Curriculum in the MS-IDGH Program

Students in Lab

The world continues to experience infectious disease outbreaks that threaten the health and security of most nations. This one-year program equips students with an in-depth understanding of infectious diseases through a global health lens. The program explores a host of different subjects, such as, immunology, vaccinology, molecular biology, global health, biosafety, food safety, bioinformatics, biotechnology, and epidemiology through didactic lectures, case studies, and journal clubs.

Hands-on animal model and laboratory training promote students' ability to communicate and present scientific research and understand how fundamental knowledge gained in the classroom is applied to solving real-world problems. Analytical, critical thinking, and leadership skills acquired through the program help students build careers in basic and applied research within academia, biopharma, national and international organizations, and biodefense or biocontainment environments. The program also prepares students for professional and doctoral-level programs, including DVM, MD, DO, PA, and PhD programs.

Students graduate with an understanding of the major challenges, programs, policies, and possible solutions for infectious diseases of global health significance and are ready to address critical issues from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Fall Semester (15 weeks)

  • Infectious Diseases of Humans and Animals I covers important infectious disease in humans and animals of respiratory, gastrointestinal and urogenital Tracts. The course also covers Disease Ecology. For each body systems-focused module, normal anatomy and physiology are first reviewed. Additional lectures focus on cellular and molecular targets of infection and host immune and inflammatory responses. The Disease Ecology component focuses on species and population interactions and environmental aspects that influence the patterns of disease. Reading from texts, published research papers, homework, student presentations and projects round out the material.

  • This course teaches the principles of immunology and comparative immunology and then applies them to understand immune responses against intracellular and extracellular infectious agents, immunotherapies, immunodiagnostics, and immune reactions and disorders. In addition, the course examines (a) how the immune system can be manipulated in order to benefit the animal, (b) how knowledge of the immune response against an infectious agent is applied to designing and developing effective vaccines, and (c) what are the vaccine-delivery strategies and challenges and obstacles in developing effective vaccines. Problem-based sessions are incorporated for discussing and understanding of basic and applied aspects of immunology, as well as for enhancing group collaboration and communication.

  • Students will learn theoretical basis and practical application of a variety of immunological and microbiological techniques commonly used in research, clinical diagnosis of diseases, epidemiology, and development of diagnostics, therapy and vaccine.  Specifically, students will learn how to utilize ELISA to determine antibody responses, immunofluorescence to identify a pathogen, flow cytometry to characterize lymphocyte subset responses, gel electrophoresis to determine purity of a protein, cell culture to test toxin-neutralizing ability of an antibody, etc. In addition, students will learn sterile technique, including sterile tissue culture work. A few of the techniques are organized to give students a research-like experience (on a small scale) on how to test and evaluate an antibody molecule with the aim of developing a human monoclonal antibody (HuMAb) based prophylaxis or therapy against a toxin-mediated disease.

  • Introductory statistics will be learned using an active approach, emphasizing practical applications of statistical concepts. Students will gain experience in analyzing data sets and presenting data. In addition, students will become familiar with using specialized programs for more advanced statistics, such as SPSS. Laptop computers are required.

  • This course introduces students to the ethical issues, professional standards, and norms of ethical infectious disease research, from laboratory research to research out in communities. Students will learn the ethical standards and norms in biomedical research, institutional procedures and policies governing research with animal and human subjects, standards of practices for designing ethical research studies, and ethical issues in infectious disease control. This class is designed as an online course with taking modules on CITI Program Cross-listed with BMS 654

  • Students present peer-reviewed research papers (not review articles) on infectious agents/diseases. Papers cover diverse aspects of infectious diseases and are chosen via consultation with students’ individual faculty mentors and the course director. Students are required to thoroughly study their selected articles before Journal Club. The 50-minute PowerPoint presentations include extensive group discussion. The sessions help students enhance the skills of analytical reading and critique. The focus is on critical analysis of the results/data, evaluation of the scientific merit of the paper, stimulating class discussion of the paper and related literature, articulating the paper’s strengths and weaknesses, and presenting the paper in a systematic fashion. As this exercise is also meant for the presenter to teach classmates regarding the research topic, students learn to present the information in a clear, coherent, and accurate manner. Students take Journal Club in both the Fall and Spring semesters. Journal Club is open to everyone in the Department of Infectious Disease and Global Health to attend and participate in the discussion.

