immune system cells

Fundamental Immunology


Our Program

Offered through the Department of Immunology, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Fundamental Immunology is an advanced research intensive degree to train future independent research scientists and scientific leaders. Through the completion of their coursework and research activities, students acquire substantial knowledge of modern immunological concepts and methods, hone their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and develop strong oral and written communication skills. This breadth and depth in training prepares our graduates for a wide range of careers in academia or other professional sectors. 

Areas of study include developmental immunology, cancer immunotherapy, microbiome-immune system interactions, immune responses to pathogens, autoimmunity, and comparative immunology. Our graduate students conduct cutting-edge research with one of our internationally recognized faculty and will become experts in their respective fields. Their findings typically lead to publication(s) in recognized refereed journals. A key feature of our training is our rotation system which allows newly admitted students to experience 3 different labs before deciding on a "best fit" thesis lab. This allows students to explore the range of research conducted and find the ideal learning environment to succeed. 

A researcher uses a pipette.

In addition to conducting independent and original research for their thesis,
students complete 4.5 FCE*:

  • IMM 1000Y (Recent Advances in Immunology, 1.0 FCE)
  • IMM 1200H (Scientific Skills for Immunologists, 0.5 FCE)
  • IMM 2000H (PhD Proposal in Immunology, 0.5 FCE)
  • IMM 2025H (Student Seminar Series, 0.5 FCE)
  • IMM 2050H (Easton Seminar Series, 0.5 FCE)
  • IMM 2075H (Special Topics in Immunology, 0.5 FCE)
  • 1.0 FCE elective.

Typically, students successfully complete this program within 4-5 years.

Alumni Profile

Mahmoud El-Maklizi

Mahmoud El-Maklizi, PhD

I wanted to be an immunologist for as long as I can remember and my PhD journey started as a step towards that goal, but ended with much deeper lessons, both for the lab and outside the lab. It taught me flexibility, creativity, accuracy, risk taking and, most importantly, focus. As I moved on to the next stage in my career, those lessons allowed me to approach my career choices from a different perspective. I looked for opportunities to allow me to step
outside of the comfort zone of my PhD expertise and push me to learn
new skills, new topics and subjects while keeping those skills geared
towards a clear goal.

That mindset is one of the best lessons I learned, as a graduate student and as I transition to a postdoctoral fellow. Based on that lesson, the advice I would give to prospective students is not to be afraid of stepping outside of your comfort zone; it’s how the best lessons are learned and how the most impactful science is made.

Potential Career Paths

In 2016, the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) tracked the career outcomes of 10,000 PhD students who graduated from the University of Toronto between 2000 to 2015. The data below is from 105 immunology PhD graduates.


Some examples of the positions our immunology graduates held included:

  • Post-doctoral Fellow
  • Assistant Professor
  • Associate Professor
  • Medical Resident
  • Research Associate


Some examples of employers for whom our immunology graduates worked included:

  • University Health Network
  • The University of Toronto
  • The Hospital for Sick Children
  • The University of Manitoba
  • Duke University

The chart below shows a breakdown of the various sectors in which our immunology PhD graduates worked at the time the survey occurred.

Main Employment Sectors of Immunology PhD Graduates

Chart data

Post-Secondary Education Private Sector Public Sector Charitable Sector
38 40 22 5

By the Numbers

Number of labs across 9 research sites.
Number of current PhD students.
Number of active research faculty.

Department of Immunology

Learn more about our programs in immunology.

*Full course equivalent. A typical 0.5 FCE is over one term (13 weeks), meeting 1-2 times per week. A typical 1.0 FCE is over two terms (26 weeks), meeting 1-2 times per week.