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Unique NIH grant enables UAB to pursue underdeveloped area of science
UAB received a $10 million, five-year U19 grant to explore adaptive immunity that may improve the protective effects of vaccination.

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Academic Program

First year - Courses, Lab Rotations, Selection of Mentor

Courses. First year students in all Graduate Biomedical Sciences Themes take a common 13-week core curriculum emphasizing the fundamentals of biochemistry, genetics, and cell biology.  Students in the Immunology Theme will continue their first semester coursework with a nine week survey course, Introductory Immunology, which will cover the basics of this broad discipline. More specialized courses will be offered in the second semester.  A passing grade of B or better is required in all courses.  Students who make less than a B must retake and pass the relevant course in the subsequent year.  Students who fail more than two courses during the first year are subject to dismissal from the program.

Laboratory Rotations. During the first year, students participate in three laboratory rotations of their choosing.  Lab rotations allow the student to identify specific research areas and mentors with whom they will ultimately perform their dissertation research project.

Second year and beyond - Qualifying examination, courses, journal clubs, research, completion of degree.

Journal Clubs.  From the second year until completion of the program, students participate in a Journal Club related to their specific area of interest.  The purpose of the journal club is to enhance the ability to critically read the literature and to stay abreast of current findings in the field.  A listing of Journal Clubs can be found here.

Immunology courses.  Three advanced courses in areas relevant to the student's area of interest are required and may be completed anytime from the second year on.  Students are encouraged to take these courses as early as possible in order to achieve the most benefit in their training.  A listing of advanced courses can be found here.

Qualifying Exam and Admission to Candidacy. All students, before the end of the third year, must develop their thesis project into the equivalent of a small NIH grant proposal to be presented in written and then oral form to their thesis committee. This is a combined qualifying exam and admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. Students must demonstrate a strong background in general scientific knowledge, the relevant literature for their thesis area and the ability to defend the testable hypothesis at the heart of their proposal.

Dissertation research.  After completion of the Qualifying Examination, and no later than the third year, the student forms a dissertation committee comprised of five faculty members (including the mentor) whose expertise will be beneficial in helping direct the research and course of study. At the first meeting of this committee, the student presents a proposed plan of study and any preliminary data. Satisfactory performance at this initial meeting constitutes Admission to Candidacy. 

Awarding of the PhD degree.  The PhD is awarded upon completion of the academic requirements and defense of the dissertation.  The dissertation consists of a written document that is expected to include published papers or manuscripts in preparation, along with a scholarly introduction and discussion of the work that has been completed.  A successful private defense of the dissertation in front of the dissertation committee is then followed by a seminar presentation and public defense of the dissertation as the final step in completion of the PhD degree.