Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program

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MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR

Tom Zahrt, PhD

 

Tom Zahrt, PhD

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
Director, Graduate Program in Microbiology and Immunology

 

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Graduate Program in Microbiology and Immunology (M&I) at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Our PhD program is recognized nationally for training students to become outstanding scientists, critical thinkers, and inspiring leaders within the contemporary workforce and community. Students enrolled in the Graduate Program in M&I engage in cutting-edge research, take courses and attend seminars that expose them to different areas of modern Microbiology and Immunology, and participate in activities that promote the development of scholarship, innovation, and professionalism. The training environment provided within our graduate program ensures that graduating students are well-rounded, and proficient in core competencies that include knowledge and skills, communication, and management, teamwork, and leadership. Importantly, our students are well-positioned to pursue careers either within or outside of the academic environment following graduation. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions about our graduate program or the career paths of students we train.

tzahrt@mcw.edu
(414) 955-7429

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IDP Graduate Program in Microbiology and ImmunologyAbout

 

Mission of the Graduate Program in Microbiology & Immunology

The Graduate Program in Microbiology & Immunology (M&I) seeks to teach and train the next generation of research scientists in the molecular and cellular biology of bacterial pathogens, virus/host interactions, the innate and adaptive immune responses, animal and cellular model systems of infection and immunity, the microbiome, and the molecular mechanisms of gene expression, signal transduction, cell proliferation and cancer biology. It is the goal of the faculty and students to utilize classic and cutting-edge methodologies and technologies to conduct interdisciplinary research that will solve problems that are of significant biomedical importance.

Objectives of the Graduate Program in M&I

Through participation in a variety of departmental activities, M&I graduate students receive a broad education and training base that encompasses various aspects of biomedical science including those centered in the fields of bacteriology, immunology, virology, molecular biology, microbe-host interactions, genetics/gene expression and cancer biology. Our students develop essential technical skills and/or capabilities that allow them to conduct independent research, and effectively communicate scientific accomplishments in both written and oral forms. In general, M&I faculty seek to promote accomplishment of these objectives by providing a stimulating work and learning environment in which scientific curiosity is encouraged, scientific questions of significance are investigated, rigorous experimental approaches to problems are designed and executed, data is critically interpreted, and sound and cogent concepts are developed. The M&I Graduate Program assesses accomplishment of these objectives through several mechanisms including didactic course requirements, required annual research in progress (RIP) scientific presentations, semi-annual meetings with dissertation committee members coupled with submission of mentor summary statements, and dissertation-specific qualifying and defense examinations. The ultimate goal of the M&I Graduate Program is to produce well-rounded scientists that possess the necessary maturity, experience, and knowledge base to become independent leaders in the biomedical sciences within academia, industry, government, or other health-related career venues. These goals are consistent with the mission of the MCW Graduate School and of the Medical College of Wisconsin as a whole.

 

 

Alex AbelAlex Abel

Email: aabel@mcw.edu
Mentor: Subramaniam Malarkannan, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2012
Previous Education: BS, Buena Vista University, IA, 2010; MS, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD, 2012
Research Interest: Molecular mechanisms governing immune cell function

Rick ArmstrongRick Armstrong

Email: rarmstrong@mcw.edu
Mentor: Thomas Zahrt, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2012
Previous Education: BS, Biochemistry, Alma College, Alma, MI, 2012
Research Interest: Lipid droplet production in Mycobacterium tuberculosis

 

Carlie AurubinCarlie Aurubin

Email: caurubin@mcw.edu
Mentor: Vera Tarakanova, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2015
Previous Education: BS, Biology, Oakwood University, Huntsville, Alabama, 2014
Research Interest: Molecular Studies of Viral Infection
"Our lab focuses on the interplay between gammaherpesviruses and the host. In particular, my research focuses on the effect of prenylation on viral pathogenesis."

Ismael BanlaIsmael Banla

Email: ibanla@mcw.edu
Mentor: Nita Salzman, MD, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2012
Previous Education: BS, Biochemistry, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Moorhead, MN, 2012
Research Interest: Bacterial factors important for GI tract colonization

Rajruba ChakrabortyRajruba Chakraborty

Email: rchakraborty@mcw.edu
Mentor: Nita Salzman, MD, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2011
Previous Education: MS, University of Calcutta, Kolkata, West Bengal, India, 2008
Research Interest: Immune regulation of Enterococcus faecalis in the murine gastrointestinal tract

 

Yao ChenYao Chen

Email: yachen@mcw.edu
Mentor: Weiguo Cui, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2016
Previous Education:
BS, Beijing Sport University, Beijing, China, 2009-2013; MS, Beijing Sport University, Beijing, China, 2013-2016
Research Interest: Memory T Cell Biology
"I am interested in epigenetic regulation in memory T cell differentiation. Because transcriptional reprograms are essential for memory T cell fate commitment and subset-specific functions.​ Understanding these mechanisms may provide insight into the long-term immune protection provided by memory T cell which has the therapeutic potentials to treat or prevent disease and provide a new strategy for vaccine design."

