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The Graduate College > Immunology / Microbiology > Immunology / Microbiology Graduate Programs > Curriculum for Graduate Programs in Immunology / Microbiology
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Curriculum for students in the PhD track (Note that the program holds the right to change some of these requirements in order to keep current with research and education advancements.)

First year to completion of the program: During the first year of matriculation, students will enroll in the core curriculum classes and other courses required by this division. The schedule for these classes is:

Fall Quarter:
GCC 501 Molecular Biology: Genome to Proteome
GCC 502 Cellular Biochemistry: Proteins, Transport & Signaling
GCC 503 Functional Cell Biology
GCC 505 Techniques in Biomedical Sciences
IMM 585 Research Seminar
IMM 575 Advanced Readings in Immunology and Virology

Winter Quarter
GCC 504 Functional Tissue Biology
GCC 506 Biomedical Ethics
IMM 585 Research Seminar
IMM 575 Advanced Readings in Immunology and Virology

Spring Quarter
GCC 507 Medical Research Strategies
GCC 508 Writing Practicum
IMM 505 Basic Immunology
IMM 585 Research Seminar
IMM 575 Advanced Readings in Immunology and Virology

Summer Quarter - Go to the previous page to download an application for the Summer Medical Immunology/Microbiology Course.
A pre-candidacy proposal examination for doctoral candidates (described below):

Students in the PhD track only must complete the requirement for a pre-candidacy exam (PCE) by the last day of August. The PCA consists of both a written and oral portion to the exam. The written portion is based on a research proposal submitted to an examination committee appointed by the GAC. The topic of research must be pre-approved by the GAC. The research area of the proposal must be different from the proposed research for Ph.D. dissertation. The proposal should be based on the NIH grant application format (PHS 398) and should be no more than 15 pages in length (single space) excluding bibliography. The oral portion of the exam will consist of a presentation based on the grant proposal and may also include basic questions in their area of interest (Immunology or Virology/Molecular Biology). Students who fail the PCA will be asked to take a written exam in a specialized area (Immunology or Virology/Molecular Biology). Failing this written comprehensive exam will result in recommendations for dismissal by the GAC to the Dean of the Graduate College. This proposal should be prepared independently by the student in an area of research that is different from their prospective dissertation research. Timeline for completing PCA is below:

Note that if a date falls on a weekend, item is due at the next business day:

  • April: GAC will conduct a workshop describing in detail the requirement of the PCA, how the PCA will be evaluated, and what is expected from the students. The GAC will also discuss key features/criteria of "how to write a grant" with the students.
  • May 15: The student should submit the topic of their choice to the GAC for approval. This should be either a title or a brief description of the general area of research. Detailed plans are not required but the description should be clear to the GAC as to the area of research that will be chosen. The GAC will either approve or reject this topic and notify the student by May 20.
  • June 1: The GAC will notify the student of the appointed examining committee.
  • July 15: Final document is provided to each member of the examining committee and the Program Director, if he/she did not serve on the committee.
  • By August 30: The student should have defended the grant proposal orally. The student is required to schedule a defense date. During this defense, a student's basic knowledge in his/her area of interest, either Virology/Molecular Biology or Immunology will also be assessed.
  • If a student displays poor knowledge in their area of interest (Immunology or Molecular Biology/Virology) or has failed the written or the oral test, they will be asked to take a written comprehensive exam in the deficit area that must be completed one month from the date of the oral defense. If the student fails this written comprehensive exam, they will risk being recommended by the GAC for dismissal from the program.

During the first year, when possible, students are required to devote substantial time to research (20 hr/week or more in a quarter in which only 1 or 2 4-credit hr courses are being taken) under the direction of the advisor. After all core courses are completed, a student will be evaluated by the student advisory committee (SAC) for his/her performance in courses, laboratory work, motivation, etc. to determine continuation of the student in the program. This meeting will take place before the beginning of the fall quarter of the second year.

