Immunology Graduate Group


Welcome to Immunology

Recognizing the need to create an environment where researchers could be adequately trained in the multifaceted aspects of immunobiology, Penn became the first medical school to establish a separate degree-granting PhD program in Immunology. The faculty of the Immunology Graduate Group (IGG) are drawn from eight different units of the University of Pennsylvania, encompassing a broad spectrum of research interests: The College of Arts and Sciences; The School of Medicine; the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; The Dental School; the School of Veterinary Medicine; the Wistar Institute; and the Institute for Cancer Research.

The IGG has also established a partnership with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. The partnership brings to the IGG the extraordinary resources and scientific expertise present at the NIH, one of the largest and most renowned biomedical research centers in the world. Students have the opportunity to interact with NIH faculty in a variety of ways, including conducting a lab rotation or thesis work at the NIH. This cross-departmental and institutional organization fosters a unique collaborative environment that allows students to develop research projects combining the expertise of multiple faculty members.

At present, there are approximately 80 faculty members in Penn’s Immunology Graduate Group, encompassing a broad spectrum of research studies. Faculty research includes studies on the development and regulation of the immune system, host-pathogen interactions, the fundamental molecular and cellular biology of the immune system, structural studies of immunologically relevant molecules and translational immunology. Research results are being utilized in both experimental models and clinical trials attempting to fight diseases.

Avinash Bhandoola, MBBS, PhD
Chair, Immunology Graduate Group


Mary Taylor
421 Curie Blvd.
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104


IGG Student Michael Cho Receives NIH Fellowship

IGG student Michael Cho is a recipient of the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship.

Michael is a third-year student working on his thesis with Dr. Aimee Payne. Michael’s thesis work aims to understand the developmental events that lead to autoimmunity, specifically within the context of pemphigus vulgaris, a potentially fatal autoimmune disease of the skin characterized by antibodies directed to the skin protein desmoglein 3.

The Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship enables promising predoctoral students to obtain individualized, mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting dissertation research in scientific health-related fields relevant to the missions of the participating NIH Institutes and Centers.

IGG Student Caroline Bartment Receives NSF Fellowship

IGG is delighted to congratulate first-year student Caroline Bartman who has received a 2014 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Caroline has rotated in the labs of Drs. Yasmine Belkaid and John Wherry, and she is currently working with Dr. Sara Cherry. Caroline received her bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Chicago.

Special thanks goes to Dr. Sunny Shin for her work in guiding students through the fellowship application process.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in fields within NSF’s mission. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant achievements in science and engineering research.

Penn Immunology Program Ranks High in U.S. News List

The Immunology Graduate Group is #6 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of Best Graduate Schools. According to U.S. News, Penn is one of "the best science schools for immunology/infectious disease." See the U.S. News & World Report website for a list of programs.

Sean Spencer Examines an Immune Response to Malnutrition

Immunology graduate Sean Spencer discusses the adaptation of innate lymphoid cells to a micronutrient deficiency in the January 24, 2014 issue of Science. The article emerged from his thesis, "Regulation of Intestinal Innate Immunity by Dietary Vitamin A" which he completed with Dr. Yasmine Belkaid. Sean is currently finishing his dual MD/PhD and will graduate in 2015.


Image: Tiled 3D reconstruction of an E10.5 dorsal aorta immunostained for CD31 (red) CKit (blue) and Runx1 (green). Amanda Phillips and Nancy Speck.