infection and disease can be prevented. Enhancement of appropriate immune responses can also result in the destruction of cancer cells. The study of the immune response during autoimmune diseases is another important aspect of immunological research. Understanding the complexities of the host immune response has tremendous potential for the development of new treatments to prevent or recover from cancer and infectious disease.

Faculty members of the Cell Biology, Immunology, and Microbiology graduate program maintain active and productive research programs with special emphasis on cellular and molecular biology, infectious disease, microbiology, virology, and immunology. Specific research interests of the faculty include regulation of prokaryotic and eukaryotic gene expression; T cell and NK cell biology; function of antigen presenting cells; host response to respiratory, intestinal, and systemic infections; cellular and molecular mechanisms of HIV pathology and neuroinflammation; tumor immunology; host-microbiome interactions; regulation and function of cytokines; and vaccine development. Faculty programs are funded by extramural sources including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Texas Higher Education Board Advanced Research Program.

The graduate training program involves core courses in microbiology and immunology, molecular cell biology, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, as well as advanced courses. Students participate in seminars and discussions of current research and receive extensive training in techniques of contemporary cell biology, microbiology, molecular biology, and immunology. Utilizing state of the art technologies, students perform original, publishable research and present their research findings at national and international scientific meetings. Approximately two years are required to complete the Master of Science degree while the Doctor of Philosophy degree is typically completed in approximately five years.

Graduates with advanced degrees from the Cell Biology, Immunology, and Microbiology graduate program find employment in higher education, industry, and government agencies.

Advancement to Doctoral Candidacy

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination ensures that the doctoral student has mastered information needed to succeed as a PhD in the fields of cell biology, immunology, and microbiology. A list of key topics, compiled by the faculty, will be distributed to the student prior to the qualifying examination. The student is expected to become knowledgeable in each of these topics through their previous course work, reading of textbooks and scientific literature, and discussion with faculty members.

A committee comprised of members of the Cell Biology, Immunology, and Microbiology graduate program and the student’s university member administers the qualifying examination.

The qualifying examination will typically be administered in the spring or summer of the second year of study. Two attempts to successfully pass the qualifying examination are allowed. Failure of the student to pass the qualifying examination results in dismissal of the student from the doctoral program. A doctoral student who does not pass may be allowed to complete the requirements for a Master of Science degree.

Grant Writing (BMSC 6310)

Successful completion of Grant Writing (BMSC 6310) requires the preparation and oral defense of an original NIH-style grant proposal. BMSC 6310 should be registered for during first long semester after completing the oral qualifying exam.

The graduate advisor will serve as the examination coordinator and select an examination committee consisting of five graduate faculty. One of the faculty will serve as the committee chair. The student’s major professor may not serve as a committee member. The student’s university member will oversee the entire examination process.

The graduate advisor will instruct the student on the regulations of the course. The student should submit a report which presents the hypothesis, experimental strategy and specific aims for the proposal to the examination committee by mid-semester. The proposal must consist of the student’s original ideas and is expected to significantly extend scientific knowledge in the chosen research area if the proposed experiments were conducted. The student may write his/her grant on their current or proposed dissertation research. The committee must approve this summary of the research proposal.

The student must prepare a detailed written report of the research proposal in NIH R21 format after the summary has been approved. The final proposal will be prepared and presented to the committee at least two weeks prior to the oral defense. The grant proposal and presentation will be evaluated on the basis of originality, experimental design, and data interpretation as well as the ability of the student to synthesize and communicate this information, both written and orally.

If the proposal and defense are satisfactory, the committee will recommend that the student be advanced to candidacy. Two attempts to successfully complete Grant Writing (BMSC 6310) will be allowed. Failure to pass Grant Writing (BMSC 6310) will result in dismissal from the doctoral program. In this case, a student may be allowed to complete the requirements for a Master of Science degree.

Contacts in Situations of Uncertainty or Emergency 

Graduate Program in Microbiology and Immunology, Department of Molecular Biology & Immunology,

Main Office Phone: 817-735-2414, Office: RES-402, 416

Graduate Advisor:

Rance Berg, Ph.D.
Office:     RES-416E
Lab:        RES-424, 426
Phone:    (817) 735-2121
Email:     Rance.Berg@unthsc.edu

Graduate Secretary:

Jacklyn Crisp
Office:     RES-416M
Phone:    (817) 735-2131
Email:     Jacklyn.Crisp@unthsc.edu

Click here for pdf of the Microbiology and Immunology Student Handbook 2012-2013