This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2024-2025 VCU Bulletin. Courses that expose students to cutting-edge content and transformative learning may be added and notification of additional program approvals may be received prior to finalization. General education program content is also subject to change. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

Program goals

The oral biology concentration in the M.S. in Microbiology and Immunology is a two-year program with students completing one year of formal course work before conducting an original research project under the supervision of a faculty adviser and culminating in an oral defense of their thesis. Curricula and research opportunities will be individually tailored for one of three possible career paths: admission into a D.D.S program, admission into a Ph.D. program or applying for a position in a health sciences research laboratory.

Students will gain a broad knowledge base that is essential for understanding biomedical disease and will gain in-depth knowledge in the area of their independent research with opportunities in the fields of cancer, microbiology and immunology, tissue engineering, health disparities, and clinical dentistry.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Problem-solving skills: Degree candidates will demonstrate an appropriate level of skill in the identification and selection of meaningful problems to be addressed in bioscience research, including the ability to defend said identifications and to design and develop appropriate methods to solve said problems as measured by rubric.
  2. General knowledge of sciences: Degree candidates will demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge of the current elements of the biosciences as related to disciplinary specialization and a more detailed understanding of the individual area of scholarship, including an appropriate familiarity with the research literature and the ability to evaluate and critique publications as measured by rubric.
  3. Communication skills: Degree candidates will demonstrate that an appropriate level of oral, written and visual communication skills have been acquired as measured by rubric.
  4. Experimental design: Degree candidates will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of competence in the ability to appraise, modify and/or create, and implement experimental protocols and to design and develop experiments as measured by rubric.
  5. Oral biology: Degree candidates will demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge of oral health research and in research that crosses disciplines and fosters the ability of the students to view oral health research questions from a broad perspective.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Other information

School of Medicine graduate program policies

The School of Medicine provides policies applicable to all programs administratively housed in the school. Information on master’s programs is available elsewhere in this chapter of the Graduate Bulletin.

Apply online today.

Admission requirements

Degree: Semester(s) of entry: Deadline dates: Test requirements:
M.S. Fall Applications received prior to Jan 15 given priority consideration

Applicants to the M.S. in Microbiology and Immunology with a concentration in oral biology must meet all general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School

  1. Applicants must have earned or expect a baccalaureate or equivalent degree and must have demonstrated a superior knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics.
  2. Laboratory experience is strongly recommended.
  3. Foreign applicants who do not use English as their native language must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language examination.

Degree requirements

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology has an outstanding faculty with diverse research interests that include cell and molecular biology, molecular genetics, molecular pathogenesis, bacteriology, immunology, immunotoxicology, virology, parasitology, mycology and oncology. The goal of the graduate program is to prepare students to become creative problem-solvers and leaders in scientific research. 

The research experience is complemented with excellent course offerings, seminar programs, teaching opportunities, presentations at scientific meetings and writing scientific papers. Graduate students acquire a wide range of research experience in the first year through exposure to a variety of research laboratories and investigators. The student chooses a research adviser and then carries out an original, guided research project under the direction of the adviser. The project falls under the review of a graduate advisory committee and a written thesis is defended in a final oral examination.

M.S. students select their permanent advisers after three rotations completed during the first year of study. Research projects will be based on ongoing research in laboratories of the selected permanent adviser. The GAC is developed by the student and adviser. The M.S. student and the GAC will formulate a suitable curriculum of study based on the student's area of research interest.

In addition to the general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, students in the M.S. degree program must complete all course requirements below. Additional hours may be completed for the M.S. degree. A cumulative GPA of 3.0 (with no more than six credit hours of a C grade) is required to maintain satisfactory academic progress.

An M.S. student performs a public presentation or defense of their thesis to their GAC, but the defense is open to all faculty members, students and staff. The GAC examines the student’s fundamental knowledge of their research project and the disciplines encompassed by the student’s thesis research.

Course requirements

Course Title Hours
Required core courses
MICR 505Immunobiology3
MICR 515Principles of Molecular Microbiology3
MICR 607Techniques in Molecular Biology and Genetics2
MICR 608Introduction to Microbiology and Immunology Research I4
MICR 609Introduction to Microbiology and Immunology Research II4
MICR 690Microbiology Research Seminar (taken each fall and spring semester; minimum four credits)4
IBMS 600Laboratory Safety1
OVPR 601Scientific Integrity1
or OVPR 602 Responsible Scientific Conduct
or OVPR 603 Responsible Conduct of Research
Concentration courses
Select at least seven credits from the following:7
Infection and Immunology
Evidence-based Dentistry and Critical Thinking I
Evidence-based Dentistry and Critical Thinking II
Oral Microbiology and Disease
Infection, Immunology and Oral Cancer
Oral Biology Seminar Series (Up to 2 credits)
Thesis research
OCMB 705Oral Biology Directed Research12
Total Hours41

The minimum number of graduate credit hours required for this degree is 41.

Students who complete the requirements for this concentration will receive a Master of Science in Microbiology and Immunology.

Oonagh Loughran, Ph.D.
Associate professor and graduate program director
(804) 828-3910

Additional contact
Dung Pham
Administrative assistant
(804) 827-6262

Program website: