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Department Overview

H564 Health Sciences

For those contemplating careers in biomedical research, immunology provides challenging and exciting intellectual opportunities. Progress in the discipline in the past decade has been extraordinary, a fact nowhere more visible than at the University of Washington. The Department of Immunology, launched in 1989, now includes more than 30 faculty and 200 scientists, students, post-docs and staff, all engaged in elucidating fundamental immunological mechanisms and how these mechanisms impact human health, infectious, autoimmune and allergic diseases, and cancer. Current members of the department have distinguished records in the area of lymphocyte signaling, T and B cell development, macrophage function, antigen processing, immuno-tolerance, and the structure of antigen receptors.

Consider the fundamental processes that underlie immune function. First, millions of potentially injurious macromolecules must be recognized. Second, recognition of these macromolecules, generally structures associated with potential pathogens, must trigger powerful effector mechanisms that permit elimination of the offending microorganisms. Finally, these recognition and effector systems must distinguish the universe of potentially harmful molecules from an equally diverse repertoire of structurally similar 'self' components. How is such specific molecular recognition achieved? How do the cells responsible for mediating host defense develop, and what signaling systems direct their responses? These are questions being addressed by members of the program at the molecular, cellular, and whole organism levels.

Graduate Program

Graduate Program Coordinator
H564 Health Sciences, Box 357650
(206) 685-3955, fax (206) 543-1013

The graduate program, organized through the Department of Immunology, occupies contemporary laboratory and office space in the H and I wings of the Health Sciences complex, where many faculty are based. Other members of the training faculty are based in contiguous wings of the Health Sciences complex or at one of four affiliated institutions: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Benaroya Research Center at Virginia Mason, Seattle Children's hospital, and the Institute for Systems Biology. The University of Washington is a premier institution for biomedical research in the nation, ranking second among all institutions in overall support from the NIH. The research environment is augmented by affiliated institutions, creating an open and collegial partnership for basic, translational, and clinical research in which collaborations and open sharing of ideas and reagents take place. Members of the program have been instrumental in development and application of contemporary technologies, including flow cytometry, confocal microscopy, high-throughput genomic, proteomic, and computational analysis, and generation and analysis of transgenic/knockout/knockin mice to address important immunological and biological questions. Training of students occurs in an open environment which is intellectually stimulating, scientifically diverse, and strongly interactive. All immunology graduate students are assured financial support for the term of their studies.

Master of Science

Students are not admitted to the department specifically as candidates for a master's degree. A terminal master's degree can be awarded if the faculty deems the student has made some progress in the program but not enough to be consistent with earning the Ph.D.

Doctor of Philosophy

Admission Requirements

Students are admitted for autumn quarter; application deadline is January 1 for U.S. citizens and November 1 for international applicants. Requirements for admission are flexible. However, most successful applicants have completed survey courses in biology, chemistry, and physics; one year of organic chemistry; and mathematics through integral calculus. Prior exposure to immunology through formal coursework, or especially through laboratory research, is desirable. A bachelor's degree is required, as is evidence of superior scholarship and above average performance on the GRE General Test. A GRE subject test is not required.

International students must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL); 250 is the minimum acceptable score on computer test.

Degree Requirements

90 credits, to include:

  1. 1. 18 graded credits in the first two years of study. First-year coursework consists of consecutive five-week-long courses taken autumn through spring quarters two per quarter (for 1.5 to 2 graded credits each); winter quarter, all first year students also take IMMUN 532 (4 graded credits), for a total of 13 or 13.5 graded credits the first year, depending on course choices. In the second year, 4.5 or 5 additional graded credits are required, earned by taking electives winter and/or spring quarters. As part of the first- and second-year coursework, students take two five-week courses that specifically focus on cancer immunology.
  2. Autumn quarter of the first year, students may take an elective and attend selected lectures of the undergraduate immunology course, IMMUN 441. Students are required to attend the departmental seminar series, Journal Club, and research-in-progress talks beginning the first quarter and continuing throughout enrollment.
  3. All elective courses must be relevant to biomedical research, and be rigorous enough to include either a final examination or required written paper for a grade. Elective classes must be at the 500 level, and receive a numerical grade.
  4. Each graduate student takes the qualifying examination during July immediately following the second year of classes. (MSTP students take qualifying examinations following the first year of graduate classes.) The qualifying examination is two parts - written and oral.
  5. Students who pass the qualifying examination then prepare for the General Examination, which must be taken within 15 months of the qualifying examination.
  6. The dissertation must meet all format requirements before being accepted by the Graduate School.