Degree Programs

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. Research in the department is described extensively on our “About the department” page and individual faculty pages.

The department provides a unique multidisciplinary training environment for PhD students. Students dive deeply into a specific aspect of immunology and infectious disease in their own thesis research while gaining broad exposure through interactions with our close community in the department and across the School. In a typical week, a student whose research focuses on the genetics of TB drug resistance might also attend a departmental work-in-progress talk from a student working on immune responses to HIV and a departmental seminar from an outside leader reporting progress on a TB control program from a specific country. Many students also have the opportunity to travel within the US and globally as part of collaborative research projects.

PhD students in our department join through PhD programs in the “Harvard Integrated Life Sciences” (HILS) consortium. We’ve included the most common programs below. You can see a full list of HILS programs here.

Ph.D. Programs

Ph.D. Program in Biological Sciences in Public Health

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 visit the Division of Biological Sciences

PhD Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences

The Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS) Program at Harvard offers Ph.D. training in the biosciences, built outward from core training in contemporary genetics, biochemistry, and molecular, cellular, and mechanistic biology. Under the BBS umbrella are eight engaging research communities comprised of basic science departments and interdepartmental programs at Harvard Medical School.

For more information about the PhD program visit the The Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS) Program

Ph.D. Program in 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.

For more information about the PhD program visit the Ph.D. Program in Immunology

Ph.D. Program in 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.

For more information about the PhD program visit the Ph.D. Program in Virology

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.

MD-PhD programs

Our PhD students are also eligible to join supplemental concentrations that provide close communities with additional opportunities for scientific training, career and professional development, mentorship, and friendships. We’ve included a few popular programs below. You can see a full list here.

We encourage applicants from all backgrounds and identities. To learn more about application resources, fee waivers, affinity groups, and other supports for Harvard PhD students, please visit this page.