  • Many speak of “global health,” and yet what does that term mean for an individual, for a community, for a nation, for a planet? One group of physicians and public health professionals developed this definition: Global health is an area for study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide. Global health emphasizes transnational health issues, determinants, and solutions; involves many disciplines within and beyond the health sciences and promotes interdisciplinary collaboration, and is a synthesis of population-based prevention with individual-level clinical care. (Koplan JP et al. Lancet. 2009, 373:1993-1995). The definition of global health we will adopt for this course reflects the need for increasingly complex, trans- and multidisciplinary (One Health) approaches to understanding health and disease in populations, brought about by an increasingly interconnected world. The goal of this course is to provide students with an overview of global health and equip students with the proper framework, context, and skills to understand and analyze the social, political, legal, policy, and economic aspects of health and disease on a global scale.

Spring Semester (17 weeks)

  • See description under Fall semester

  • The course provides a system-based overview of infectious agents of the nervous system, skin, and blood (including the reticuloendothelial system). This course also provides basic understanding of biosafety, food safety and regulatory compliance. It is subdivided in 6 modules. Four modules are focused on pathogens and the various diseases they cause. Two additional modules focus on biosafety and food safety, respectively. The introductory lecture for each infectious disease module describes the anatomical and physiological features of relevant organs. Model bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic pathogens that cause disease domestically and/or globally are covered in depth. The etiology, pathogenesis, immunology, epidemiology, diagnosis, prevention and control of selected pathogens are discussed. Reading of relevant scientific literature complements the lectures.

    The food safety module introduces students to local, state and federal regulatory agencies, regulations, and surveillance systems relevant to food safety. Transmission and risk assessment of foodborne pathogens are discussed. Students will also learn about new food safety challenges related to trade, climate change and antimicrobial resistance.

    The Biosafety module will provide basic understanding of industrial biosafety and regulatory compliance and emergency response. Regulations/guidelines and compliance with federal, state is covered.

  • The first part of the course covers basic topics of molecular biology relevant to the understanding of viral, bacterial, and protozoal microorganisms. Following an overview of the structure and function of nucleic acids, prokaryotic and eukaryotic gene expression and regulation will be discussed. The second part of the course is devoted to applied topics in molecular biology, including genetically modified organisms, genotyping methods, medical molecular biology, high-throughput sequencing and its application to genomics, and the analysis of complex bacterial populations. An introduction to computational methods for analyzing complex sequence data and their application to studying host-associated microbial populations and their impact on health and disease complete the course.

  • Students will learn the rigors of animal model work in research, which requires taking care of animals on weekends and holidays. They will use mouse model to investigate immunoprophylactic potential of Shiga toxin 2 (Stx2)-specific human monoclonal antibody (HuMAb) 5C12 against a challenge with Stx2. Students will learn to perform mouse handling, intraperitoneal injections and humane euthanasia of mice and disposal of carcass and observe clinical signs. They will learn to observe and record clinical signs of the disease, analyze samples with immunological and molecular assays, interpret data/results, prepare graphs/tables and write a manuscript-style report.
  • The goal of this course is to provide students with hands-on experience in molecular biology procedures. Having first established good laboratory technique (to encompass safety and regulatory issues), students have the opportunity to learn a variety of molecular methods including DNA isolation, digestion and cloning, bacterial transformation, evaluation of recombinant clones, and plasmid isolation. Students engage in primer design, gel electrophoresis, PCR (including quantitative real-time PCR), DNA barcoding, and sequence annotation. Basic bioinformatic skills are explored. Recombinant protein expression systems are compared (eukaryotic versus prokaryotic) and various recombinant protein expression and purification techniques (e.g., column chromatography and affinity methods) are tested. Science writing skills that focus upon clarity, precision, and comprehension of experimental results and conclusions are emphasized. Students gain a firm understanding of how the molecular biology techniques employed in this class are used to diagnose, identify, and study infectious diseases.

