The University of Minnesota has a rich tradition of research accomplishments in immunology. Pioneering work in the development of the immune system and tumor immunology/ immunodeficiency was led by Dr. Robert Good and his colleagues in the 1960's and early 1970's. During this same time period, internationally recognized programs in major organ and bone marrow transplantation were developed at Minnesota. Recent initiatives have included the recruitment of numerous immunologists to the University of Minnesota over the past ten years, the establishment of the Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology graduate program in 1995, and the coordination of immunology research activities through the University of Minnesota Medical School by the formation of the Center for Immunology. Immunologists also play critical leadership roles in graduate education, including supervision of NIH-funded training grants in immunology and cancer biology at Minnesota.

The broad range of research activities in the Immunology track of the Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology program reflects the interdisciplinary nature of immunological research in the 21st century and provides a rich array of research and career opportunities for talented, motivated students. At Minnesota, a collegial community of internationally recognized scholars utilizes state-of-the-art technologies in genetics, cell biology, and biochemistry to investigate the mechanisms by the which the immune system fights off disease. These technologies include generation and analysis of knockout and transgenic strains of mice, DNA microarrays to analyze changes in gene expression during immune responses, confocal and two-photon excitation microscopy to image immune cell-cell interactions in vitro and in vivo, and multi-color flow cytometry. Interactions with other laboratories in the Microbiology and Cancer Biology tracks are extensive, and specific studies range from investigations of immune responses to specific pathogens to clinical studies related to the development and utilization of anti-cancer immunotherapies.

Students interested in obtaining a Ph.D. in immunology will find a stimulating and collegial environment at Minnesota fostered by faculty members with a commitment to providing outstanding training for graduate students. Numerous meetings and seminars enhance our research activities, and laboratories are clustered together in state-of-the-art research buildings in order to foster interactions and intellectual stimulation.

Research within the Immunology track is focused on several key aspects of immunity:

Expand all

Tolerance and Autoimmunity

Faculty Researchers
Binstadt, FarrarFife, FreedmanHogquistJenkinsKhorutsMueller, ReveloVezys


  • How does the immune system acquire tolerance to self-proteins?
  • How are self-reactive T and B lymphocytes eliminated during development?
  • What are the biochemical mechanisms by which T cell tolerance is maintained in the peripheral immune system?
  • Why does the immune system have so much difficulty recognizing tumor cells as foreign?
  • How do the various cells in the immune system collaborate to maintain tolerance to self proteins?
  • What are the consequences of a breakdown in immunological tolerance?
  • What is the molecular basis of autoimmune diseases?

Immune-Cell Signaling

Faculty Researchers
Blazar, Cichocki, Freedman, Hamilton Hart, HartJameson, KlattMuellerShimizu, Williams

  • How does the immune system respond to antigenic peptides?
  • How does immunological memory develop?
  • What are the biochemical signaling pathways that initiate and regulate T and B cell activation?
  • How are T cells maintained in the body in a state of readiness?
  • What is the molecular basis for the antibody response?
  • What are the mechanisms that regulate the movement of leukocytes through the body?
  • How do T cells regulate the function of other T cells?


Faculty Researchers

  • What is the immunological basis of transplant rejection?
  • How can our knowledge of the immune system be used to enhance the survival of transplants?
  • What are the mechanisms of rejection in xenotransplantation?

Tumor Immunotherapy

Faculty Researchers
FreedmanGriffith, Hamilton HartJamesonMillerPennell, Ruan, Stromnes

  • Can we use our understanding of how the immune system functions to develop new and more effective immunotherapies?

Immune Response to Infection

Faculty Researchers
Bold, Griffith, HartJamesonJenkinsLangloisMasopustShimizuVezysWalcheck

  • How is the host immune response to pathogens regulated?
  • What are the cellular and cytokine signals required for protective immunity against infection?
  • What are the unique features for activating pathogen-responses at mucosal infection sites?
  • How can we optimize vaccination for protective immunity?