Degree Programs

Courses

The Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases focuses on the biological, immunological, epidemiological, and ecological aspects of viral, bacterial, and protozoan diseases of animals and humans and the vectors that transmit some of these infectious agents.

Research in the department emphasizes basic pathogenic mechanisms that may lead to better diagnostic tools, the development of vaccines and other interventions for prevention and control of infection and disease, and the identification of new targets for antiviral and antiparasitic drugs. Laboratory-based research within the school may be supplemented by field-based studies of epidemiological and ecological aspects of infectious disease transmission and control. Diseases of developing countries are emphasized.

Members of the department take a multidisciplinary approach that includes immunology, molecular biology, public health entomology, cell biology and ultrastructure, biochemistry, pathology, virology, epidemiology, and ecology. The faculty undertakes research both within the school and around the world.

Infectious and immune-mediated diseases currently under study include HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Chagas, Malaria, Pneumonia, Enteric Diseases, Inflammatory Bowel, and Autoimmune diseases. Further immunologic studies focus on genetic regulation of the immune response, the interplay between the innate immune system and intestinal microbial communities, the function and regulation of T-cell-derived cytokines and cytokines involved in the regulation of inflammation. Research in the department emphasizes basic pathogenic mechanisms that may lead to better diagnostic tools, the development of vaccines and other interventions for prevention and control of infection and disease, and the identification of new targets for antiviral and antiparasitic drugs.

Immunology

The curriculum currently focuses on genetic regulation of the immune response, molecular mechanisms of the regulation of class II genes, and the function and regulation of T-cell-derived cytokines. Students take courses in cell biology, immunology, and molecular immunology.

Immunology and molecular biology of parasitic and other infections
This area of interest introduces students to recent advances in the biology of parasitic and infectious diseases and provides background for conducting research on these diseases. The program emphasizes molecular biology, immunology, cell biology, and the epidemiology of parasites.

Infectious disease epidemiology and tropical public health
This area of interest provides a solid understanding of epidemiology, ecology, and control of infectious diseases in developing countries. It emphasizes control and prevention measures and the biological basis of diseases caused by pathogens that range from viruses to parasites.

Vector Biology, Ecology, and Control

This area of interest focuses on the manner in which blood-feeding arthropods interact with their various vertebrate hosts and with the human pathogens that they transmit. These interests combine biological experimentation, epidemiological analysis, and population studies.

Students become familiar with the various arthropods that are associated with human disease and learn the ways environmental change may result in ill health. Students conduct studies on mechanisms of transmission of vectorborne pathogens, both in the laboratory and in the field, and devise novel intervention strategies.

Virology

This area of interest is designed to prepare a future generation of experts for new developments in the pathogenesis and prevention of AIDS and other infectious diseases. At present the program emphasizes the epidemiology, biology, and vaccinology of AIDS as an example of a complex infectious disease. Students take courses in virology, vaccine development, and related fields.

Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences in Public Health (Immunology and Infectious Diseases)

Students wishing to study cellular and molecular biology, immunology, virology, or physiology as it pertains to major problems in public health should apply to the PhD program offered by the Division of Biological Sciences through Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The PhD program is designed to train scientists in state-of-the-art concepts and methods in immunology, immune system disorders, virology, the biology of parasites, or important infectious diseases. For more information about the PhD program, see the Division of Biological Sciences.