Ashley CieckoAshley Ciecko

Email: aciecko@mcw.edu
Mentor: Yi-Guang Chen, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2015
Previous Education: B.S. Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 2011
Research Interest: Immunogenetics of Type I Diabetes
“I became interested in the immunogenetics of type I diabetes when I joined the laboratory of Dr. Yi-Guang Chen in the Max McGee National Research Center for Juvenile Diabetes as a research technologist in 2011. I really enjoyed researching type I diabetes and in 2015 I transitioned my role in Dr. Chen’s lab to graduate student. I am interested in identifying the role of interleukin 27 in the progression of type I diabetes. Type I diabetes is characterized by the T cell mediated destruction of insulin producing pancreatic beta cells. Human genome wide association studies have identified a region on chromosome 16 significantly linked to type I diabetes. Interleukin 27 is proposed to be the causal gene in this region. Interleukin 27 is a recently discovered cytokine with diverse context dependent activity. Elucidating the role of interleukin 27 in type I diabetes could reveal novel therapeutic targets for interrupting disease progression.”

Tiffany ClaeysTiffany Claeys

Email: tclaeys@mcw.edu
Mentor: Richard Robinson, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2015
Previous Education: BS, Indiana University – South Bend, South Bend, IN, 2015
Research Interest: T cell response in pediatric nontuberculous mycobacterial disease.
“I am fascinated by the immense complexity of the human immune system, especially in the context of opportunistic bacterial pathogens.  The delicate interplay between our defense system and our environment never leaves a shortage of questions and allows me to examine ideas from several angles using a broad range of techniques.  My research on pediatric disease also affords me the opportunity to work with clinicians and identify areas where collaboration and communication can make a huge impact as well as allows me to see how my work contributes to the bigger picture.”

Michael CurtisMichael Curtis

Email: mcurtis@mcw.edu
Mentor: Jenifer Coburn, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2012
Previous Education: BS, North Central College, Naperville, IL, 2012
Research Interest: Borrelia burgdorferi – Host Interactions

Eric DarrahEric Darrah

Email: edarrah@mcw.edu
Mentor: Vera Tarakanova, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2012
Previous Education: BS, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, 2010
Research Interest: Virus-host interactions

Orlando DeLeonOrlando “Landon” DeLeon

Email: odeleon@mcw.edu
Mentor: John Kirby, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2017
Previous Education: BA, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, 2010 
Research Interest: We have been examining the role of xenobiotics for their capacity to disrupt the gut microbiota with deleterious consequences on metabolism. Currently, we utilize the Illumina platform to obtain 16s rDNA sequence information and metagenomic (whole genome) information. We analyze those data using QIIME (Quantitative Insights into Microbial Ecology) and ANVI’O (An analysis and visualization platform for ‘omics data) open source software. We are employing the use of total calorimetry to assess metabolic defects in mice following perturbation with xenobiotics.
“My thesis is on the xenobiotic risperidone and its ability to alter both the bacterial and viral components of the microbiome.  We use this drug to model how xenobiotics can have adverse consequences, including dysbiosis, or an ‘unhealthy’ microbiome.  I examine how phages (bacterial viruses) can mediate community changes in the gut, both in the gene content and composition of the microbiome.  Much of my work focuses on de novo viral genome assemblies (virus hunting), bacterial genome assemblies, and network analysis of gene pathways, all of which are applied to a community-based perspective.   I also work on developing in vitro models to study this phage-bacterial dynamic shift due to risperidone treatment.  When not in the lab, I’m likely eating sushi or ramen.”

Aaron DirckAaron Dirck

Email: adirck@mcw.edu
Mentor: Amy Hudson, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2013
Previous Education: BA, Carthage College, Kenosha, WI, 2012
Research Interest: Study of Human herpesvirus 6 and 7 encoded protein U21 and the rerouting of MHC class I from the cellular surface to evade the immune system

Kate DixonKate Dixon

Email: kdixon@mcw.edu
Mentor: Subramaniam Malarkannan, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2013
Previous Education: BS, Biology/Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, 2013
Research Interest: The role of NK cell activation via TLR agonist, and NK cells dynamic communications with other innate and adaptive immune cells

Alex GardnerAlex Gardner

Email: agardner@mcw.edu 
Mentor: Joseph Barbieri, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2016
Previous Education: BS, Chemistry, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI, 2015
Research Interest: “I am currently researching the anterograde trafficking and localization of Botulinum neurotoxin. I became interested in Academia when I had the opportunity to partake in undergraduate research, studying the structure and function of (F4FBR8). I was also a teaching assistant for the Department of Chemistry at UW-Milwaukee where I really enjoyed teaching introductory chemistry to students. I joined the Barbieri lab because I find great interest in how toxins interact with host cells.”

Zachary GerbecZachary Gerbec

Email: zgerbec@mcw.edu
Mentor: Subramaniam Malarkannan, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2013
Previous Education: BS, University of Madison-Wisconsin, 2010
Research Interest: The role of metabolism in NK cell effector functions

Kaitlin SchmitzKaitlin Johnson

Email: kschmitz@mcw.edu
Mentor: Vera Tarakanova, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2015
Previous Education: BS, Biology, St. Norbert College, De Pere, WI, 2015
Research Interest: My research area focuses on virus/host interactions in the context of gammaherpesvirus infection.
“I joined the Tarakanova lab because I enjoy studying virus/host interactions and immunology. I am interested in studying the host factors that affect gammaherpesvirus pathogenesis. In particular, my research focuses on the host factor Shp1, a phosphatase that is expressed primarily in immune cells. I address the questions of how deficiencies in Shp1 within B and T cells alter the chronic infection of the virus in our mouse model system, and the mechanism by which Shp1 is functioning.”

