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Welcome to The MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences graduate program in Immunology. The Immunology Graduate Program is designed to provide high-quality, comprehensive education and research training in the exciting field of immunology, allowing graduates to successfully pursue careers as independent investigators in academia or industry.

Course Requirements

In addition to general GSBS course requirements, the Immunology Program has the following course requirements and electives:

Course Requirements for PhD students who matriculated in or after 2021

  • Required courses
    • GS06 1013 Fundamental Immunology (formerly Immunology I)
    • GS06 1103 Emerging Concepts in Immunology (formerly Immunology II)
  • Two or more elective courses for a total of 4 or more hours are required. Program Directors and the student’s advisory members can assist the student in choosing elective(s). The following courses are recommended but others may be taken to meet the educational goals of the student's training program:
      • GS04 1235 Basic and Translational Cancer Biology
      • GS04 1093 The Biology of Cancer Metastasis
      • GS04 1253 Principles of Genetics and Epigenetics
      • GS13 1024 Molecular Basis of Cell Signaling
      • GS04 1103 Principles of Therapeutics
      • GS06 1132 Application of Tumor Immunology in the Clinical Setting
      • GS01 1041 Computational Approaches for Single-Cell Data Analysis
      • GS01 1223 Practical Computational Genetics and Bioinformatics
      • GS01 1143 Introduction to Bioinformatics
      • GS04 1072 Principles of Stem Cell Biology

    Course Requirements for PhD students who matriculated before 2021

    • Required courses
      • GS06 1013 Fundamental Immunology (formerly Immunology I)
      • GS06 1103 Emerging Concepts in Immunology (formerly Immunology II)
    • One or two electives from the above elective list are required (2 credit hours total). Program Directors and the student’s advisory members can assist the student in choosing elective(s). 

    Course Requirements for MS students

    • Required courses
      • GS06 1013 Fundamental Immunology (formerly Immunology I)
      • GS06 1103 Emerging Concepts in Immunology (formerly Immunology II)

    Course Descriptions

    • Application of Tumor Immunology in the Clinical Setting
      Course Detail

      GS06 1132 (2 credits)

      Naing, Aung.  Two semester hours. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: Previous immunology course such as Immunology or consent of the instructor prior to enrollment.

      This course builds upon basic immunology to provide a foundation for tumor immunology as it is applied in the clinical setting.  Graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and medical residents/fellows who participate in this course will gain an understanding of immune surveillance, tumor markers, human tumor immune responses, novel cancer immunotherapeutics, and regulatory process and clinical trial design for cancer immunotherapeutics.

    • Basic and Translational Cancer Biology
      Course Detail

      GS04 1235 (5 credits)

      Hu, Jian; Ying, Haoqing.  Five semester hours. Spring, annually. Grading System:  Letter Grade. Prerequisite: None. Audit Permitted. 

      The Cancer Biology Core course will synthesize knowledge of critical aspects in human cancer biology for understanding disease development, multidimensional molecular signatures, diagnostics, and therapeutics.     

      Curriculum Committee Commended Course for Academic Year 2020-2021

    • Computational Approaches for Single-Cell Data Analysis
      Course Detail

      GS01 1041 (1 credits)
      Spring and Fall

      Chen, Ken; Navin, Nicholas; Wang, Wenyi. One semester hour. Spring and Fall annually. Grading System: Pass/Fail. Prerequisite: None. Audit permitted.

      This course aims to provide the central concepts and background knowledge required for experimental design and analysis of single-cell studies.  The format combines journal club and seminar series formats, with an organized reading of landmark papers in single-cell omics technologies, high-dimensional data analysis (including transformation, visualization, and clustering), statistical inference, statistical modeling, and phylogenetics, among other possible topics. There will be participant presentations and discussion sessions.  At the end of the course, students will be able to think critically about single-cell studies and understand their applications in cancer research and other disciplines.

      Schedule can be found here

    • Emerging Concepts in Immunology
      Course Detail

      GS06 1103 (3 credits)

      Wenzel, Pamela. Three semester hours. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: Fundamental Immunology (GS06 1013) or consent of instructor. Audit Permitted.

