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Infectious Diseases and Immunity PhD

The IDI is a laboratory-based research program where students study infectious diseases and immunology through a public health lens.

The IDI Program intends to create opportunities for students to gain new and advanced knowledge about infectious disease agents and how they interact with host cells, human populations, and the environment. Our goal is to improve public health by increasing our understanding of infectious diseases and human immunology through basic and translational research that contributes to developing new diagnostics, treatments, and methods to prevent or control diseases. Because the IDI Graduate Group is administratively managed by the School of Public Health, we follow the School of Public Health application process and deadlines. GRE test scores are not required for the Infectious Diseases and Immunology PhD program.

Program Objectives

The objective of this program is to provide students with research-oriented training that will enable them to design and implement independent investigations and advance the fundamental knowledge of infectious disease agents and their interactions with the human host and the environment. The IDI PhD program is a five to six-year program. Students in the program are fully funded throughout their time in the program, and are provided with a competitive monthly stipend.

We strive to promote health by integrating basic research and applied technologies to develop new approaches for the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and control of infectious disease in humans. This program combines clinical, epidemiological, and basic laboratory research strategies in order to apply these methods to specific infectious disease problems affecting human populations. In addition, students have opportunities to interact with faculty members from multidisciplinary centers involved in global infectious disease research. These include the Center for Global Public Health and the Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases. Students matriculating through this program will acquire expertise in not only fundamental infectious disease research, but also learn how their research relates to other disciplines. Students matriculating through this degree program will acquire expertise in fundamental infectious diseases research for which there is demand from academic institutions, local and national government agencies, and biotechnology companies.

Our Commitment to Belonging

The graduate students and faculty of the Infectious Disease and Immunity Program stand with Black Lives Matter. We believe that racism and police violence is a public health crisis that deserves the same amount of attention and work as any other disease.

As students of Public Health and Biology, we understand the ways in which our field and institutions have been complicit and contributed to the harm perpetuated against Black bodies. The popularized pseudoscience of phrenology, the grotesque distortion of evolution into eugenics, and the irreparable harm of the Tuskegee Syphilis study are just a few examples of how science and public health have perpetuated white supremacy in both mind and body.

We are dedicated to creating an academic environment free of anti-Blackness and making our program and community places where Black, Indigenous, and other URM students can thrive. This is a lofty goal and we recognize that it will take more than a passing attempt to root out anti-Blackness from the academy and ourselves. We pledge to make this effort a sustained one, creating accountability by updating publicly the progress we have made on our goals and setting new goals year after year.

Program Snapshot

  • First year: Coursework and three lab rotations
  • End of first year: Join dissertation research lab
  • Second year: Complete coursework requirement, GSI for a semester and take qualifying examination (QE)
  • Third year: Advance to candidacy after passing the QE
  • 3rd-5th/6th years: Hold dissertation committee meetings at least once a year, complete the annual Doctoral Progress review, complete dissertation research, complete GSI one additional time. Present dissertation at IDI Monday Seminar. Notify program their graduating semester. File dissertation.

IDI students spend their first year taking an interdisciplinary set of classes and completing three lab rotations. The curriculum aims to introduce students to the breadth of infectious disease and immunology research while sharpening statistical skills and building a strong foundation of basic science knowledge. These courses are supplemented by a small faculty led seminar in the first and second years that focuses on developing and improving specific skills like grant writing, qualifying exam preparation and critical research paper analyses.

For additional details on program requirements, see curriculum information and resources for current students page.


The following subjects are normally required as undergraduate preparation for all candidates. Deficiencies must be made up early during the graduate program.

  • Mathematics: Calculus; one course in probability or statistics.
  • Physics: General physics.
  • Chemistry and biochemistry: Inorganic chemistry; organic chemistry; biochemistry; and associated laboratories.
  • Biology: General biology lecture and laboratory; genetics; and a basic course(s) in molecular biology.
  • Common undergraduate majors for admitted applicants: Biology, integrative biology, microbiology, biological sciences, biology and communications
  • Common work experience for admitted applicants: Work experience is not required for admission, but relevant work experience related to infectious diseases, e.g. wet laboratory and/or surveillance work is important for the IDI PhD program. Most of the admitted applicants have strong lab and research experience.

GRE scores are not required, it is optional for the fall 2023 admissions cycle. We recommend submitting a GRE if you have no other evidence of quantitative, verbal, or analytical abilities in your application.

Recruitment Information

The Infectious Diseases and Immunity PhD program admits students only in the Fall semester. Applications are available for submission online in mid-September. The deadline for applications is December 4, 2023, for Fall 2024 admission. Late applications are not accepted. Students should complete their applications as early as possible and be sure to hit the submit button before the deadline. Admission review will be conducted in mid January 2024. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend the required interview on Feb 9, 2024.


IDI Graduate Group faculty come from multiple departments including Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, Plant and Microbial Biology, and Molecular and Cell Biology. In addition, a unique aspect of the IDI program is our affiliation with UCSF faculty who conduct work in the area of global infectious disease. IDI students may choose to join any IDI affiliated lab for their thesis research.

UCSF Affiliated Faculty

Below is a list of UCSF professors who are currently affiliated with IDI but who are only a small selection of potential UCSF mentors.

Current IDI PhD Students

Faculty and students at the 2023 IDI Retreat at Asilomar
  • Fifth Year

    Student Name – Faculty Advisor; Lab

  • Fourth Year

    Student Name – Faculty Advisor; Lab

  • Third Year

    Student Name – Faculty Advisor; Lab

    • Elias Michael DuarteDr. Eva Harris; The Harris Research Program
    • Abigail KaneDr. Rachel Rutishauser; Rutishauser Lab, UCSF
    • Claire MastrangeloDr. Lee Riley; Riley Lab
  • Second Year

    Student Name – Faculty Advisor; Lab

    • Carolina AgudeloDr. Ashley R. Wolf, co-mentor Dr. Sarah Stanley; Stanley Lab
    • Isabel Lamb-EchegarayDr. Sarah Stanley; Stanley Lab
  • First Year

    Student Name – Faculty Advisor; Lab

    • Jaime Cardona OspinaDr. Eva Harris; The Harris Research Program
    • Scott Espich
    • Felix PahmeierDr. Eva Harris; The Harris Research Program
    • Marize Rizkalla
    • Zahra Zubair-Nizami


We would like to thank the following funding donors for their generous fellowship support to support our students and our work:

  • Hillel and Rose Levine Fellowship
  • The Albert and Mildred Krueger Memorial Fellowship
  • Sally Anne Bradley Presser and Steven A. Presser Fellowships

Prospective donors: please visit