Achia KhatunAchia Khatun

Email: akhatun@mcw.edu
Mentor: Weiguo Cui, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2016
Previous Education: BS, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Year 2012
MS, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Year 2014
Research Interest: “As a graduate student in Dr. Cui’s lab, I am interested in studying the origin and clonal selection of CD8 memory T cells based on T cell receptor (TCR) at the single cell level, following acute infection. ​By doing this, we will be able to know the selection of high affinity CD8 memory T cell clones which can mount more robust immune response in recall infection and can be a potential candidate for vaccination.”

Benjamin LabbeBenjamin Labbe

Email: blabbe@mcw.edu
Mentor: Christopher Kristich, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2012
Previous Education: BS, Genetic and Molecular Genomics, Michigan State University, 2012
Research Interest: Intrinsic antibiotic resistance pathways

Philip LangePhilip Lange

Email: plange@mcw.edu
Mentor: Vera Tarakanova, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2014
Previous Education: BS, Microbiology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 2011
Research Interest: The role of the sterol metabolic network in the context of gammaherpesvirus infection

Valery Lozada-FernandezValery Lozada-Fernández

Email: vlozada@mcw.edu
Mentor: John Kirby, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2017
Previous Education: BS, Industrial Microbiology - University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, Mayagüez, PR, 2014
Research Interest: Xenobiotic metabolism by gut microbiome.
"As a graduate student in Dr. John Kirby’s lab, I am interested in studying how the xenobiotic nicotinamide riboside, a vitamin B3 derivative and NAD+ precursor, is metabolized by the gut microbiome. This interdisciplinary research allows me to combine different approaches, such as bioinformatics, basic microbiology and a mouse model, to better understand what is happening in the gut."

 

Rebekah MokryRebekah Mokry

Email: rmokry@mcw.edu
Mentor: Scott Terhune, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2016
Previous Education: BS, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, WI, 2016; BA, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, WI, 2016
Research Interest: Human cytomegalovirus manipulation of cellular processes.
"I became interested in virology during my rotation in the Terhune Laboratory. After I began to understand the complex cellular pathways manipulated by human cytomegalovirus during infection, I began to appreciate how identifying key players in these pathways can lead to the production of therapies to combat the virus. Our lab focuses on identifying molecular mechanisms of viral infection. Currently, I am interested in examining viral protein post translation modifications and the downstream effects of these modifications within the cell."

Natasha MoussourasNatasha Moussouras

Email: nmoussouras@mcw.edu
Mentor:  Michael Dwinell, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2013
Previous Education: BA, Chemistry, BA, Spanish, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2012
Research Interest: Structure and function of CCL21, CCL19, and CCR7

Adam PickrumAdam Pickrum

Email: apickrum@mcw.edu
Mentor: Dara Frank, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2016
Previous Education: BS, Microbiology, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI, 2012
Research Interest: Bacterial pathogens of the cystic fibrosis lung.
“As a member of the Frank lab, I study the pathogenesis of Gram-negative bacteria including their Type III secreted effectors. This research allows me to utilize techniques from a wide range of disciplines.  I have always been interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying bacterial colonization and infection. Here at MCW, I have the opportunity to pursue my interests in a highly collaborative environment.”

Clinton PiperClinton Piper

Email: cpiper@mcw.edu
Mentor: William Drobyski, MD
Year Entered MCW: 2014
Previous Education: BS, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 2014
Research Interest: The Role of T cell-derived Granulocyte-Monocyte Colony Stimulating Factor in the Pathogenesis of Acute GVHD.
“As a graduate student in Dr. Drobyski's lab, I am interested in researching new therapeutic strategies for the prevention and treatment of acute graft-versus host disease.​ GHVD occurs in about half of recipients of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) and can be debilitating for patients, limiting the usefulness of HSCT as therapy for hematologic malignancies.  Much about the pathogenesis of GVHD is poorly understood, and we seek to uncover the immunological mechanisms that exacerbate and regulate disease through the use of well-characterized murine transplant models.”

Fatima SaraviaFatima Saravia

Email: fsaravia@mcw.edu
Mentor: John Kirby, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2017
Previous Education: BS, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY, 2016
Research Interest: Gut Microbiome
“I am interested in exploring the gut phage-bacterial networks that mediate weight gain in response to xenobiotics. Work in the lab will also involve exploring the link between the gut phage-bacterial networks and hypertension. Examination of the gut phage-bacterial networks will provide insights into the mechanisms by which phage influence the gut microbiome composition.”