      The chief objective of this course is to teach students about recent discoveries and techniques used in the field of immunology. Students will critically evaluate and present publications from top-tier journals under the guidance of leading experts in the selected fields. Topic areas include basic, translational, and clinical studies in antigen processing, lymphokines, complement, tumor microenvironment, T and B lymphocytes, vaccines and adjuvants, immunotherapy, CAR T cells, and monoclonal antibodies. The course generally runs for 10 weeks with two meetings per week for 2 hours each session

    • Fundamental Immunology
      Course Detail

      GS06 1013 (3 credits)

      Yoshimoto, Momoko. Three semester hours. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisites: Undergraduate-level Biology and Biochemistry courses plus a basic knowledge of cellular and molecular biology.

      Topics covered in this lecture series include anatomy and development of the immune system; structure, function and genetics of antibodies; T-cell antigen receptors; functions and cooperative interactions of lymphoid cells; structure and function of molecules encoded by the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC); lymphokines and their receptors; cellular interaction molecules; and specific immunological tolerance.  Medically-related subjects that will be covered from a basic science perspective include immunopathology, immunodeficiency, allergy and other hypersensitivities, autoimmunity, organ transplantation, tumor immunology, and AIDS.  

    • Introduction to Bioinformatics
      Course Detail

      GS01 1143 (3 credits)
      Spring and Fall

      Chen, Ken and Navin, Nicholas. Three-credit hour. Fall and Spring annually. Grading System: Letter Grade.

      This course is intended to be an introduction to concepts and methods in bioinformatics with a focus on analyzing data merging from high throughput experimental pipelines such as next-gen sequencing. Students will be exposed to algorithms and software tools involved in various aspects of data processing and biological interpretation. Though some prior programming experience is highly recommended, it is not a requirement.

    • Molecular Basis of Cell Signaling
      Course Detail

      GS13 1024 (4 credits)

      Du, Guangwei.  Four semester hours. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisites: Background in biochemistry and cell biology; Consent of instructor.

      This course provides a detailed exploration of the molecular basis of cell signaling with emphasis on recent developments, structure-function, and quantitation.  The course will include both the regulation of second messenger systems (GPCRs, G proteins, cAMP, IP3 and lipid), ion channels, growth factor-regulated tyrosine kinases, small G proteins (ras, GEFs, Gaps), kinase/phosphatase pathways, steroid hormones/transcription, and the modeling of these systems. 

    • Principles of Genetics and Epigenetics
      Course Detail

      GS04 1253 (3 credits)

      Fornage, Myriam; Krahe, Ralf; Santos, Margarita . Three-semester hour. Spring annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: GS21 1017/18: Foundations of Biomedical Research. Audit permitted. 

      The Principles of Genetics and Epigenetics class is designed for students who have a major interest in the aspects of epigenetics, experimental and human genetics.  Students are required to have completed the core course. This class will provide in-depth instruction on four areas: 1) Experimental genetics, 2) Human genetics, 3) Epigenetics, 4) Functional bioinformatics.  The class will be held three times a week for one hour and students are expected to actively participate in the course by initiating discussions, asking questions, and providing constructive comments.  Students will be evaluated by attendance, participation, and performance on a mid-term and final examination.  This course is designed to prepare the student to generate novel hypothesis-driven projects in the areas of genetics and epigenetics.

    • Principles of Stem Cell Biology
      Course Detail

      GS04 1072 (2 credits)

      Davis, Brian and Yoshimoto, Momoko. Two semester hours. Spring,  annually. Prerequisite: consent of instructor

      Stem cells, be they embryonic or somatic, play crucial roles in the development and functional maintenance of individual organ systems and complete organisms. As has already been well demonstrated for the blood-forming system through bone marrow transplantation, stem cells can be utilized clinically for treatment of genetic or acquired diseases. The next couple of decades will undoubtedly provide many more successful clinical applications of stem cells in regenerative medicine. Stem cells may also play critical roles themselves in the initiation and maintenance of certain diseases, such as cancer. This course will provide a present-day understanding of the precise definition, molecular characterization, and biological function of stem cells. Our focus will primarily be on fundamental issues regarding stem cells, as well as on their wide range of potential future applications. Completion of this course will adequately prepare students to both identify and understand fundamental issues in current stem cell research, as well as to contribute themselves to advancing this field through research.

