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Department of Microbiology, A Leader in Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis Research and Training.

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Curriculum for the Microbiology PhD Graduate Program

Students begin their program of study by taking an intensive graduate level course that provides a unified presentation of the fundamental principles in the basic disciplines of biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, and genetics. This is a core course that is designed for all first year basic science graduate students at the University of Colorado.  Beginning spring semester, students take additional elective courses in subjects such as microbial pathogenesis, bacteriology, virology and immunology. In addition to the Microbiology Program's required courses, students may take additional elective courses offered by other graduate programs. Students must earn 30 semester credit hours prior to the comprehensive examination and advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

In addition to formal course work, during their first year, Microbiology Graduate Program students conduct a series of three independent research projects, or laboratory rotations. Students may do their rotations in the laboratories of any of the Microbiology Graduate Program faculty.

Throughout their graduate training, students also participate in a variety of lively journal clubs and "Research in Progress" presentations. In these interactive sessions, students learn to critically evaluate the scientific literature and develop strong presentation skills. Each year the graduate students present their ongoing research in the weekly Microbiology Seminar series. All students are expected to regularly attend two of the three weekly journal clubs hosted by the department of Microbiology: Bacteriology Journal Club or Virology Journal Club and Infectious Diseases Journal Club.

Successful completion of a written and an oral examination is required for advancement to candidacy for doctoral thesis research. By the end of the spring semester of the first year, students have completed the required course work. At this time, the students must pass a written Preliminary Examination that addresses problem solving aspects of the first year course work. In addition, an oral Comprehensive Examination is taken by mid-December of the second year. This examination is based on a written research proposal prepared by the student.

After successfully completing the Comprehensive Examination, the student is advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. The students usually select a laboratory and dissertation advisor by the end of the first year of study. Any faculty member of the Microbiology Graduate Program can serve as a dissertation mentor. Selection of a laboratory is a mutual decision made by the student and the prospective mentor, and is, in part, contingent upon available space and research funding. When the mentor has been selected a Doctoral Thesis Committee is appointed to advise the student and mentor in matters pertaining to the student's research. Through regular meetings with the student and mentor, the committee evaluates and monitors the student's progress. A typical doctoral dissertation requires three to four years of full-time research.


The Ph.D. program in Microbiology trains graduate students to become proficient and successful investigators who are able to:

1.      Demonstrate a basic knowledge of central concepts in the biomedical sciences.

2.      Understand current concepts in microbiology.

3.      Read and critically evaluate the scientific literature.

4.      Formulate hypotheses based on current concepts in the field and design, conduct, and interpret their own research projects.

5.      Present research results in peer-reviewed publications and in a dissertation.

6.      Communicate research results effectively through oral presentations at scientific seminars, conferences, and other venues.

7.      Write a competitive application for research funding.

8.      Develop ancillary skills, where necessary, to obtain positions outside of scientific research.