David SchauderDavid Schauder

Email: dschauder@mcw.edu
Mentor: Weiguo Cui, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2012
Previous Education: BS, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 2010
Research Interest: Transcriptional regulation of CD8 T cell differentiation

Jason SiebertJason Siebert

Email: jsiebert@mcw.edu
Mentor: Subramaniam Malarkannan, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2013
Previous Education: BS, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, 2012
Research Interest: The role of CARMA1 in the NFkB pathway and the resulting influence on cytotoxic and cytokine production

Grace SundeenGrace Sundeen

Email: gsundeen@mcw.edu
Mentor: Joseph Barbieri, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2014
Previous Education: BA, Biology, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, 2010
Research Interest: Protein receptor of Tetanus toxin

Maxx TessmerMaxx Tessmer

Email: mtessmer@mcw.edu
Mentor: Dara Frank, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2013
Previous Education: BS, Microbiology, Mathematics, University of WI - Milwaukee, 2012
Research Interest: Pseudomonas aeruginosa Type III secretion effector ExoU

Peter VolberdingPeter Volberding

Email: pvolberding@mcw.edu
Mentor: Weiguo Cui, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2015
Previous Education: BS, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA, 2009
Research Interest: Biology of T cells during chronic viral infections.
“I am studying how T cells adapt their metabolism to the challenges of controlling a chronic viral infection. Understanding the factors that underlie T cell function will be instrumental to the design of strategies to combat a variety of public health issues including HCV, HIV, and cancer.”

Emily VonderhaarEmily Vonderhaar

Email: evonderhaar@mcw.edu
Mentor: Michael Dwinell, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2014
Previous Education: BS, Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 2014; BS, Nutritional Science, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 2014, Minor: Spanish
Research Interest: CXCL12-CXCR4 signaling in pancreatic cancer.
“I am studying the role that chemokine CXCL12 as a dimer, which signals distinctly from its monomeric form, plays in the progression of pancreatic cancer. Specifically, I want to understand how this protein affects the pancreatic tumor microenvironment with respect to anti-tumor immunity.”  

Kristin WestdorpKristin Westdorp

Email: knwestdorp@mcw.edu
Mentor: Scott Terhune, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2011
Previous Education: BS, Biochemistry, Alma College, Alma, MI 2012
Research Interest: Virus-host interactions

Erin WesleyErin Wesley

Email: ewesley@mcw.edu
Mentor: Matthew Riese, MD, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2012
Previous Education: BS, Biochemistry and Biotechnology, University of Minnesota, Moorhead, MN, 2012
Research Interest: T cell responses to tumors

Melissa WhyteMelissa Whyte

Email: mwhyte@mcw.edu
Mentor: Amy Hudson, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2016
Previous Education: BS, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI, 2014; MS, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI, 2016
Research Interest: Mechanisms of viral immune evasion by human herpesvirus-6 and -7.
“I am interested in pathogen-host interactions. In Dr. Hudson's lab, we study mechanisms by which human herpesvirus-6 and -7 interfere with normal cellular processes in order to evade detection by the host immune system. Our work focuses on the viral protein U21, which reroutes class I MHC to lysosomes, preventing the presentation of viral antigens to cytotoxic T lymphocytes. We are currently investigating potential U21-interacting partners as well as the trafficking pattern of U21 within host cells.”

Christa WinslowChrista Winslow

Email: cwinslow@mcw.edu
Mentor: Jenifer Coburn, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2016
Previous Education: BS, Biochemistry, Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, WI, 2016
Research Interest: Borrelia burgdorferi - Survival in a mammalian host.
“Coming into the IDP program, I had only vague ideas of what research interests or laboratories would be the best fit for me. Although most of my past research experiences lie elsewhere (primarily plant genetics and marine biology), microbiology in general and Borrelia burgdorferi in particular, captured my imagination and interest. Borrelia burgdorferi is the causative agent of Lyme disease, and because two of my closest family members have had Lyme disease, I jumped at the opportunity to research this microbe. The lab is a great fit and I'm excited to (probably) research an outer membrane porin in Borrelia burgdorferi to better understand its essential role in infectivity.” 

Chao YangChao Yang

Email: chaoyang@mcw.edu
Mentor: Subramaniam Malarkannan, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2014
Previous Education: BS, Pharmacy, University of Xiamen, Fujian, China, 2013
Research Interest: The role of IQGAP1 and KSR1 in NK cell effective function

Cheng-Yin YuanCheng-Yin Yuan

Email: cyuan@mcw.edu
Mentor: William Drobyski, MD
Year Entered MCW: 2013
Previous Education: Master of Science, Graduate Institute of Natural Products, Chang Gung University, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan 2013
Research Interest: Transplant immunology, Hematologic malignancies

Wen ZhuWen Zhu

Email: wezhu@mcw.edu
Mentor: Demin Wang, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2016
Previous Education: M.D. (7-year medical program), Nanjing University, Nanjing, China, 2007-2014
Research Interest: Molecular and cellular mechanism of heparin induced thrombocytopenia (HIT).
“I became interested in immunology since I was a medical student. I was trained as a hematologist in medical school, and I took basic and advance courses on immunology since a lot of blood disorders are closely related to the immune system. When I performed my internship, I focused on B cell malignancies as well as antibody mediated autoimmune disease. Therefore, I chose Dr. Wang's lab focusing on B cell biology. My project in the lab is to identify molecular and cellular mechanism of an antibody-mediated thrombocytopenia (heparin induced thrombocytopenia).”

Madison ZuverinkMadison Zuverink

Email: mezuverink@mcw.edu
Mentor: Joseph Barbieri, PhD
Year Entered MCW: 2011
Previous Education: BS, Molecular Biology, Loyola University, Chicago, IL 2011
Research Interest: Translocation of tetanus toxin light chain

Curriculum

 

Course and Credit Requirements

The training component of the M&I Gradate Program includes didactic courses, laboratory research, seminars and scientific reading. Full-time students must register for at least 9 credits in the fall and spring semesters and 6 credits in the summer. Students should select their courses in close consultation with their mentor and dissertation committee and may take courses not included on the recommended course list below.

