Immunology and Microbiology

Picture of a petri dish and a scrape tool

Immunology & Microbiology

This is the choice for those who want to become immunologists or microbiologists that working with questions related to infection biology, and for those that want to become active scientists working in areas of immunology or microbiology.

The core of this specialisation is the immune system and how the various components of this complex defence system cooperate to detect and to remove infectious organisms. A key question in this field is how the immune system of humans and other animal species handle bacterial, viral and parasitic infections and how these microorganisms try to escape and elude over defence systems. Factors that influence disease transmission by animal and bacterial vectors are also discussed.

Information about the specialisation

Several of the major human and animal diseases are not directly caused by infectious organisms but by lack of tolerance to self-tissues, genetic defects in components of the immune system, over reactions by the immune system or by difficulties for the immune system to detect differences between normal and transformed tumour tissues. Examples of such conditions are immuno-deficiencies, autoimmunity, allergy (hypersensitivity), transplant rejection, immuno suppression, and cancer. Several of these immunological diseases have due to their severity and high prevalence become some of the major scientific challenges of this century. This master programme specialisation also focuses on the study of these immunological diseases, their underlying causes and existing and potential future treatment strategies.

The programme can also include studies in epidemiology, by taking courses in limnology and/ or ecology, which in a future perspective may be highly relevant for the battle against global infectious diseases. This is also an area, which presently is part of many international aid programs.

There is a joint starting course for the specialisations in Cell and Molecular Biology and Immunology and Microbiology. The course name is Trends in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, reflecting that it should build on knowledge from bachelor studies and cover modern applications of molecular biology. The starting course also contains a general introduction to the master programme. Thereafter a course Microbiology is recommended, but other options, such as RNA: structure, function and biology and Structure and function of macromolecules are also available. 

During the course in Immunology you will get in depth knowledge on the different cellular and molecular components of our immune system and how these cells develop from blood stem cells located within the bone marrow (stem cell research). You will also receive detailed information concerning how these cells communicate. The signals from one cell to another are here carried out by cytokines, other soluble factors, or by direct cell-to-cell contact. Very detailed descriptions of the molecular and genetic mechanisms involved in generating the enormous variability seen in immunoglobulin and T-cell receptors will also be presented. These proteins are the antigen recognizing molecules that are one of the characteristic hallmarks for the immune system of all mammals and actually of all jawed vertebrates. This course also includes studies of how the immune system and various infectious microorganisms co-evolve, the arms race in immunity. A detailed description of the various diseases and other immunological phenomena, not directly caused by microorganisms, as exemplified by allergies, autoimmunity, transplant rejection and immune defects and their underlying causes, when known will also be presented.

Throughout the course Molecular Infection Biology you will receive detailed information concerning the battle between pathogens and our immune system, and now primarily from a perspective of the pathogen. The course includes description of various virulence factors of important infectious microorganism and how these factors influence the chances for our immune system to clear the infection. You will also get an insight into how virulence factors spread in a population of microorganisms and how massive use of antibiotics influences the appearance and possible increase in multi resistant bacterial strains. One of the major future threats to our health and to the medicare system is the appearance of bacterial strains that are resistant to all presently known antibiotics, a situation that already is on the way to occur. You will also hear how vaccines work and discuss future challenges and potential solutions to some particularly difficult problems in vaccine development.

During the second year you can choose additional courses or combine a research training period and a degree project of 30 or 45 hp credit points.

All teachers you will have on the individual courses in this master programme are active scientists, which ensures that you will get an education that reaches to the absolute fore front of the respective field.

Career opportunities

With carefully chosen combinations of courses, and the specific area of your exam work, you will gain a good basis for working in the biotech industry, pharmaceutical companies, hospital laboratories or as a scientist within the academia. We put in a lot of effort to make it possible for you to use your comprehensive theoretical knowledge into solving practical problems, and to present projects orally and in a written form, to be able to work in project both individually and in groups. Your master education is of course also a good basis for PhD studies both in Sweden and abroad, and your most important merit in that respect is your degree project report.