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History of the IMP Program

In 1978, two years after the opening of the University of Massachusetts Medical School main building and teaching hospital, a group of immunologists formed an Interdepartmental Immunology Committee, whose goal was to foster immunology research and training at UMMS. A top priority was to establish a graduate program, and UMMS gained Ph.D. degree-granting authority in the context of a “Program in Medical Sciences" in 1979.  So as not to duplicate existing programs in Amherst, the rationale was that UMMS graduate students would have a more medically oriented curriculum, take courses with med students, and get a PhD in Medical Sciences rather than in a specific discipline. Soon it became clear that our students needed sophisticated discipline-oriented course work and training, and UMMS began to offer core courses and advanced courses requisite for effective graduate student training. 

The first two UMMS Ph.D.'s were awarded in 1984, both with specialties in immunology.  In 1986, the UMMS graduate program was granted separate Graduate School status by the University and became the "Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences" (GSBS).  At that same time, reflecting the research interests of many of the faculty and the ongoing AIDS epidemic, there was a merger of disciplines to form the Interdepartmental Immunology and Virology Program (IVP).  The birth of these disciplines had a common origin with the Jenner small pox vaccine, and the two disciplines had been evolving in parallel since that time.  The immune system exists to fight pathogens, and much of the viral genetic machinery is used to avoid or co-exist with adaptive and innate immune system functions.  It thus makes little sense to be trained in one of those disciplines while remaining ignorant of the other. More recently, UMMS has enriched its faculty with researchers studying innate immunity, autoimmunity, microbial immunology and pathogenesis.  As a consequence, the IV and Molecular Genetics and Microbiology graduate programs have merged and become the Immunology and Microbiology Program (IMP).  Students from these programs have accounted for about 1/3 of the PhD’s that have been awarded by the GSBS, far more than that of any  other program.