These course requirements are a minimum. Upon consultation with their mentor and dissertation committee, students may elect or be required to take additional courses to broaden their scientific knowledge or otherwise enhance the completion of their doctoral research. It is understood that special situations may arise regarding the course requirements. In these instances, course requirements for the M&I doctoral program will be assessed and may be altered on an individual basis. Any alterations to the course requirements will be made in consultation with the mentor, Program Director of the M&I Graduate program, and individual course directors.

  • Students entering from the IDP are required to take 9 credits of advanced coursework as a minimum, after the first year. MSTP students are required to take 6 credits of advanced coursework.
  • All graduate students – including MSTP students - are required by the Graduate School to take Ethics and Integrity in Science (10-222B) and Research Ethics Discussion (10-444A).
  • All graduate students in the M&I doctoral program are required to take the Seminar course (25-300) twice: those who receive an A or A- may OPT OUT of the second seminar.
  • Students entering the program from the IDP are required to take either Cellular and Molecular Immunology (25-234) or Cellular Microbiology (25-236).
  • All students in the M&I doctoral program are required to take Techniques in Molecular and Cellular Biology (16-242). 

Course Summary

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25-210 Principals in Laboratory Animal Science - 1 credit

25-210 Principals in Laboratory Animal Science - 1 credit

 

A one-credit hour course surveying the issues fundamental to the successful use and care of animals in biomedical research. Students will gain knowledge of an array of core topics in laboratory animal science, including: understanding and navigating ethical and regulatory frameworks in which animal research occurs; basic biology and care of common laboratory species; managing rodent breeding colonies; contemporary issues in laboratory rodent genetics; important sources of non-experimental variables in animals research, including nutrition, microbial status, and pain; strategies for minimizing pain and distress in animal subjects; and basic techniques in laboratory rodent handling and restraint.

  

25-230 Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology - 3 credits

25-230 Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology - 3 credits

 

This advanced course consists of introductory lectures on a selected topic followed by in-depth discussions of original research articles on topics such as bacterial invasion, virulence factors, immune evasion, virus-host interactions, T-cell functions, and viral regulatory proteins.

  

25-234 Cellular and Molecular Immunology - 3 credits

25-234 Cellular and Molecular Immunology - 3 credits

 

This course is an introduction to the experimental basis of immunology through readings from texts and current immunological journals. Topics covered include the cellular basis of the immune response, antigens, antibodies, and molecular basis for generation of immunologic diversity, and regulation of the immune response.

  

25-236 Cellular Microbiology - 3 credits

25-236 Cellular Microbiology - 3 credits

 

Cellular Microbiology is designed for students who are interested in contemporary concepts of cellular microbiology and microbial/viral pathogenesis. We will emphasize host/pathogen relationships and illustrate how the study of bacteria and viruses has provided insight into the molecular and cell biology of many eukaryotic processes. This is by no means a classical microbiology course or a classical cell biology course, and does not provide a survey of microorganisms. Rather, students will gain an appreciation of the basic properties of bacterial and viral pathogens, the processes leading to acute and chronic infections, the strategies that these agents utilize to enter and traffic through cells and exploit host cell processes for regulated gene expression, and technical approaches to pathogen study. Faculty will present formal lectures and engage students in numerous paper presentations/discussions.   Students will be expected to acquire substantial background information in out-of-class readings. 

  

25-251 Advanced Molecular Genetics - 3 credits

25-251 Advanced Molecular Genetics - 3 credits

 

The goal of the course is to introduce students to current concepts in cancer biology, explore original research articles that form the basis of our current understanding of cancer, and provide students with experience in the critical evaluation of original cancer research. The course will consist of introductory sessions to place the course in context, followed by in-depth critical analysis and discussion of research articles relating to the topic being addressed. The introductory lectures within each unit will provide background information and establish a framework for the discussion of the research articles.  Chapters from Weinberg's "The Biology of Cancer" or reviews will augment the readings. Following an introduction to a topic by each instructor, the topic will be explored by discussion of original research articles that have contributed to our understanding of that topic. Papers will be posted on D2L as PDF files. Each student is expected to have read and studied assigned articles in depth prior to class and to participate actively in meaningful discussions. For each paper discussion session, students will be placed into teams with assigned responsibilities for setting up the background and hypotheses behind the papers, the experimental approaches and findings, and the discussion of what has or should be done to extend the work presented. The discussion sessions will require active student participation. In sum, the lectures and discussion sessions will provide students with a contemporary understanding of the fundamental biological processes involved in the initiation and progression of cancer. Moreover, the students will become familiar with the most important questions in cancer research today and the experimental approaches that can be brought to bear on these questions.  Prerequisites: There are no formal prerequisites, although students will be expected to have a firm understanding of molecular and cell biology, classical and molecular genetics, signaling, and techniques commonly used in these disciplines.

