The goal of the Immunology Training Program is to provide research experiences that develop trainees into independent investigators in Immunology. Research projects emphasize curiosity and observation, analytical thinking and experimental design, and use of the most appropriate tools and models to test hypotheses. On entering a lab, trainees learn about ongoing work and identify specific projects. Trainees are encouraged to collaborate with other faculty (within and outside the Immunology Training Program) to bring in new approaches and techniques. Co-mentoring arrangements are also formalized. The proximity of labs and the collegial environment at UVA enhance these interactions.
The research project is undertaken with mentor guidance, but with emphasis on trainee responsibility for defining the overall scope, goals and means to accomplish the work. An essential milestone is the Qualifying Exam, an oral defense of a document modeled on an NIH R01 application, formulating the thesis project and written entirely by the student. The Exam process is an important stimulus for the student to practice formulation and rigorous testing of hypotheses, consideration of likely alternative outcomes and pitfalls, understanding the advantages and limitations of different approaches, and articulation of second-generation experiments. It also supports training and development of both written and oral communication skills.