    • Principles of Therapeutics
      Course Detail

      GS04 1103 (3 credits)

      Zhang, Shuxing. Three semester hour. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: undergraduate level biochemistry and biology.

      This course will establish a foundation in the principles of therapeutics, lectured by >35 experts including 1/3 basic research faculty, 1/3 clinical faculty, and 1/3 pharma/biotech industry veterans. It starts with discussions on disease processes, through therapy development, then to clinical translation. The course is grouped into a series of general topics. The first topic includes disease mechanisms in microbial, viral, fungal, neurodegenerative, and malignant settings in order to better understand the nature of the problems. The second topic focuses on the development of lead molecules and drug design, including x-ray crystallography, molecular modeling, hit identification, lead optimization, and pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic studies. The third topic puts emphasis on drug screening methodologies, including high-throughput/content technologies and molecular imaging as well as in vitro and in vivo preclinical model systems. The fourth topic covers different therapeutic modalities and improved drug delivery systems. It also describes the latest development of immunotherapy, cell therapy, gene therapy, and stem cell transplantation. The fifth topic focuses on the identification of novel molecular targeting strategies and efforts toward individualization of therapy with state-of-the-art –omics technologies and biomarker development. The final topic group focuses on translating therapeutic strategies to the clinic, including the phases of preclinical studies, clinical trial design and execution, and regulatory considerations. There will be three exams; each constitutes 33.33% of the final grade.  The exam structure is essay based.

      Curriculum Committee Commended Course for Academic Year 2020-2021

    • The Biology of Cancer Metastasis
      Course Detail

      GS04 1093 (3 credits)

      Frigo, Daniel; Li, Wenliang.  Three semester hours. Fall, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

      A didactic introductory level course entirely dedicated to the study of the cellular biological processes that underpin cancer metastasis. This course will cover basic, translational, and clinical knowledge, with specific emphases on the metastatic cascade: seed and soil hypothesis, organ-specific metastasis, cell cycle and metastasis, multiple therapies for various metastatic cancers, and will address the process of taking basic research to the clinic (‘bench-to-bedside') for major metastatic human cancers. 

      This is a prerequisite course for cancer biology students in the cancer discovery track.

    Doctoral Candidacy Exam Requirements

    1. Program students must submit their candidacy exam documents (abstract, GSBS form) to the GSBS Academic Standards Committee (ASC) before the end of their second year. Once the abstract has been accepted by the ASC, the student is given a timeline for preparation of their full written proposal and a timeframe for the oral defense administered by the candidacy exam committee, which is selected by the student and advisor.

    2. Immunology Program students must complete the Scientific Writing requirement before taking the candidacy exam. If the grant-writing course is used to fulfill the requirement, the subject of the course proposal is expected to be different from the subject of the student's candidacy examination.

    3. The examining committee should be comprised of five faculty members as detailed by the GSBS guidelines for the Examining Committee. The examining committee must include a minimum of two Immunology Program Faculty and cannot include the primary mentor or co-mentor. Immunology Program students should consult with Program Directors prior to forming the examining committee.

    4. The candidacy exam can be off-topic or on-topic. Click here to view the complete policy.

    Advisory Committee Requirements

    The student’s Advisory Committee composition and requirements are the same as described by the GSBS. The student, in consultation with their mentor, chooses the Advisory Committee. The Advisory committee consists of at least five members including the faculty sponsor/mentor and the co-mentor, if any. At least three of the five committee members must be Immunology Program Faculty. Students should consult with Immunology Program Directors prior to assembling the Advisory Committee.

    The committee must meet with the student at least once every six months to monitor research and academic progress and to ensure that the Program’s standards of excellence are maintained. The committee is assembled by the student and must be approved by the GSBS Academic Standards Committee and is responsible for administering the dissertation defense.

    Other Program Requirements