On this page you will find information about the five-month taught component of the course, the seven-month laboratory research project and the course examinations. The taught component is the first part of the course. This is followed by the written exams, then the research project and the thesis and Viva voce exams. More information, about each of these components, is given below.
Taught Component - Lectures
The taught component consists of 4 three week modules in which the first two weeks comprise lectures, seminars, practical classes and tutorials. In the third week of every module you undertake an assignment, such as giving a seminar, producing a poster or leading a journal club. At the completion of the taught component you should have a good understanding of:
- The molecular mechanisms and cellular interactions that underlie the development, activation and effector functions of the immune system
- The defects in this that give rise to disease states (e.g. allergy, autoimmunity and immune deficiency)
- The ways in which the immune system can be manipulated (e.g. transplantation, immunotherapy).
In addition you will have experience of critically analysing the literature and making a variety of presentations.
Taught Component - Practicals
You will experience all the major immunological laboratory techniques and understand their application in both routine and research laboratories. 1, 2 and 3 day practicals are undertaken in dedicated teaching laboratories. All practicals are preceded by a lecture explaining the techniques to be used and the applications of the techniques. Practicals are carried out individually or in pairs with the help of the course demonstrator.
Techniques practiced include:
- Antibody purification and analysis (ELISA, SDS-PAGE, Western Blotting)
- Immunohistochemistry and Flow cytometry
- PCR and other molecular biology techniques
After the taught component you will sit written exams.
The written examinations are held during the third or fourth week of February. There are three papers.
- Written paper 1 (3 hours; 2 x 1 hr essays and a critique of a published article)
- Written paper 2 (3 hours; 4 x short answer questions and 1 x 2 hr essay)
- Written paper 3 (3 hours; data interpretation)
All written examinations are marked by two internal examiners, and are moderated by the External Examiners of the course.
The three papers make up Element 1 of the course. The project examinations make up Element 2 (see Thesis and Viva Voce Examinations below).
The papers carry the weighting, detailed below, towards the final mark of the course.
Element 1 (50%): Written examinations (Paper 1-3)
Paper 1: 17.5%
Paper 2: 17.5%
Paper 3: 15%
Research Component - 7 month laboratory project
Students carry out research projects in the Dept. of Immunology or departments of related disciplines. Projects are based primarily at the Hammersmith Campus but are also offered at some of the other Imperial College campuses. Each student is supervised, throughout their project, by the member of the academic staff in charge of the laboratory in which they work.
By completion of the research project the student will have received a thorough training in the methods and ethos of laboratory research, including:
- Design of a good research project
- Design and planning of experiments
- Troubleshooting for experimental problems
- Data presentation and analysis
- Literature searching and critical review
- Presentation of work for publication (thesis).
Research projects are designed to form part of major ongoing research themes in the host laboratory, in order to give students experience of top quality, cutting edge, competitive research.
Some examples of previous project titles are shown below with links to the laboratory that hosted the project:
- The effect of age on the architecture and function of secondary lymphoid organs
- Costimulatory molecule expression by dendritic cells in HIV-1 infection
- NK cell responses in HIV-1 infection
- T cell subsets in cancer therapy
- Immune dysfunction in Multiple Sclerosis
- Cell signalling in cancer
- Cell signalling in cell division, apoptosis and development
- Characterisation of novel components of the apoptosis signaling pathways
- T cell development: The molecular basis for recognition of MHC by T cells
- Memory T cells: Improving vaccinations
- Induction of tolerance to transplanted organs
- Immunopathogenesis of dengue haemorrhagic fever
- Forward genetics to identify the genes required for CD8 memory development and maintenance
In September, students are examined on their research projects. This is on the basis of their written report (thesis) and a Viva Voce (oral) examination, which focuses on the research project and thesis. The viva examinations are conducted by internal and external examiners. The thesis and viva are equally weighted at 25% of the final mark and they comprise Element 2 (50%) of the course.
The mark awarded for the thesis is based on the quality of the thesis, your comprehension of the work
(also assessed in the viva) and the report submitted by your supervisor on your general performance in the laboratory and related areas (e.g. literature awareness).
The viva voce examinations take place in the last two weeks of September and the same two examiners that read the thesis will perform the viva voce. The examination lasts for 30 mins and explores the detail of the research thesis and surrounding literature.
Provisional results (Fail, Pass, Merit, Distinction) are released on the day of the viva exams. Official results (including marks for each Element) are sent from Registry to you approximately one month after the viva day.