Course Catalog

Microbiology and Immunology


Peter Sarnow, PhD

Department web site:

Faculty of Microbiology and Immunology:

Department Offices:

D300 Fairchild Building, 299 Campus Drive
Mail Code: 5124
Stanford, CA 94305-5124
(650) 725-8541

Courses offered by the Department of Microbiology and Immunology are listed under the subject code MI on Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site.

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology offers a complete program of training leading to the PhD degree, as well as research training, courses, and seminars for medical students and postdoctoral fellows. Research interests focus on two broad areas, host/parasite interactions, and the function of the immune system. Individual laboratories investigate mechanisms of pathogenesis and the physiology of viruses, bacteria, and protozoan parasites, as well as the lymphocyte function in antigen recognition, immune response, and autoimmunity.



A regular MS program is not offered, although this degree is awarded under special circumstances. Candidates for master’s degrees are expected to have completed the preliminary requirements for the BS degree, or the equivalent. In addition, the candidate is expected to complete 45 quarter units of work related to microbiology; at least 25 of these units should concern research devoted to a thesis. The thesis must be approved by at least two members of the department faculty.


Application, Admission, and Financial Aid—Prospective PhD candidates should have completed a bachelor’s degree in a discipline of biology or chemistry, including course work in biochemistry, chemistry, genetics, immunology, microbiology, and molecular biology. The deadline for receipt of applications with all supporting materials is December 2.

Applicants must file a report of scores on the general subject tests of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). It is strongly recommended that the GRE be taken before October so that scores are available when applications are evaluated.

In the absence of independent fellowship support, entering predoctoral students are fully supported with a stipend and tuition award. Highly qualified applicants may be honored by a nomination for a Stanford Graduate Fellowship. Successful applicants have been competitive for predoctoral fellowships such as those from the National Science Foundation.

Program for Graduate Study—The PhD degree requires course work and independent research demonstrating an individual’s creative, scholastic, and intellectual abilities. On entering the department, students meet an advisory faculty member and together they design a timetable for completion of the degree requirements. Typically, this consists of first identifying gaps in the student’s undergraduate education and determining courses that should be taken. Then, a tentative plan is made for two to four lab rotations (one rotation per quarter). During the first year of graduate study in the department, each student also takes six or seven upper-level (200-series) courses. Four of these courses are requirements of the department: MI 215 Principles of Biological Techniques; MI 204 Innate Immunology; MI 210 Advanced Pathogenesis of Bacteria, Viruses, and Eukaryotic Parasites; and MI 250 Frontiers in Microbiology and Immunology. Three courses are part of the core curriculum that is required of many graduate students in Stanford Biosciences: BIO 203/DBIO 203/GENE 203 Advanced Genetics; BIO 230 Molecular and Cellular Immunology; and MCP 221/BIO 214 Cell Biology of Physiological Processes.

In Spring Quarter of the second year, each student defends orally a formal research proposal on a topic outside the intended thesis project. The proposal is due to the graduate program steering committee by May 1. Based on successful performance on this proposal, the student is admitted to candidacy. In the Autumn Quarter of the second year, a research proposal based on the student’s own thesis topic is defended to his or her thesis committee. Teaching experience and training are also part of the graduate curriculum. All graduate students are required to act as teaching assistants for two courses. In addition, first- and second-year graduate students are required to participate in a bi-weekly journal club.


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