Preparing learners for new frontiers in immunology and microbial pathogenesis research

Researcher-holding-glass-vialWith the increasing prevalence of cancer, autoimmune disorders and disease due to bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19, our need to understand the face-off between microbes and the human immune system has become urgent. This public health consideration has generated a growing demand for bioscience professionals with formal research experience who can enter the workforce equipped to carry out state-of-the-art research and can serve as clinical or research laboratory managers, biosafety officers and laboratory coordinators.

True to form, The Ohio State University College of Medicine is poised to educate and train the next generation of laboratory researchers in these important areas. Launching in autumn of 2022, the college’s new Master of Science in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis program will be the only program of its kind as part of an academic health system in the state, with a dual focus on building both foundational research and laboratory management skills.

“This research-intensive program will provide graduates the training essential to advanced careers in independent research and laboratory management,” says Mark Drew, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Microbial Infection and Immunity at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “It will set students up for career success by priming them with the skills to contribute to discovery that will benefit the health and wellness of their communities.”

Researcher-in-lab-behind-shieldThe full-time, two-year degree program imparts a foundational understanding of human health-related immunology and microbial pathogenesis through core coursework, while providing a research experience through completion of a master’s thesis in one of Ohio State’s top-tier research laboratories.

Learners will also gain the ability to properly design, conduct, interpret and present independent research experiments and projects.

“Students won’t just be replicating textbook exercises,” says Dr. Drew. “They will be engaged in real discovery, performing independent science in world-class laboratories.”

Students can personalize their education to align with their interests and career goals through elective coursework in a variety of areas, including bioethics, biomedical informatics, microbiology, microbial pathogenesis, mechanisms of immune defense, biochemistry and genetics.

With a knowledge base in these specialized areas of biomedical research, graduates will bring analytic and data skills to health care teams, along with the skill-set necessary to oversee and manage a productive research laboratory.

“Departmental lab managers will serve as mentors for each student,” says Eugene Oltz, PhD, professor and chair in the Department of Microbial Infection and Immunity at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “They will share their in-depth knowledge of lab management practices, such as staffing, purchasing and safety oversight.”

According to the 2020 Ohio Bioscience Report, the infection and immunity field is growing, encompassing over 4,000 related organizations with an estimated 5,000 new jobs in Ohio alone.

Dr. Drew, who also serves as the academic director of the new master’s program, says that graduates will be competitive for advanced-level laboratory positions in a variety of fields spanning many facets of biology and medicine, such as emerging infectious diseases, immunologic-related diseases, cancer immunology, pharmaceuticals and therapeutics research, agriculture, biotechnology and clinical testing.

As medicine continues to advance and evolve, the Ohio State College of Medicine remains at the leading edge of curriculum development that centers on the learner. The master’s in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis is also a great opportunity for working professionals who can incorporate courses and laboratory time into a flexible work schedule.