  • This course will focus on infectious diseases that threaten global health and insecurity, their relation to poverty and development, and how economic level, inequity, and policies of nations determines the health of their citizens. Using the lens of infectious diseases covered in previous courses, we will underscore the historical milestones, actors, assumptions, context, and theories driving selected infectious diseases and their global health priorities in policy, programs, and research. A recurring theme throughout the course is that there are common global drivers of infectious disease emergence and re-emergence influencing the health of populations in high, middle, and low-income countries, that cross-cutting issues of inequality and systems transcend settings. The course will also examine the outcomes resulting from the ways in which new global health policies change patterns of health practice and Infectious disease intervention globally.  That student will come out with an understanding of major challenges and solutions to infectious diseases of global health significance, programs, and policies and be able to address global health issues from an interdisciplinary perspective, examine strategies and solutions for combating emergence, and re-emergence of pandemics and promoting Global Health threats. This course is a reminder that no one person, agency, or organization holds absolute knowledge on how best to address Infectious disease and Global Health challenges and that it has to be a multidisciplinary effort.

  • The recent increase in terrorist attacks in many parts of the world has focused attention on the possibility that pathogens and toxins may be used as weapons targeting humans or economically important animals and plants. The issues surrounding bioterrorism and its critical complement—biodefense—are complex and require an understanding of sociopolitical factors as well as those of biology. This course seeks to provide the basis for (1) critically evaluating the risks associated with bioterrorism and (2) developing strategies for defending against, as well as responding to, the illegitimate use of biological agents.

  • The course focuses on computational methods to analyze DNA and amino acid sequences. Four hours are devoted to lectures, and each lecture introduces a topic. Following each lecture, students are guided through a computational analysis that students perform on their laptops. Students learn to recognize various file formats, query and compare sequences, and apply programs to extract biological information from complex sequence data. The exercises emphasize the analysis of pathogenic microorganisms and their interaction with the host. Assessment is based on three take-home exercises and a final one-hour in-class problem-solving session. Whether studying complex microbial populations or sequencing plasmids, DNA and protein sequences are ubiquitous in biomedical research. The goal of the course is to demystify the analysis of sequence data and to provide basic familiarity with bioinformatics tools commonly used in this field. After completing the course, students will be able to: (1) recognize the most common sequences formats used to represent DNA sequence data: FASTA, FASTQ, BAM, SAM, BIOM; (2) employ program BioEdit to explore and manipulate DNA and amino acid sequences. Examples of sequence manipulations include, aligning, trimming, translating, defining consensus sequence; (3) demonstrate ability to perform and interpret BLAST queries; (4) describe the relevance of length polymorphisms (microsatellites) and demonstrate the use of program GenAlEx to explore a microsatellite dataset; (5) apply program Mega to generate sequence distance matrices and phylogenetic trees; apply this program to construct a phylogenetic tree and discuss the information gained from this analysis; (6) demonstrate the use of programs found in galaxy to analyze transcriptomics (RNA-Seq) data, interpret the results of programs used to map sequence reads, assemble transcripts, and perform differential expression analysis; (7) differentiate between FPKM and TPM metrics; (8) apply statistical tests for analyzing sequence data; (9) recognize the versatility of EupathDB databases to perform advanced search strategies and interpret search results using functional enrichment analysis; and (10) apply common 16S amplicon sequence workflows used to explore complex microbial populations.

