MS in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

The primary objective of the Master of Science program in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology is to prepare students for a career in the broad field of biomedical sciences with focus on, but not limited to, microbiology, virology, immunology and cancer research. This program provides extensive theoretical preparation in combination with hands-on research, where students are trained in research laboratories located on the University of Southern California’s Health Sciences Campus – comprised of the Keck School of Medicine, the School of Pharmacy and the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center – or Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).
Axel H. Schönthal, PhD

Axel H. Schönthal, PhD
MS Program Director
Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

Employment opportunities with an MS from this program are envisioned in:

  • Academic research: universities, institutes, not-for-profit research centers (research and teaching)
  • Academic teaching: community college, primary and secondary schools, technical and specialty schools
  • Industry: biotech, pharma, petrol, dairies, breweries (research and development, vaccines, food and beverage production, sales and technical representation, etc.)
  • Health care: hospitals and health care providers (medical technology, diagnostic laboratory)
  • Law firms (patents, intellectual property rights, technology transfer, toxic torts)
  • Environmental organizations (advisory, management, planning)
  • Government (public health, waste management, EPA, FDA, NIH, etc.)
  • Publishing: journalism, journal editor

Program Summary

Students will attend required core courses in microbiology, virology and immunology. They will also have the option of taking elective classes on a variety of topics, such as cell biology, biochemistry, cancer biology, molecular genetics, virology, cellular physiology, stem cell biology, methods in experimental pathology, and English writing skills (for international students).

Parallel to the coursework, a second major emphasis of our training program is laboratory research, in which students join one of the many research groups on the HSC or at CHLA and participate in ongoing, cuttting-edge biomedical research. A great diversity of research areas is available at USC and includes themes in virology (AIDS, hepatitis, herpes, papilloma, virus-induced cancers, viral pathogenesis), immunology (vaccine development, autoimmune diseases, allergy, asthma, immune therapy, immune evasion by viruses), cancer (oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, cell cycle, apoptosis, signal transduction, drug development, mechanisms of virally-induced cancers, chemical carcinogenesis), stem cells (cancer and embryonic), premature aging (Werner syndrome, Progeria), and others. Selection of a laboratory for rotation or for optional thesis work is determined by mutual agreement between the student and the respective lab leader.

Typically, students take two years to complete the degree requirements (34 units), and thereafter they are awarded the Master of Science degree in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology.