Program goal

The graduate programs of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine include degrees offered at the master’s and doctoral levels. These educational programs have as their mission the preparation of individuals for a variety of career objectives in microbiology and immunology. The programs incorporate formal instructional activities and, as appropriate, research training, mentored by the members of the faculty. The M.S. program is distinguished by inclusion of the preparation of the individual to function as a laboratory director or scientific investigator.

The Ph.D. program is designed to provide students with the skills required to advance to positions as bioscience researchers and trainers in a broad spectrum of positions. The structure of the program provides a framework for the progressive development of a mastery of the current state of the subject matter of bioscience, an ability to synthesize this information and apply this foundation to the identification of key areas of investigation and experimentation in bioscience. The program relates this framework to the development of the ability to design, implement and interpret experimental approaches that address the questions identified.

The Ph.D. program is also designed to develop skills in the various means of communicating both the core of bioscience knowledge and the expression of experimental design, results and interpretation to a variety of potential audiences

Student learning outcomes

  1. Oral communication skills: The candidate will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of oral communication skills with respect to the content, organization, logical flow, presentation and appropriate use of language incorporating the use of visual aids, as measured by rubric.
  2. Written communication skills: The candidate will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of written communication skill with respect to grammar, syntax, spelling and use of vocabulary to effectively present information including the use of figures, tables and citations as measured by rubric.
  3. Experimental design: The candidate will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of competence in the ability to appraise, modify and/or create, and implement experimental protocols and to design and develop experiments as measured by rubric.
  4. Problem-solving skills: The candidate will demonstrate an appropriate level of skill in the identification and selection of meaningful problems to be addressed in bioscience research, including the ability to defend said identifications and to design and develop appropriate methods to solve said problems as measured by rubric.
  5. General knowledge of science: The candidate should demonstrate a general knowledge of the elements of the sciences as related to molecular/cellular bioscience and a detailed knowledge of his or her area of research, including an appropriate familiarity with the research literature.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Other information

School of Medicine graduate program policies

The School of Medicine provides policies applicable to all programs administratively housed in the school. Information on doctoral programs is available elsewhere in this chapter of the Graduate Bulletin.


Apply online today.

Admission requirements

Admission requirements
Degree:Semester(s) of entry:Deadline dates:Test requirements:
Ph.D.FallApplications received prior to Jan 15 given priority considerationTOEFL if international

Special requirements

  • Applications for the program must be submitted to the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal – School of Medicine – Ph.D. selected from the drop-down menu of programs on the VCU online application form.

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, successful applicants will typically have the following credentials:

  1. A baccalaureate degree or its equivalent at the time of enrollment, with an undergraduate GPA of 3.5
  2. TOEFL scores of 600 (pBT), 250 (cBT) or 100 (iBT) for individuals for whom English is a second language; or 6.5 on the IELTS (To report GRE or TOEFL score, use VCU Code 5570.)
  3. Personal statements, which should include: long-term career goals to assess reasons behind the candidate’s application; how a Ph.D. in biomedical science helps achieve those goals; the factors motivating a career in research; research experience, including dates, places and duration
  4. Three letters of recommendation that speak to the scientific competency and experience of the applicant
  5. The equivalent of two semesters of general chemistry, two semesters of organic chemistry and two semesters of upper-level biology courses (e.g. cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, neuroscience, physiology, biophysics, etc.)

Degree requirements

In addition to the general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, students must complete a minimum of 58 graduate credit hours. At least six credits must come from didactic 600-level courses.

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology has an outstanding faculty with diverse research interests that include cell and molecular biology, molecular genetics, molecular pathogenesis, bacteriology, immunology, immunotoxicology, virology, parasitology, mycology and oncology. The goal of the graduate program is to prepare students to become creative problem-solvers and leaders in scientific research. The Ph.D. degree is offered, as well as an M.D.-Ph.D. option for medical students interested in academic or research careers, and a master’s degree.

The research experience is complemented with excellent course offerings, seminar programs, teaching opportunities, presentations at scientific meetings, writing of a grant application and writing of scientific papers. Graduate students acquire a wide range of research experience in the first year through exposure to a variety of research laboratories and investigators. The student matches with a research adviser, completes a written and oral examination and then carries out an original independent research project under the direction of the adviser. The project falls under the review of a graduate advisory committee, and a written dissertation is defended in a final examination.

A cumulative GPA of 3.0 (with no more than six credit hours of a C grade) is required to maintain satisfactory academic progress.

Course requirements

Note: First-year Ph.D. students in the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal should earn a minimum of seven credits of didactic courses in the fall semester to be eligible to matriculate into Ph.D. program in microbiology and immunology. Three of these credits must come from MICR 505 or MICR 515.

Required core courses
IBMS 600Laboratory Safety1
IBMS 620Laboratory/Clinical Rotations (three rotations)6
MICR 505Immunobiology3
MICR 515Principles of Molecular Microbiology3
MICR 690Microbiology Research Seminar (taken each fall and spring semester; minimum eight credits)8
Required additional courses
Select at least one of the following (satisfies three credits of six-credit 600-level didactic requirement):3
Prokaryotic Molecular Genetics
Mechanisms of Viral and Parasite Pathogenesis 1
Molecular Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogenesis 1
Advanced Immunobiology 2
Select one of the following journal club courses for one semester every year (four credits minimum).4
Current Topics in Molecular Pathogenesis
Topics in Molecular Biology and Genetics
Current Topics in Immunology
OVPR 601Scientific Integrity1
or OVPR 602 Responsible Scientific Conduct
or OVPR 603 Responsible Conduct of Research
Elective courses
Select at least two credits from the following:2
Techniques in Molecular Biology and Genetics
Advanced Molecular Genetics: Bioinformatics
Molecular Biology of Cancer
Dissertation research
MICR 697Directed Research in Microbiology27
Total Hours58

Offered in alternate years


May be repeated with different content to satisfy the six-credit 600-level didactic requirement.

The minimum total of graduate credit hours required for this degree is 58.

Typical plan of study

Many students often end up taking more than the minimum number of hours required for a degree program. The total number of hours may vary depending upon the program, nature of research being conducted by a study or in the enrollment or funding status of the student. Students should refer to their program websites and talk with their graduate program directors or advisers for information about typical plans of study and registration requirements.

Contact for prospective students
Kimberly Jefferson, Ph.D.
Associate professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
(804) 828-9699

Contact for current students
Lisa Shock, Ph.D.
Assistant professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
(804) 628-2289

Additional contact
Martha L. VanMeter
Office services specialist
(804) 828-9728

Program website: