Immunology Graduate Training Program

The Graduate Program in Immunology is a stand-alone, department-based program offering a Ph.D. degree in immunology.  The Department of Immunology provides a physical home within the School of Medicine, which facilitates interactions and builds cohesiveness among faculty, students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff.  Students acquire independent thinking and problem solving skills through a combination of formal coursework and thesis research.  Our alumni have gone on to outstanding careers working in major research universities, biotechnology companies and teaching colleges.


Students receive training through formal coursework in immunology as well as through elective courses in other areas such as molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, pharmacology and cell biology. Students become acquainted with program laboratories through a series of laboratory rotations before choosing a laboratory for dissertation work by the end of the first year.  Throughout their graduate careers, students are exposed to a broad range of contemporary immunological research through:

  • Weekly seminars delivered by speakers from around the world and from within Duke Medical Center
  • Weekly “work in progress” seminars delivered by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows
  • Departmental journal clubs

Students are also encouraged to attend national/international conferences where they can present their discoveries and interact with leading scientists in the field. The program also provides students with invaluable teaching experience through participation in one semester of supervised teaching.

Research Opportunities

Graduate Education

The Graduate Program in Immunology provides students with an interactive and collaborative environment that spans basic and clinical sciences at Duke.   Many program faculty hold primary appointments in other departments, including Medicine, Pediatrics, Surgery, Pathology, Ophthalmology, and Molecular Genetics and Microbiology.  The faculty provides trainees with opportunities for study in a range of areas of contemporary immunological research, for example:

  • mechanisms of lymphocyte development and function, including lymphoid lineage commitment, V(D)J recombination, lymphocyte signaling, effector cell development, homeostasis and tolerance
  • mechanisms of innate immunity and inflammation, including macrophage, dendritic cell, mast cell and complement function
  • mechanisms of host defense against bacterial and viral pathogens
  • the development of autoimmune and immunodeficiency diseases
  • anti-tumor immunity

Thesis Research

The major emphasis is on research. Each student selects a thesis mentor at the end of the first year and begins research in the second year. By the end of the second year, students must take a preliminary exam whereby they submit an off-topic proposal that serves as the exam for advancement to degree candidacy. The average time to complete a Ph.D. thesis in the Graduate Program in Immunology is 5.6 years.  

Student Outcomes

The Graduate Program in Immunology was founded in 1992 and matriculates on average 6 students per year.  Among our 2014-2020 Ph.D.s, 75% are currently involved in basic research (faculty, postdoctoral, private sector, academic, government), 11% are in advanced medical training, and 14% are in positions such as consulting, marketing and science writing.  Among our 2004-2013 Ph.D.s, 33% currently hold faculty positions.  

Interested in joining our Graduate Program?