Second Year to Completion of the Program: The classes required during the second year are:

Fall Quarter
IMM 598 Pre-Dissertation Research
IMM 585 Research Seminar
IMM 575 Advanced Readings in Immunology and Virology

Winter Quarter
IMM 531 Advanced Immunology or Virology
(depending on track chosen)
IMM 598 Pre-Dissertation Research
IMM 585 Research Seminar
IMM 575 Advanced Readings in Immunology and Virology

Spring Quarter
Ph.D. students should defend a dissertation proposal to move to candidacy
IMM 598 Pre-Dissertation Research
IMM 585 Research Seminar
IMM 575 Advanced Readings in Immunology and Virology

Summer Quarter
IMM 699 Dissertation Research
IMM 585 Research Seminar
IMM 575 Advanced Readings in Immunology and Virology

By the winter of the second year, the student and advisor should submit a list of Student Dissertation Advisory Committee (SDAC) members with a recommendation for a Chairperson for approval by the GAC. The SDAC should consist of a minimum of five faculty members. The student should have the approval of each proposed member prior to submitting their recommendation to the GAC. The student's advisor cannot be the chairperson of the committee.?? The members of the SDAC will be allowed to change with GAC approval if the project substantially changes or if the faculty is no longer appointed at Rush. The SDAC should be consistent with guidelines of the Graduate College Council. At this time, the SDAC must consist of at least 5 members:

  1. The advisor
  2. Two faculty members from our Division, this may include a co-advisor
  3. One faculty member from another Rush Graduate Division
  4. An additional faculty member from either our division or outside of our division or institution

By the Spring/summer quarter of the second year, the student will prepare a Dissertation Proposal describing his/her plan for dissertation research and submit the proposal to his/her SDAC.

The SDAC must approve both the written document and oral defense of the proposal before the end of the spring/summer quarter of the second year. Preliminary data should be included, if available, but it is not necessary and presentation/defense should not be deferred to collect such data. While it is required that students complete this requirement by the end of the spring/summer quarter of their second year, students are strongly urged to complete this requirement before this deadline so that they may begin their doctoral dissertation research in earnest as soon as possible. The purpose of the dissertation proposal is to evaluate the student's understanding of his/her project, the project's potential, and its chances of success. The written dissertation proposal should include:

  1. Abstract
  2. Specific aims
  3. Background and Significance of the research including a review of the literature needed to understand and evaluate the project
  4. Preliminary findings (if available)
  5. Experimental designs describing the rationale, experiments planned, general methods, analysis and alternatives
  6. References
  7. Timeline to completion of aims

The dissertation proposal should be reviewed and approved by the advisor before distributing to the SDAC members. However, it should represent the student's efforts, and not be written by the advisor. Following the oral presentation and discussion, the SDAC will meet without the student to decide whether the defense was successful and to make specific recommendations.

A copy of the approved dissertation proposal should be given to the Program Director to be included in the student's file. After successful defense of the Research Proposal and the dissertation proposal, the student will be admitted to candidacy. If the proposal defense is failed, the SDAC may require that the proposal be rewritten and defended prior to the end of the fall quarter of the third year. A failure at the second defense will result in a recommendation for dismissal from the program.

Three-five Years to Completion of the Program:
Students should continue to register for special topic courses from year 2-4 until they have completed 2 special topic courses prior to graduation. In special circumstances, students may substitute special topic courses with an elective, providing that a permission of the Graduate Program Director prior to this substitution has been granted. Every fall, winter, and spring quarter, doctoral students are expected to register for IMM 699 (Dissertation Research), IMM 585, and IMM 575. At least two Special Topic courses (IMM 590) must be taken prior to graduation. Examples of previous Special Topics courses include Current Topics in Cellular Immunology: From Bedside to Bench side, HIV Gene Structure and Function, Viral Mimicry, Toll-like Receptors, and Signal Transduction in Lymphocytes. During these years, students should devote maximum time to research.

Once admitted to candidacy, all students must have a SDAC meeting at least every six months. SDAC minutes written by the SDAC Chairperson are to be submitted to the Program Director and will be included in the student's file. If a student has not had a data defense (see below) by the beginning of the fifth year in the program, the frequency of SDAC meetings will increase to once every four months.

Prior to graduation, a student must demonstrate research accomplishment and written communication skills by fulfilling a publication requirement. Students must have a first-authored publication in press in a peer-reviewed journal prior to awarding the degree. To this end, students are strongly encouraged to work with their advisors and members of their SDAC to meet this requirement as soon as possible. The publication requirement should be a clear objective for the student from the moment they enter candidacy. Students can defend their dissertation prior to having a manuscript accepted for publication if he/she provides a copy of the submitted manuscript along with a letter from the journal verifying receipt of the manuscript. These two documents should be submitted to the Program Director prior to planning a defense date.

To encourage development of general communication skills, students are encouraged to fulfill one of the following after being admitted to candidacy.

  1. The student may make a formal presentation (poster or oral) of his/her work at an institutional, regional, or national meeting
  2. The students may prepare and submit research grant proposals for extra-departmental review and possible funding.