  • Biotechnology is “the application of biological organisms, systems, or processes by various industries to develop technologies and products that help improve our lives and the health of our planet. Students explore biotechnology applications, particularly those technologies of relevance to infectious disease and learn how the technologies were developed, how they are being applied to global health issues, and how they are likely to evolve in the future. As part of the course, students are asked to select biotechnologies they feel will be important to their personal career objectives, investigate these in depth, and present their findings and views to the class, followed by general discussion. After completion of the course, students will be able to: (1) improve their appreciation of the biotech industry; (2) provide basic knowledge of the technologies underpinning biotech; (3) provide insight into what is involved in starting and building a successful biotech company; (4) gain detailed knowledge in at least one aspect of biotech that is particularly relevant to one’s career goals.

Summer Semester (13 weeks)

  • This course has three major components. Working with their mentors, students will (1) develop and write a research assignment, and (2) prepare and present a poster on the written assignment. Each student will investigate and understand in-depth a particular pathogen. The assignment includes a comprehensive literature survey on different aspects of the pathogen, identifying a total of at least 3-5 needs, gaps in knowledge and/or questions that need to be answered, and outlining an experimental plan to address one of the needs/knowledge gaps/unanswered questions surrounding that pathogen. Students will get the opportunity to work and think independently, read and critically analyze scientific literature, develop oral and written communication skills, and appreciate the research process. Students will write their research assignments and submit them for evaluation. Each written assignment will be 5-6 pages. Students will also present their research assignments as posters on MS-IDGH Research Day (campus-wide).  Mentors of each student will provide guidance as needed. Students will devote 10-11 weeks to preparing and writing their assignments, preparing posters, and presenting them.

  • Students learn and apply basic concepts of epidemiology. Epidemiology is the lynchpin science of public health. In combination with biostatistics, it is used to examine disease patterns and infers causes of diseases at population level and many other issues, such as whether a new drug is more effective than an old one, what the risk factors are for a given outcome, whether a new screening test is likely to be useful and, if so, in which population, what levels and types of air and water pollution should be of most concern, etc. To accomplish its varied objectives, epidemiology uses many different kinds of measures, study designs, and data analytic techniques. Students will  (1) understand the basic structure of public health, its goals, and where epidemiology fits into the structure; (2) know how to calculate and interpret important rates and measures used in epidemiology and public health and how to interpret confidence intervals for these rates and measures; (3) interpret basic epidemic curves; (4) understand in general the design, strengths, weaknesses, and ethical issues of the major types of epidemiologic studies; (5) identify the three major causes of erroneous conclusions in epidemiologic research and how each one can be adjusted for or avoided; (6) recognize effect modification (also called interaction) in data; (7) learn how screening is employed in public health, including the basic measurements used to evaluate screening tests and the biases that can affect the accuracy of reported screening efficacy.

  • This 15-hour course will illuminate the complexity and multi-dimensionality of the evolving infectious disease pandemics, as illustration of the relationships between disease biology, society, and public policy. We will explore the history, changing trends, recent advances, and multidisciplinary strategies for addressing HIV, Ebola, Dengue, Polio, Tuberculosis, and COVID-19. We will examine gender relations; poverty; stigma and discrimination; vulnerable populations; as well as global responses, from patient activism to ‘global health’ interventions. This course will build upon the introductory course in Global Health and course on Infectious Diseases in Global Health, but with a greater focus on social issues surrounding the pandemics, lived experiences of disease, the interactions between biology and social factors, and the political architectures of responses. The course will include lectures and documentaries, interactive classroom activities and discussions, and presentations.

Degree Requirements

Successful completion of the program requires a grade of B or better in all coursework and successful acceptance of the final Research Assignment (GPA 3.0, 32 credits). The graduate program manager will notify the MS-IDGH Program Committee of any student in academic difficulty. This committee will assist the student in determining their ability to continue in the program, following the guidelines in the Graduate Student Handbook.