  

25-259 Mucosal Immunity - 1 credit

25-259 Mucosal Immunity - 1 credit

 

Gastrointestinal diseases are among the most common and least understood human health problems. Intestinal epithelial cells act as a dynamic interface between the external and internal environments and are polarized into an apical and basolateral domain. The primary functions of these cells are to maintain barrier integrity via tight-junctions with neighboring cells and function in absorption and secretion. Epithelial cell polarity is reflected by distinct protein localization. Those in the apical compartment are specialized for nutrient absorption and ion secretion. Basolateral localized proteins are specialized for maintenance of the electrochemical gradient and adherence to neighboring cells and the subjacent extracellular matrix. Intestinal epithelial cells are key participants in the mucosal immune response and maintain chronic physiologic inflammation characteristic of the intestinal mucosa. In response to pathogen infection or inflammatory stimuli, epithelial cells upregulate the expression of proinflammatory cytokines, antimicrobial peptides and chemokines and are a likely cause of pathologic inflammation in numerous gastrointestinal disorders. The primary objective for this course is to provide advanced information and conceptual knowledge regarding the mucosal immune system in health and disease.

  

25-260 Mucosal Pathogenesis - 1 credit

25-260 Mucosal Pathogenesis - 1 credit

 

Mucosal Pathogenesis is an upper-level, 1-credit hour M&I course that focuses on the interactions of microbial pathogens with cells of the mucosal epithelium. Students will gain a detailed and comprehensive understanding of specific infectious microbial pathogens, and the mechanisms utilized by these microorganisms to associate, invade, and/or cause disease at the mucosal surface. Microorganisms to be discussed include those that target that respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal tract, and the genital/urinary tract. The course will comprise a combination of formal lectures by instructors, group discussions of scientific papers from the recent literature, and activity-based learning sessions including grant critique, manuscript review, and assigned topic presentations. Student participation in these activities will comprise 50% of the final grade. The remaining 50% will be based on performance of take home assignments associated with individual 2-week blocks.

  

25-261 Bacterial Toxin-Mucosal Cell Interactions - 1 credit

25-261 Bacterial Toxin-Mucosal Cell Interactions - 1 credit

 

Bacterial Toxin-Mucosal Cell Interactions is a 1 credit hour upper-level M&I course that addresses the interactions between bacterial toxins and mucosal cells. The goal of this course is to provide students an appreciation of how bacterial toxins that target mucosal cells function as virulence factors and utilized as vaccines and for the development of clinical therapies. The course format includes formal lectures and paper discussions. The course will meet for 6 weeks during the third block of the fall semester (weeks 13-18). Cellular and Molecular Immunology (25-234) or Cellular Microbiology (25-236) are a prerequisite for this course.

  

25-262 Tumor Immunology - 1 credit

25-262 Tumor Immunology - 1 credit

 

Tumor Immunology is an upper-level, 1-credit hour M&I course that will focus on the interactions of tumor cells with various components of the immune system. These interactions are complex, and immune-based strategies for treating cancer have had limited success in the clinic. This course will examine the following: (a) How the immune recognizes tumor cells as “foreign”, (b) Immune strategies for targeting cancer, (c) Barriers to achieving effective tumor immunity, (d) Monitoring the immune response to cancer, and (e) Use of animal models to study the interactions between tumor cells and the immune system. The goals of the course will be to gain an in-depth understanding of the complex interactions between tumor cells and the immune system, and to learn how animal models can be used to better understand these interactions. While the course will be heavily weighted towards the discussion of important papers in the field of Tumor Immunology, it will also involve didactic lectures. Students will be evaluated through attendance and participation (30% of final grade) and a final exam (70% of final grade). The course will meet twice a week for a total of 6 weeks.

  

25-263 Signaling in the Immune - 1 credit

25-263 Signaling in the Immune - 1 credit

 

Signaling in the Immune System is an advanced topic immunology course that focuses on different aspects of cell signaling and how these shape the immune response. Students will learn, in detail, how different immune cell types utilize distinct cell-surface or intracellular receptors to regulate their activity or differentiation state. The course will be divided into formal lectures by instructors introducing different topics, followed by a group discussion of scientific papers in that field.

  

25-264 Developmental Immunology - 1 credit

25-264 Developmental Immunology - 1 credit

 

Upper-level 1 credit hour M&I course that focuses on the key molecular mechanisms regulating myeloid and lymphocyte maturation and adaptive immunity.  Students will gain a detailed understanding of T and B cell development and antigen receptor repertoire selection.

 

Key processes covered during formal lectures:
1. Commitment of progenitor cells to the myeloid and lymphocyte lineages
2. Rearrangement of antigen receptor genes
3. Selection events that shape the antigen receptor repertoire
4. Proliferation of progenitors
5. Differentiation into functionally and phenotypically distinct lymphocyte subpopulations.

 

Key themes linking the material:
1. Transcription factors in immunology: shared factors – different roles
2. Cytokines and growth factors drive functional diversification
3. Lineage “commitment” preserves lineage flexibility
4. Distinctions between steady state homeostasis and immune responses
5. Distinctions between mice and humans

 

In addition to formal lectures by the instructors, the course will feature group discussions of seminal papers that have shaped current thinking in the field.  Students will be evaluated by their participation during group discussion and by a single take-home final examination. The course will meet twice weekly for 6 weeks.

