Overview of the PhD Program

The desire to explain natural phenomena, including disease, is the basis for most students’ interest in the biological sciences. Graduate students who work with faculty in the UCLA Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics (MIMG) make original contributions in the various research areas of microbiology (including bacteriology, virology, mycology, and parasitology), immunology, and molecular genetics.

Microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics are interwoven disciplines. Microbiology has played a central role in all aspects of biological sciences, including morphogenesis, genetics, developmental biology, physiology, biochemistry, and cell biology. An understanding of microbiology is thus fundamental to biological research. Microbiology research in the department focuses on mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis, microbial evolution, microbiome function, and metal ion homeostasis.  Immunology is not only a major biological discipline on its own, but also a critical component of disease-oriented microbiology. Immunology research in the department includes studies of basic cell and molecular biology as well as investigations into mechanisms of pathogenesis. Laboratories within the department are studying the regulation and development of the immune system, the immune response to infectious agents and cancer, the molecular and cellular bases of viral and bacterial pathogenesis, mechanisms underlying protein sorting and signal transduction, and the regulation of gene expression. Finally, molecular genetics laboratories in the department study a wide range of topics that include RNA splicing, gene therapy, stem cell biology, and muscle development.

Graduate Programs in Bioscience

The MIMG Department does not have its own degree-granting MS or PhD program. Those who are interested in graduate studies in biological sciences should apply through UCLA’s Graduate Programs in Bioscience (GPB), a consortium of 11 home areas and their affiliated PhD programs, organized to provide the best possible research training and professional development for graduate students pursuing PhDs in the life and biomedical sciences.

Graduate Programs in Bioscience (GPB)


While MIMG does not have its own degree-granting graduate program, we support graduate student research by training students in our labs. Graduate students who work with faculty in the MIMG Department are affiliated with one of several interdepartmental PhD Programs offered through the GPB, primarily the Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Program (MBIDP). MBIDP students receive broad training in molecular biology as well as in-depth training in their research area through a combination of coursework, journal clubs, seminars, and research. We encourage all students who are interested in training in MIMG faculty-led labs to apply for graduate studies through one of the four Home Areas that comprise the MBIDP: 

Graduate students in MIMG labs use a wide array of approaches and techniques to explore the realm of molecular genetics, microbial physiology, virology, mycology, parasitology, immunology, and microbial pathogenesis. Their explorations result in both theoretical advances and practical applications, placing UCLA at the forefront of biomedical research. Graduate training in a MIMG lab prepares students for a wide variety of careers in microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics, including academic positions, industrial appointments, and clinical laboratory supervision in both government agencies and private enterprises.

T  T32 NIH Training Grant Program for PhD students and Postdoctoral Scholars with Multidisciplinary Training in Microbial Pathogenesis.

Director: Patricia Johnson
Associate Director: Peter Bradley
Contact Name: Patricia J. Johnson
Contact Email: johnsonp@ucla.edu
Contact Phone: 310-825-4870

The UCLA Microbial Pathogenesis Training Grant provides the foundation for an integrated research training program in the biochemistry, cell biology & genetics of microbial pathogens and host-pathogen interactions. The program’s goal is to train scientists to conduct research in microbial pathogenesis using molecular, cellular, genetic, immunological, genomic and post-genomic approaches. Our training faculty includes 23 preceptors with a broad range of related research interests in the areas of bacteriology, parasitology, virology, and immunology. Faculty preceptors have excellent publication, funding and training records. The program is small, with six predoctoral and two postdoctoral funded positions; yet it plays a vital role, not limited to trainees, in educating PhD students and postdoctoral fellows in the field of microbial pathogenesis at UCLA. Most of our predoctoral trainees are recruited through the Graduate Program in Biology which will provide an excellent pool of ~45 – 55 predoctoral students yearly. In recent years >30% of entering PhD students express interest in microbiology, immunology and host: pathogen interactions.

Our faculty are also highly successful in attracting qualified postdoctoral fellows. Trainees are selected for funding on a competitive basis, after a thorough review of their academic and research accomplishments. Progress is reviewed at least twice a year and appointments are renewed yearly with a maximum of three years of support for predoctoral trainees and two years for postdoctoral trainees. The training program requires the completion of coursework focused on microbial pathogenesis, annual presentations of trainee research in symposia attended by all trainees and training preceptors, participation in a Microbial Pathogenesis seminar series composed of external, preeminent scientists in the field & associated literature discussions. Trainees are also funded to present their research at one national/international meeting per year. Partial stipend and fees are also awarded to trainees.

Trainees participate in a journal club focused on host: pathogen interactions and newly emerging infectious agents. These journal clubs are jointly facilitated by training preceptors and trainees and serve to broaden trainee education. Participation in a course devoted to ethics and accountability in biomedical research is also required. All trainees will be required to develop career objectives guided by “My Individual Development Plan (IDP)”. Postdoctoral trainees are also required to participate in the PhD Career Training Series and research-related career-focused workshops. Career counseling by the program director and training grant advisory committee is also emphasized. Annual research presentations at national meetings and UCLA scientific retreats are expected. The focal point of our training program is excellence in research. Several mechanisms are in place to monitor and facilitate trainee progress in research and career development.

Contact information

For questions, please contact Dr. Jenesis Fonseca via email at undergrad@microbio.ucla.edu.