When the student and the advisor have determined that sufficient data have been obtained and that the project has reached an acceptable degree of completion, a data defense meeting with SDAC is held, in which the student summarizes the data that will be included into the dissertation. If the SDAC approves, two readers will be named and the student will commence writing the dissertation. If the dissertation is not defended within one year of the data defense, the SDAC must reconvene and the data must be re-summarized by the student. In a rapidly changing field of science, the relevance of the work may have changed, and a reassessment of its originality and significance by the SDAC is required.

Guidelines for procedure prior and up to the dissertation defense:

  1. Prior to initiating the process below, the student must check with the Program Director to ensure that they have fulfilled all of the graduation requirements, including an acceptance of a first author manuscript based on their dissertation research conducted while at RUSH as a graduate student or providing a copy of submitted manuscript along with a letter form the editor verifying receipt of the manuscript.
  2. A data defense meeting must be held within six months or sooner of an intention to defend a dissertation. During this meeting, the committee must make it clear if they require additional experiments. Specifically, if these experiments are a "must" or just recommendations /suggestions. If additional experiments are required, the student must make every effort to perform these experiments and present the data to the committee members either in another meeting or by individually talking to the committee members. All committee members must approve of the collective dissertation data as worthy of a Ph.D. degree prior to submitting the document to the readers.
  3. To ensure that there is no breakdown in communication between what the dissertation committee recommends and what is ultimately performed, the advisor and the chairman of the committee must ensure that these requests were met prior to a dissertation defense.
  4. The student needs to check with the librarian for current guidelines on preparing the dissertation document and on the original forms that need to be signed by the committee members. Two forms from the registrar's office, intent to graduate form and degree approval form can be obtained from the registrar's office and should be available during the private defense.
  5. A complete dissertation, including references and figures, must be given to two readers from the committee, one of whom must be the chairperson of the committee. The two readers must ensure that the document is written clearly and that the work requested during the data defense was performed. This the time to flag any problems with the dissertation and the readers should be diligent in their review of the document.
  6. A revised document based on the suggestions of the readers is then given to all committee members who have two weeks to read it. The student can at this point make a tentative defense date but realizing that if any member has a major problem with the document, enough to voice a concern for failing the document, they must bring the issue forward to the advisor and the chairperson of the committee and the defense date may be changed.
  7. If no objections are voiced, the student can confirm the defense date and check with both the Program Director and the chairman of the department to ensure that they are available and can attend the public defense.
  8. The student must provide an electronic version of their CV, title of dissertation, abstract of dissertation, and complete list of committee members with rank and affiliation to the Program Director to publish the dissertation defense announcement.
  9. The defense may not be scheduled during lunch hour and the student should not provide lunch or snacks to the committee. Morning or afternoon hours are the best for scheduling a defense date.
  10. The student is required to present a one hour seminar that is open to the public, followed by a private defense of the dissertation.

* Please note that the librarian requires proof of permission to include any figure from a published article in your dissertation. This includes your own published work. To save time, when your paper is accepted for publication, even long before you may defend your work; write a letter to the publisher requesting a permission to include those figures in your dissertation.

Five year rule limit to matriculation:
Our division will honor the 5 year rule limit to matriculation stated by the Graduate College. This rule states that "Maximum enrollment for degree completion is five calendar years. Any approved leave of absence will be excluded from this time. A student may petition for an extension of the overall time limit to the division director. If such an extension is granted, the student will be expected to enroll full time for each remaining quarter in residence. If a student proposes to maintain active status in The Graduate College while at another location, approval by the Division Director and The Graduate College Council will be necessary. Such a student will enroll each quarter with the registrar of Rush University for zero hours of credit, and will be charged the enrollment fee at the rate in effect at that time."

Curriculum for students in the Master's track
Master students are required to take the same first year of classes as the PhD students. After the completion of year 1, students in the Master's track are required to submit a topic of research for approval by the graduate advisory committee by the summer of year 1. After approval, the students are expected to pursue full time research in this area, while continuing to register for research seminar, advanced reading, and advanced Immunology/or Microbiology, when offered. Master students need to form a research committee made up of their advisor and two faculty members within the graduate college. They are expected to summarize their findings in the format of a manuscript and defend it orally to their committee members. They are encouraged to present their data in a public format but this is not a requirement. This program is intended to be completed within 2 years of matriculation.

For complete information about curriculum and program requirements, see the Rush University catalog.


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