Mission and Objectives
We are born into a microbial world dominated by bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi. Their activities are central to human welfare, with numerous benefits but also potential consequences and challenges.
Our mission is to train the next generation of Microbiologists capacitated to find solutions to our pressing global challenges, such as the emergence of infectious diseases or the health of other environmental ecosystems.
The Department is dedicated to providing the highest quality education, through both lectures and practical sessions, necessary to meet the needs of this growing field, with innovative education and with International standards.
What can I do when I graduate?
Microbiologists are experts in pathogenesis, epidemiology, processing, clinical diagnosis, and prevention of diseases. This can include vaccine development for the different microorganisms and evaluation of the immunological profiles and even microbiomes associated with different diseases.
He/She may investigate the virulence factors and microbial physiology, as well as the physiopathology and immunological responses of the host to the microorganisms. They apply modern research techniques for the in-depth studies of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites of medical relevance as well as the host immunological response.
The Department of Microbiology and Medical Zoology prepares the graduate students in different areas of microbiology, so they can attain leadership positions in the public and private health and environment agencies and systems. Excellent employment opportunities are available in the academic settings, public and private health system, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and federal agencies such as CDC, FDA and EPA, NIH among others.
How our graduate program works
The Program is announced via various social media venues (Twitter, Instagram, FB), the UPR Biomedical Sciences web page, and by the social media of our professors. Faculty contacts across the institution will also distribute the information of the graduate program and in some cases identify specific students who rotated as undergraduates, who they deem as good candidates for the program.
The way that the graduate program evaluates and coordinates students and activities efficiently, is by offering close and individual mentoring as early as students are recruited to the program. The graduate program Coordinator and the graduate committee, composed of Faculty in the different fields, have meetings with graduate students at all levels each year to follow up on progress mentoring and to have a sense of their needs so that immediate remedial actions are taken for the benefit of the students and ultimately the faculty. Specific meetings several times semester is also done depending on student needs. The Program Coordinator revises students’ course plans of students and directs them to new courses or rotations that can benefit them as per their interests. PI’s who receive students in an initial Introductory course of research (MICR 8496 Graduate Introduction to Research) in the first semester at graduate school, are also involved in advising and mentoring all students regardless of their final decisions on which lab they will finally work on. Students are required to pass MICR 8499 as a backbone course in Microbiology with a B grade, otherwise, they will be expelled from the program. Students are advised to maintain a minimum of 3.0 GPA. The curricular sequence may change for the benefit of the students and help them obtain training in areas that most benefit them. Microbiology Courses are also offered to students of the Biology InterCampus Ph.D. Degree from Rio Piedras, therefore a diversity of students and points of view is a core of our program. Students from advanced years serve also as peer mentors.
Mentorship recognized as a critical professional development resource for students at all levels is linked to developing self-efficacy and efficiency. Students gain significant insight from committed mentors and peers, especially when performing research rotations. It increases their confidence and clarity towards future career plans. In our department, we believe mentoring is a critical factor in the success of contributing to diverse scientific research Microbiology professionals and our faculty is well committed to this. Besides research courses where students can appreciate the array of research possibilities, the Department offers Departmental seminars every week, where senior students present their research findings, discuss plans for grant submission, prepare for a thesis defense or discuss research manuscripts that benefit their own research. During these sessions, all students including those that do not yet have a specific lab, are welcome to attend and interact. Additionally, faculty mentors of our program offer important services to our society, including reporting levels of Aeroallergens to media, leading organizations such as the AAAS Caribbean Division, the Puerto Rico Society for Microbiologists, or serving as members of the scientific task force in support of the Governor during the COVID-19 pandemic. These activities also involve our students who are heavily committed to serving our community. Innovation and research continue with many professors being funded locally and federally, guaranteeing the exciting and competitive research projects that nurture graduate thesis and projects.
We believe that a diversity of people and ideas, in a climate that fosters dialogue, exchange of ideas, and inclusion of that diversity is a strong united environment where students like to be and propel them to a greater future. Aided by substantial peer learning and social support, we strive to enhance the success of underrepresented groups by involving students in research, giving them leadership opportunities with involvement with local societies and giving them the freedom to host meetings and activities that create cohesion in the Department.
The Department works closely with the Student Center for Counseling and Psychology of our School to provide stress management and activities that help with Stress Management and Self Care. We stimulate mindfulness strategies and have often organized online activities during COVID only for students where they receive training in time management and strategies to balance work and personal life. All students are encouraged to choose thesis committee members that not only will contribute to their scientific training but can also be a source of emotional support. Every year, students are required to meet with their committees and sometimes every semester for a closer evaluation and support. For economic support, students are either included in the mentor’s research grants, are part of the RISE program, or a grant supplement, however, all students can be considered for economic assistance by the school (this is however not guaranteed).
Graduate students have their own room, where they can relax, warm their food and be together. This room also as a computer connected to the internet where they could work in case their personal computers are not available.
Strong mentoring as detailed, is both met formally and informally through several activities and peer-mentor and senior-mentor involvement. We promote an open-door policy where scholars feel welcome to come and discuss their problems at any time.
Welcome to our Program!
Filipa Godoy-Vitorino, Ph.D.