The Department of Microbiology and Immunology is one of 14 Stanford “home programs” that cooperatively recruit and train graduate students in the Biosciences. Students apply to up to three such programs and then enter through one. As the name implies, the “home” program serves as the student’s home from which to explore all that Stanford has to offer. Research rotations lasting three months (one quarter) can be done in any bioscience lab in the University (a total of over 280!) but at least one must be done in a lab that is part of the home program; in our case, that means over 25 faculty. The final thesis lab is chosen based on these research rotations and while most student ends up staying in the original home program, ones who discover a new passion during their rotations can transfer to a different home program or simply stay within the M&I home but do their thesis work outside the Department (assuming their thesis work will bear at least some connection to our discipline).
The specifics go something like this (full details are available in our M&I Graduate Student Handbook). Once admitted, a graduate student selects a lab for the first research rotation and signs up for 2-3 courses in the first quarter, depending on his/her background. A full listing of the official program requirements is available on line. Courses typically taken are at the advanced graduate level in microbiology, immunology, genetics, cell and molecular biology and biochemistry. These are taught by faculty from throughout the University. Following a second and third rotation along similar lines (except that the research rotations can be in any bioscience lab). A thesis lab is typically selected by the fourth quarter (summer). In the autumn of their second year, each student presents a research proposal that will form the basis of the Ph.D. thesis. In the winter/spring of this same year, students take the oral part of their qualifying exam, based on an original research idea on some topic other than their eventual thesis project. All students are required to obtain some teaching experience, usually by serving as teaching assistant in at least two department courses. The normal time for completion of the Ph.D. is about 5 to 5.5 years.