College of Veterinary Medicine

Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology

Graduate Training in Immunology and Infectious Diseases

  Budding Virus
The Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology at Washington State University offers outstanding research training leading to the M.S. and/or Ph.D degrees. The Department’s research and training programs are focused in the immunology, epidemiology and host-pathogen interactions at the molecular level of bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections of animals and humans.

Trainees develop a strong background through coursework in biochemistry, bioinformatics, cell biology, disease pathogenesis, immunology, molecular genetics, and statistics. Dissertation research is carried out under the direction of a highly collaborative research faculty internationally recognized for infectious disease research ( and who are experienced in mentoring trainees within state-of-the-art laboratories funded by NIH, USDA-ARS, Grayson Foundation, Morris Animal Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust. This academic research environment is enriched by integration with the Washington State University Animal Health Research Center, the USDA Animal Disease Research Unit, and the WSU Center for Integrated Biotechnology.

Areas of Emphasis: The Program is highly collaborative with a central theme of investigation of microbial pathogens and their interaction with animal hosts and the environment. Within this common goal, there are currently 46 extramurally funded projects, with a total research budget of over $18 million, in 8 integrated programs of emphasis :

  • Bacterial and Viral Respiratory Disease
  • Immunology: Innate Immunity, Immunogenetics, and Vaccine Development
  • Mycobacterial Infections
  • Parasitic Infections
  • Persistent Viral Infections
  • Transmissible Spongioform Encephalopathies
  • Vector-borne Diseases
  • Zoonotic and Food-borne Pathogens

Overview of the Graduate Program: Training is tailored to the individual's background and career goals, with the proviso that a strong basic sciences foundation is indispensable in preparation for disease research. Core knowledge in the basic sciences is attained through coursework in biochemistry, bioinformatics, cell biology, disease pathogenesis, immunology, molecular genetics, and statistics. MS candidates are required to earn 30 credits of which 21 must be formal graded courses or seminars and the remainder earned for supervised thesis research. PhD candidates are required to earn 72 credits; 34 of these credits must be formal graded graduate courses or seminars with the remainder earned for supervised dissertation research. This core knowledge is advanced through regularly scheduled seminars, special seminar series, and through directed readings with the Graduate faculty. Mentored laboratory research is the most critical part of the training and the strength of our program. This is the primary mechanism by which the philosophy of research is imparted to new scientists. In this arrangement, the major professor and the trainee interact intensively, most often on a daily basis, to define a research hypothesis and the appropriate experiments to test the hypothesis. Together the major professor and graduate student trainee develop a directed course of research. Throughout the training period, all graduate students attend weekly research seminars where faculty and trainees present recent results. The goal of trainee participation in these seminars is exposure to critical analysis of data, experimental design and discussion of research significance. Trainees are expected to conduct original research leading to a significant contribution to knowledge in the trainee's area of emphasis and culminating in publication in leading international scientific journals. This publication is required for and constitutes the MS thesis and PhD dissertation. The final MS or PhD examination is preceded by a public presentation of the research, attended by the faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows, followed by an oral examination that is primarily a defense of the original research, but may cover the general fields of knowledge pertinent to the degree.

Current Trainees and Opportunities: Currently there are 40 MS and PhD graduate students working in the highly interactive and collaborative research environment of the Program. The Graduate Program prepares trainees for leadership positions in academia, the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, and national and international biomedical laboratories and graduates are very competitive for positions in these organizations. Of the trainees in the past 10 years, approximately 50% of the graduates hold positions within academic or government research institutions and 50% within biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies.

Application Procedures: Candidates must possess a BA or BS with a strong background in the biological sciences or a DVM (or equivalent). Initial application can be made directly to the Department—applications should include all official university transcripts, curriculum vitae, statement of professional goals and names of three references. Send applications to:

Graduate School Admissions
Washington State University
P.O. Box 641030
Pullman, WA  99164-1030
phone (509) 335-6424

Applications are accepted throughout the year.

 Biotechnology training program: Candidates with a BA or BS degree in the sciences and who are US citizens (or permanent residents of the US) may apply through the Department for a position on the university-wide NIH Biotechnology Training Program. More information on this program can be found at

Application should be made to the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology and outstanding candidates will be nominated for a position in this Training Program by the Chair of the Graduate Program.

 Combined residency program: Candidates with a DVM degree are encouraged to consider application to the combined graduate/residency programs in either clinical microbiology or anatomic pathology. DVM degree applicants are also considered for non-residency graduate programs. Candidates with a DVM (or other clinical doctorate such as MD, DDS, PharmD) and who are US citizens (or permanent residents of the US) may apply directly to the NIH Immunology Training Program

 Opportunities through USDA-ARS: Candidates with a DVM and who are US citizens may apply for a position integrated with and supported by the USDA Animal Diseases Research Unit. These positions are fully integrated with the Graduate Program. Application should be made directly to the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology and candidates eligible for and interested in a USDA position will be nominated for a position in this Training Program by the Chair of the Graduate Program. More information on the USDA-ADRU can be found at

 International students & other RA's: International students and others interested in research assistant positions are welcomed, however please be advised that there are very few Graduate Research Assistantships available each year. Prospective students interested in an RA position are strongly encouraged to contact individual faculty with whom they wish to work and arrange opportunities in specific labs. International applicants are strongly encouraged to obtain a fellowship to support their graduate training from either their home country or one of the organizations that provide international fellowship support such as the Fulbright Program

Stipend levels vary by trainee qualifications and the specifics of the fellowship or training program. All Graduate Research Assistantships include tuition support and personal health insurance.

Washington State University is an affirmative action/equal opportunity educator and employer. Protected group members are encouraged to apply.

Graduate and Training Programs in VMP
Last Edited: Dec 01, 2010 12:08 PM   

Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, PO Box 647040 , Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-7040, 509-335-6030, Contact Us  Safety Links