  

25-265 Immunological Tolerance - 1 credit

25-265 Immunological Tolerance - 1 credit

 

Immunological tolerance is defined as unresponsiveness to an antigen that is induced by previous exposure to that antigen.  Tolerance to self-antigens, also called self-tolerance, is a fundamental property of a healthy immune system that is maintained by multiple overlapping mechanisms.  Failure of self-tolerance results in autoimmune diseases that can affect every organ system of the human body. Conversely, the induction of self-tolerance may also be exploited for therapeutic purposes.  In this mini-course, we will consider the general features and mechanisms of self-tolerance in T cells and B cells.  These mechanisms include (1) anergy, (2) deletion by apoptosis, and (3) suppression by regulatory T cells.  In addition, this course will consider select models of autoimmunity that have proven to be effective tools in our effort to understand tolerance as a complex biological process.  The mechanisms of immunological tolerance constitute essential knowledge for all students training in Immunology.

 

In addition to formal lectures by the instructors, the course will feature group discussions of seminal papers that have shaped current thinking in the field.  Students will be evaluated by their participation during group discussion and by a single take-home final examination. The course will meet twice weekly for 6 weeks.
 

  

25-266 Clinical Immunology - 1 credit

25-266 Clinical Immunology - 1 credit

 

Clinical Immunology is an upper-level, 1-credit hour M&I course that will provide advanced information and conceptual knowledge regarding the human immune system in health and disease. The information presented in this course will: provide the student with a knowledge of general and specific tests to evaluate specific components of human immune function, lead to a fundamental understanding of diseases caused by primary or secondary abnormalities in immune function, provide a basic understanding of histocompatibility antigens in human disease and their role in bone marrow transplantation, provide knowledge of autoimmunity (systemic autoimmunity, autoimmune diseases of skin and the gastrointestinal tract), provide a fundamental knowledge of atopic diseases. We will also explore present and future therapies for disorders of immune function.

  

25-269 Advanced Bacterial Physiology - 1 credit

25-269 Advanced Bacterial Physiology - 1 credit

 

Advanced Bacterial Physiology is 1-credit hour M&I course that focuses on fundamental and diverse aspects of bacterial physiology. Students will gain an understanding of the mechanisms bacteria use to execute, coordinate, and control basic cellular processes such as macromolecular synthesis, nutrient utilization and metabolism, signal transduction, and stress responses. The course focuses on critical evaluation and discussion of papers from the primary literature. These discussions will be augmented by short didactic presentations of background material by the instructor to place the paper’s topic and findings in context.

  

25-270 Advanced Virology - 3 credits

25-270 Advanced Virology - 3 credits

 

Concepts in virology are illustrated by selected appropriate model systems of animal viruses. Topics include viral replication, genetics, antivirals, and virus-host interactions.

  

25-271 Membranes and Organelles - 1 credit

25-271 Membranes and Organelles - 1 credit

 

Membranes and Organelles is an upper-level, 1-credit hour cell biology course that focuses on the topics of membrane protein trafficking and membrane biogenesis. Students will gain a detailed understanding of organelles and membrane protein trafficking and degradation, membrane vesicle fusion, secretion, and membrane biogenesis. The course will consist in part of readings of seminal papers describing the genetic screens done in yeast for secretion (sec), vacuolar protein sorting (vps) mutants, and autophagy (atg), as well as the Rothman in vitro vesicle fusion experiments. These experiments provide the first description of the proteins we know today to be involved in membrane protein fusion, secretion, and trafficking, and emphasize the power of yeast genetics. After grounding in the design and outcome of these historic screens, the class will focus on what is known today about the proteins identified in the original ground-breaking screens. The newer areas of membrane biology – the formation of lipid droplets and formation of autophagosomes – will follow similar format – the first session examining the discovery and formation of paradigm, and the second session delving into what is known today. Students will be evaluated by participation in paper discussion (40%) and a final take-home exam (60%). The course will meet twice a week for 6 weeks.

  

25-280 Classical Papers in Microbiology and Immunology - 1 credit

25-280 Classical Papers in Microbiology and Immunology - 1 credit

 

Classical Papers in Microbiology and Immunology (M&I) is a course suitable for all students in the Microbiology and Immunology graduate program. Through this course, instructors and students will review, discuss, and critique notable papers from the last century that have made seminal contributions to the fields of molecular biology, bacteriology, virology, immunology, biochemistry, and/or genetics. The impact of these contributions in the present day will also be discussed. In addition to instructor-identified papers, students will also choose and formally present a recent paper for discussion that they feel has made a substantive contribution to the biomedical sciences. Papers to be discussed are expected to vary between semesters depending on topic of discussion and instructor(s) facilitating the discussion. Ultimately, this course is expected to provide students with an expanded knowledge base of seminal papers in the broad fields of microbiology and immunology.

  

25-298 Immunology Journal Club - 1 credit

25-298 Immunology Journal Club - 1 credit

 

The purpose of this course is to learn, evaluate and present cutting edge immunological research topics from leading journals to gain knowledge of new immunological findings and to stay current

with emerging technologies. Students will attend and present in a weekly independently organized immunology journal club. During the semester, students will be required to attend the journal club and write a short paragraph after each presentation regarding what they learned. This should include: The knowledge gap being addressed, the hypothesis being tested, strengths and weaknesses of the study and resulting conclusions. If a journal club is not scheduled for a particular week, the students will be required to attend an independently organized immunology work-in-progress series. For the students’ presentations, students will select a research paper of immunological focus from a list of preapproved journals. While the student can choose any topic of interest, the selection will require approval from the course director. The presentation will consist of a PowerPoint style presentation including the following information: Why the student selected the article, the knowledge gap being addressed, background information supporting the hypothesis, the hypothesis being tested, discussion of the approaches and experimental data, strengths and weaknesses of the study and conclusions including potential future directions. Ultimately, this course is expected to provide students with an expanded knowledge base of current topics in the broad field of immunology.

