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Program of Study

The requirements set out by the Biological and Biomedical Science (BBS) Program should be followed by all graduate students in the Field of Immunology & Infectious Disease (with the exceptions of those admitted through the Employee Degree Program). You should consult the BBS Student Handbook to ensure that you are compliant with all requirements. Consult the Office of Graduate Education with any questions you might have. Requirements specific to the Field of Immunology & Infectious Disease are detailed below.

Areas of Research: Faculty members within the Field are involved in the following areas of research: Innate Immunity; Adaptive Immunity; Autoimmunity & Immunopathology; Host-Pathogen Interactions; Microbial, Viral & Worm Pathogenesis; Pathogen Structure and Genetics; Drugs & Vaccines.

Special Committee

The Graduate Field of Immunology & Infectious Disease requires three laboratory rotations during the first academic year. During that time, the Director of Graduate Studies serves as temporary Chair of your committee. By the end of the rotation period, you are expected to have chosen a Special Committee Chair. By the end of your third semester of registration, you should have a full Special Committee. Please go to Student Center to update your committee members. Beginning in the Summer of 2013 students in the Field of Immunology & Infectious Disease must have a minimum of four (4) faculty members serve on their Special Committee:

  • Special Committee Chair: Faculty mentor in whose laboratory you are doing your research and who will represent your major concentration area on your committee.
  • Other Committee Members: The Special Committee should be include at least two (2) additional faculty members representing concentrations within Immunology and Infectious Disease other than the one represented by the Special Committee Chair; or, representing a different Graduate Field(s). You should feel free to add one or more additional faculty members to your Committee to provide special expertise in any area of your dissertation research and are encouraged to consult with other faculty members throughout the course of your dissertation research
  • Field Appointed Minor Member: A Field-appointed minor member is assigned by the DGS in consultation with the Executive Committee of the Field. In order to have a field-appointed minor member assigned, please submit your committee membership and a short paragraph to your DGS. Please note: the field-appointed minor member is a permanent member of your committee and must be included in all meetings and exams.

All Immunology and Infectious Disease students are required to submit a Student Progress Review (SPR) form annually, including first year students.  The SPR needs to be completed by all Biological and Biomedical Science PhD students before June 15.  Students are responsible for setting up their committee meetings.

Course Requirement

During your first year, your coursework is chosen in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), who serves as your Special Committee Chair until a permanent committee chair is selected at the end of your rotation period.  Subsequently, your Special Committee is the final arbiter of the courses in which you should enroll. 

At a minimum, all first year students are expected to take: Basic Immunology, BIOMS 3150 (3 credits) in the fall.

Additionally, students whose major subject area is immunology are expected to take an additional 6 credits of coursework to include:

Students whose major subject area is Infectious Disease are expected to take an additional 6 credits of coursework in any graduate level course in microbiology, virology or parasitology.

Regardless of subject area, all students will be required to attend the weekly seminar series in Infection and Immunity, and the journal club in Immunology and Infectious Disease listed as follows:

  • Seminars in Infection & Immunity, VETMI 7120 (1 credit) - required for each year of registration and attendance is mandatory.
  • Current Topics in Immunology & Infectious Disease, VETMI 7230 (1 credit) - required for each year of registration and attendance is mandatory.

Students within the field will round out their coursework in consultation with their Special Committee members.  Students outside the field who wish to minor in the subject area of immunology will have the following course requirements:

  • Six (6) credit hours of Immunology courses
  • Seminars in Infection & Immunity, VETMI 7120 (1 credit) for one semester (mandatory attendance required).
  • Current Topics in Immunology, VETMI 7230 (1 credit) for one semester (mandatory attendance required).

Teaching Experience

A one-semester teaching experience is required of all Immunology & Infectious Disease graduate students. 

Seminars:  As PhD student in the Field of Immunology & Infectious Disease, you are required to present a minimum of two seminars to the research community at Cornell through an of a number of venues including the weekly Work-In-Progress seminar series in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology.

  • The first should be within 9 to 15 months of the beginning your dissertation research, comprising an initial review of the field of study with particular emphasis on current research and the approach that you will take to your project. 
  •  The second seminar will be based on the thesis after all experimental procedures are complete.  This is given as a stand-alone seminar or given in the Field Seminar Series.


The format of your A-exam is determined by your Special Committee, but generally takes the form of an NIH grant proposal written by the candidate and defended orally.  You should consult with your Special Committee to determine the format and content of the exam well in advance of the proposed exam date.  A Schedule of Exam Form must be filed with the CVM Office of Graduate Education 14 days prior to the exam.  The Results of Exam Form must be filed within three (3) days of the exam date.


The B-exam is based on the contents of your dissertation and is an oral exam for defense of your dissertation. A preliminary draft must be distributed to all members of your Special Committee at least four weeks prior to the B-Exam and final copies, complete in all respects and editorially acceptable for final approval, must be distributed at least seven days in advance.  You are required to present a one-hour seminar on the results of your thesis research prior to the exam; this seminar is open to the College and University communities.

External Examiner for the B-Exam/Dissertation

In order to enhance the quality and objectivity of your PhD examination, the Field of Immunology & Infectious Disease offers the option of an external examiner to be added to the Special Committee that reviews your thesis using the following process:

  • The Executive Committee of the Field will select the outside examiner from a list of three (3) qualified candidates proposed by your Special Committee.  This list should be submitted at least three (3) months in advance of the examination. 
  • You must provide the external examiner with a complete but unbound copy of the thesis, allowing him/her at least two weeks for review of the thesis before the examination.  The examiner will be invited to submit comments and recommendations for revision of the dissertation.  Although his/her attendance at the examination is highly desirable, it is not required, although in the event they cannot attend, participation via teleconferencing is encouraged.  Since the outside examiner is not a member of your Special Committee, they are not required to sign the Results of Exam Form or officially approve the thesis.

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