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W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

Doctor of Philosophy


Opportunities for doctoral research in MMI are multifaceted and include research in the areas of virology, bacteriology, parasitology, mycology, vaccine development, host immunity, pathogenesis, autoimmunity, bioinformatics, ecology of infectious diseases, and medical entomology. Our PhD students learn fundamental and mechanistic approaches to solving essential questions in microbiology, immunology and public health.

Funding: All PhD students will receive the following support for the duration of their program: stipend, a full tuition, individual health insurance, University Health Services clinic fee, vision insurance and dental insurance.  

The primary focus of this degree is completion of original research and preparation of a research thesis. Through a departmental core curriculum as well as research area-specific courses, laboratory rotations, mentored research and professional development experiences, all MMI PhD students are prepared to engage in cutting edge research and scholarship that advances knowledge. MMI PhD students practice their skills in one of three research training areas:

Our curricular portfolio includes:

260.611-260.612 Principles of Immunology
I and II
260.700 How do we know? Theory & Practice of Science
260.801-260.802 Topics in Immunology260.701 Anatomy of Scientific Error
260.852 Molecular Biology Literature260.702 Fundamentals of Biomedical Reasoning
260.623 Fundamental Virology260.703 Methods & Innovation in Bioscience
260.627 Pathogenesis of Bacterial Infections260.844 Causation
260.635 Biology of Parasitism260.707 Evidence-based teaching
260.730 Applied Mycology - Fungal biology in lab, environment and health260.710 Communications Practice for Health Science Professionals
260.650 Vector Biology and Vector Borne Diseases260.715 Unleash Your Writing Superpower

In addition, students receive comprehensive training in academic and research ethics, and complete rigorous coursework in molecular biology, scientific grant writing and biostatistics. Students also participate in laboratory research meetings, journal clubs, and seminars. Finally, students have opportunities to take elective courses within and outside of MMI.  For detailed information about required and elective coursework in the individual research areas of the MMI PhD program, please consult the Johns Hopkins e-catalogue.

Rotations and Research Mentor 

Upon entering the MMI Department, each student is assigned to a faculty member who will serve as the academic advisor for the first year. The academic advisor will assist with the selection of appropriate courses for the first year and will serve as a source of information about department policies and procedures.

In the first year, each student rotates through three laboratories in the Department, spending 8 weeks in each. All three rotations are selected by the student. These rotations serve as the basis for short oral presentations during the weekly Departmental Research Forum. Typically, after the third rotation, students decide on their PhD mentor.

Written and Oral Exams

Students in the PhD program take two comprehensive exams.

The first examination is intended to test competency in areas of study required in MMI during the first year. The written comprehensive exam consists of a critical review of the scientific literature on a topic relevant to first-year coursework that is chosen by the student in consultation with the academic advisor. The review must include an analysis of the state of knowledge on the topic, identification of important unanswered questions, and potential experimental approaches to address those questions. A three-member MMI committee assesses the student's ability to integrate and apply information to the chosen topic. The review is defended in an oral examination.

The second comprehensive examination is the Preliminary Oral Examination and is generally taken after the student’s second year. The purpose of this examination is to determine whether the student has gained the ability and knowledge to undertake significant research in their general area of interest. The written component of the exam takes the form of a grant proposal written by the student on a topic related to their dissertation research using technical knowledge gained in the Scientific to Grant Writing course.

Thesis Research

The MMI Department provides state-of-the-art facilities for cutting-edge research in microbiology and immunology. All laboratories in the Department are newly renovated and provide students with the necessary tools for conducting their dissertation research.

We are committed to ensuring that students receive the highest quality graduate research training available. To that end, each PhD student has a Thesis Advisory Committee to provide advice and constructive feedback about their dissertation research. Students also summarize their thesis research progress annually in the departmental Research Forum. On average, MMI PhD students complete their research project and fulfill the degree requirement in 5-6 years. 

How to Apply

Prospective students should submit the School's online application, which requires the following documents:

The deadline to apply to the PhD Program is December 1 for the training program beginning the following September.  Admissions decisions are made by the end of February.

Application Instructions

All PhD applicants must submit a completed application through SOPHAS.

In the "Supplemental Questions" section of the application, please indicate the training area - MCBIB, MMBD, or R3IM that most interests you.

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Gail O'Connor
Academic Program Administrator
Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
615 North Wolfe Street, Room E5008
Baltimore, Maryland 21205
Phone: (410) 614-4232
Fax: (410) 955-0105