  

25-300A Graduate Seminar - 1 credit

25-300A Graduate Seminar - 1 credit

 

In this course, students are trained to organize and present a scientific seminar. Students identify an area of interest and select one to several reports from the literature on which to base the seminar. Students are instructed on how to develop an effective introduction, how to progress through the description of scientific questions, how to effectively present data figures and conclusions, and how to logically tie the data and conclusions together into a coherent and compelling story. Students are required to meet periodically with the course director prior to their seminar to decide on the seminar topic, to discuss PowerPoint slides, and to conduct practice seminars. A video camera will be available for those students wishing to have their seminar videotaped. Students will meet with the course director following their seminar to discuss audience comments, recommendations for improvements, and prepare critiques from other seminar activities. Students will also attend and prepare written critiques of selected departmental seminars from invited outside speakers, and from students and faculty presenting their Research in Progress (RIP). The class will meeting two times during the semester following these seminars to discuss strengths and weakness of the seminars. Students in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology are required to enroll and complete the seminar course at least once as part of their departmental core curriculum. The class will be limited to four students per semester and priority given to third year students. Students receiving a grade lower than an A- on their first offering must take a second semester of seminar to complete the requirement.

Scholastic Achievement

All graduate students are expected to maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 and a satisfactory or better evaluation in Readings and Research (25-295) (see below). Mentors and students should be aware that a student whose cumulative grade point average is below 3.0 or who receives an Unsatisfactory evaluation in Readings and Research will be placed on probation and may ultimately be recommended for dismissal from the Graduate School.

Challenge to the Student

The person with the most at stake in any graduate program is the individual student. To obtain a quality education, the student should play an active role in selecting a distinguished Dissertation Committee, attend all relevant seminars and journal clubs, participate actively in research meetings, and conduct a challenging research project.

Admissions

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Degree Offered

The M&I Graduate Program offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

Program Admission Requirements

Those interested in pursuing education and research within the Department of Microbiology & Immunology should pursue admission through the Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences (IDP) or the Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD).

A Bachelor’s degree (either completed or in the process of completing) is required for admission to any MCW graduate program. Applicants will ideally have a 3.0 or higher grade point average (GPA), as well as quantitative and verbal reasoning GRE scores at or above the 50th percentile (3.5 or higher writing score). Personal statements and letters of recommendation from professors, advisors, research supervisors, etc. who know you well are highly regarded in the admission process. Prior research experience is also strongly considered.

The MCW Graduate School operates on a rolling admissions basis. However, applications accepted by the priority application deadline of December 15th will receive first priority for admission the following Fall. Students are admitted once per year.

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Program Descriptions

Our IDP is an 18-month feeder program designed to provide entering graduate students with a core curriculum and laboratory training opportunities. Our IDP faculty includes researchers from the Departments of Biochemistry, Biophysics, Cell Biology, Neurobiology, and Anatomy, Microbiology & Immunology, and Pharmacology and Toxicology. IDP secondary faculty comes from the Departments of Pediatrics, Medicine, Pathology, and Surgery as well as the Blood Research Institute.  Student can apply to IDP through the MCW Graduate School, and once enrolled are assigned an IDP Faculty Mentor who monitors the student's transition into graduate school, assesses their research interests, and advises the student on potential research rotations and other matters of concern. The IDP Faculty Mentor is associated with the student until a thesis laboratory is selected (around 18 months into the program). IDP students complete a common first year core curriculum and four nine-week research rotations in laboratories that are potential sites for dissertation research. A fifth, abbreviated rotation is possible for students if needed. After 18 months of financial support by the MCW Graduate School, the support is transferred to faculty grants or other sources.

 

The second pool of high-quality trainees derives from the MSTP. Upon completion of the first two years of medical school, these individuals select mentors from throughout the college and, if in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, complete a curriculum that is substantially similar to those who enter through the IDP.

TUITION AND FEES INFORMATION

If you have questions regarding tuition or your account, please contact the Office of Student Accounts, at (414) 955-8172 or mcwtuition@mcw.edu. Please refer to the All Student Handbook (PDF) for tuition payment policies and information.

PhD Students

All full-time PhD students receive a full tuition remission, health insurance and stipend.

2018-2019 Stipend: $30,011

Masters, Certificate & Non-Degree Students

Students seeking financial aid for MPH, MS or MA degree programs, visit the Financial Aid Office website.

Current MCW Employees

Tuition Course Approval Form - Human Resources (PDF)

Late Fees

There will be a $100 late registration fee for anyone not completing registration by the date indicated on the schedule each semester.
There is also a $250 late payment fee for tuition not paid on time according to the Tuition Payments policy in the All Student Handbook (PDF).

Late payment fee is in addition to any late registration fee.

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Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences General CAMPUS CONTACT INFORMATION

Mailing Address:
MCW Graduate School
8701 Watertown Plank Road
Milwaukee, WI 53226


(414) 955-8218
(414) 955-6555 (fax)
gradschool@mcw.edu

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

(414) 955-8253
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