Microbiology and Immunology Program
Martin J. Sapp, Ph.D., Mingyu Ding Professor and Head
The Doctoral Program of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology is quite demanding, but is designed to train the student in the art and science of biomedical research and to give him/her the experience and training to become an independent biomedical researcher who can address fundamental questions in the discipline of microbiology at the molecular and cellular levels. Our students work directly toward the Ph.D. degree in a curriculum that has a considerable coursework component, but its major emphases are to teach the student how to be a “problem solver” by doing independent research at the bench; how to organize and present information by participating in journal clubs and seminar programs (and eventually by presenting papers at major scientific meetings); and how to design experiments and prepare research applications by writing research proposals and scientific manuscripts for publication. All of our students are supported by a stipend and receive a waiver of all tuition.
The research programs within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology are well-supported by major research grants from national funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The ongoing research of the present 12 faculty members spans the disciplines of virology, immunology, and bacteriology and emphasizes the use of molecular approaches and the latest biotechnologies to address fundamental questions. In addition to research grants to individual faculty members, the NIH has awarded funding of more than $22.9 million to establish and support the Center for Molecular and Tumor Virology within the Department. This NIH Center grant supports the expansion of research facilities and individual research programs of several faculty members who seek to understand at the molecular level how viruses mediate different disease outcomes.
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) at Shreveport is a thriving and expanding academic center for research, for the training of students in biomedical research and the health care professions, and for health care delivery to residents of Louisiana and the Ark-La-Tex region. LSUHSC is an integral part of the LSU System of publicly supported higher education and is comprised of the School of Graduate Studies, School of Medicine, and School of Allied Health Professions. The Core Facilities of LSUHSC are outstanding and offer the latest biotechnologies in biomedical research from genomics to proteomics, to micro positron emission tomography, to laser capture microdissection.
The 96 acre campus offers opportunities for research interactions with specialized clinical components such as the LSUHSC Feist-Weiller Cancer Center, the Center for Cardiovascular Diseases and Sciences, Center of Excellence for Arthritis and Rheumatology, Gene Therapy Program, Regional Burn Center, Level 1 Trauma Center, Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit, Positron Emission Tomography Facility, Gamma Knife Imaging Center, Human Retrovirus (AIDS) Clinic, Hepatitis C Research and Treatment Center, 6 Intensive Care Units, and some 65 outpatient and medical specialty clinics.
In addition to research at the Departmental level, which is interactive and diverse, several Centers are organized as interdepartmental affinity groups of basic and clinical researchers who focus investigations into target areas of research. Within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has provided funding of more than $23.9 million to establish a Center for Molecular and Tumor Virology (CMTV). The virology faculty members within the CMTV use molecular approaches to understand how interactions between viral and cellular genes mediate different outcomes of infection, which vary from cell killing to persistent infection to transformation leading to tumor formation. The faculty of the CMTV has grown to 16 full-time members who direct independent research programs that address fundamental questions about the molecular biology, oncogenic properties, immunology, and pathogenesis of many viral pathogens. These LSUHSC virologists hold faculty positions in the Departments of Microbiology and Immunology, Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Pediatrics, and Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery. Some CMTV faculty are faculty members at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and Louisiana State University at Shreveport. The Center for Molecular and Tumor Virology is funded until May 2019 by this major NIH Center grant.
Faculty members within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology outside the disciplines of molecular and tumor virology carry out independent research in the areas of the pathogenesis of bacterial disease, the role of inflammation in cardiovascular disease, and immunology. These research programs are also supported by major extramural grants and seek to understand how the immune system functions at the molecular and cellular levels, how a variety of bacterial pathogens cause disease at the molecular level, how molecular approaches may allow new vaccines and diagnostic reagents to be developed, and molecular mechanisms that operate in cardiovascular disease, and virus- induced cancers.
The program leading to the Ph.D. emphasizes research training at the molecular and cellular levels in several disciplines to prepare the student for a challenging career directing original independent research. While the program of study is tailored to the individual needs of the student, he or she is required to complete a series of core courses that provides a broad background in biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, prokaryotic and eukaryotic molecular biology, immunology, virology, bacteriology, pathogenesis of infectious diseases, and research technologies. The program also emphasizes the written and oral communication skills needed to excel in the scientific community. Active participation in departmental seminars and at least one of the four journal clubs is required of all students. In addition, each student must prepare two research proposals as part of the process of learning how to design experiments, to evaluate the scientific literature in a critical manner, and to begin to master the skills of scientific writing. The most important components of the Ph.D. training program are the research project and dissertation. They are completed under the guidance of the student’s Faculty Advisor and Doctoral Advisory commiittee and must represent original and independent scholarly work.
An individualized program of study is developed for each graduate student through regular consultation with a faculty advisory committee. This program consists of lecture and laboratory courses, seminars, journal clubs, preparation of research proposals, and independent research. Upon entry into the doctoral program, the student becomes acquainted with the research activities of each faculty member and then selects three faculty research laboratories for rotating during the fall semester. At the end of the first semester, the student selects the research laboratory in which he/she will complete a research project for submission in his/her dissertation.
Journal Club Courses
First year students rotate through Journal Clubs during the first semester. Every student must become a member of a Journal Club beginning in January of the first year.