Training in Parasitology and Vector Biology

Parasitic diseases are a major cause of global infectious diseases and thus, represent one of the most serious threats to public health. The members of the Training Program in Parasitology and Vector Biology at Yale conduct basic and applied research on the prevention, control, and treatment of a variety of parasitic diseases of global importance by employing cellular, ecological, molecular, genetic, and immunological approaches to understand the biology of parasites and their vectors. The pathogens studied include parasitic protozoa (Cryptosporidium, Leishmania, Plasmodium, Toxoplasma, Trypanosoma brucei, Trypanosoma cruzi) and helminths (Ancylostoma ceylanicum), as well as their vectors (Aedes albopictus, Anopheles gambiae, Glossina and Lutzomyia longipalpis). 

The Program in Parasitology and Vector Biology maintains a strong and rigorous curriculum for pre–doctoral and post–doctoral (PhD) trainees. We welcome your interest in our program and would be delighted to discuss with you admission into our graduate program. 

Contact for General Information about the Training Program: Christian Tschudi, Principal Investigator & Director of Graduate Studies

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Program Description

Parasitology and Vector Biology at Yale University is an interdisciplinary graduate program of training and research in the study of parasites and their effects on their hosts. The faculty, primarily in the School of Public Health, consists of scientists in several academic departments at Yale University, including evolutionary biology and ecology, internal medicine, pharmacology, cell biology, and microbial pathogenesis.

The Yale Training in Parasitology and Vector biology is based on the principle that combating vector-borne  and helminthic diseases will require an in-depth understanding of molecular,  cellular, immunological, epidemiological and ecological properties of pathogens  and their vectors. Trainees have the opportunity to study a large number of vector-borne diseases from both a  parasite and vector perspective, including Malaria, African sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, West Nile virus, human ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease. A second distinctive aspect of the Training Program is the opportunity for graduate students to work with scientists from endemic countries and receive training overseas.

The pre–doctoral training program is designed to provide individualized education in modern parasitology and vector biology and to prepare students for independent careers in research and teaching. Course work generally occupies the first two years of study. Each student, together with a faculty advisor, outlines a course of study tailored to the individual’s background and career goals. A program of course work includes Parasitology, as well as complementary courses offered in other programs such as epidemiology, microbial pathogenesis, cell biology, immunology, biochemistry, genetics, ecology, and statistics. The program also sponsors seminars in parasitology and vector biology. All students participate in three research/laboratory rotations with different faculty members. These research rotations ensure that students quickly become familiar with the variety of research opportunities available in the program. An individualized qualifying exam on topics selected by each student, in consultation with the faculty, is given before the end of the second year. Students then undertake an original research project under the supervision of a thesis advisor. The remaining degree requirements include submission of a dissertation prospectus, completion of a research project, writing of a dissertation and its oral presentation.

Research Facilities

Faculty members and students have access to a number of special facilities, including a protein and nucleic acid facility for automated DNA sequencing, microarray analyses, oligonucleotide synthesis, and peptide sequencing and synthesis; confocal and electron microscopic facilities; fluorescence–activated cell sorting; and computer facilities. Special laboratory facilities for the bio-containment of infectious agents and for rearing and studying insect vectors are also available. The Kline Science Library and Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library have extensive collections of journals, books, and electronic data resources.

Apply

Graduate student fellowships are awarded to qualified students admitted to the Ph.D. Program of the Graduate School at Yale University. Admission is a prerequisite for consideration for a fellowship award. Application forms and information about the graduate program and financial aid can be obtained at Yale Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.  Applications from minority students are particularly encouraged.  Eligibility for the training program includes U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals and permanent residents. Students may apply either through Public Health (deadline December 15) or the Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS)/Microbiology Graduate Program (deadline December 5). Completed forms as well as GRE General Test and Subject Test scores must be submitted by December 5th. The TOEFL is required of all applicants whose native language is not English. This requirement is waived only for applicants who will have received a baccalaureate degree, or its foreign equivalent, prior to matriculation at Yale, from a college or university where English is the primary language of instruction. If you do not qualify for a waiver but have taken the TOEFL within the last two years you will need to have your TOEFL scores released to us (code 3987). If your scores can no longer be released, you will need to take the test. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores are acceptable in addition to or in lieu of TOEFL and TSE test scores.

Financial Aid

All students admitted to the program receive a stipend, health insurance coverage, and tuition costs. The stipend for trainees is approximately $32,500 for the 2013-14 year.

Cost of Study

Tuition and fees are usually covered by financial aid.

Faculty

Herve Agaisse, Associate Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis; PhD, Pasteur Institute (Paris), 1996.
Innate immune responses to pathogen infection in insects, using the Drosophila system.

Serap Aksoy, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health; PhD, Columbia, 1982.
Interaction of African trypanosomes with their vector, the tsetse fly; genetic modification of vector competence.

Karen Anderson, Professor of Pharmacology; PhD, Ohio State, 1982.
Enzymatic and receptor–ligand interactions; structure–based drug design; antiparasitic drugs.

Richard Baxter, Assistant Professor of Chemistry; PhD, University of Chicago, 2004.
Innate immunity of Anopheles gambiae to Plasmodium

Choukri Ben Mamoun, Associate Professor, Medicine, Infectious Diseases, PhD University of Paris, 1996.
Purine transport, metabolism and membrane biogenesis in Plasmodium falciparum.

Richard Bucala, Professor of Medicine and Pathology; PhD, Rockefeller, 1985; M.D., Cornell, 1986.
Host response to tissue invasion and in the host–parasite interactions producing disease; role of the host cytokine MIF in the complications of malaria and Leishmania infection.

Gisella Caccone, Senior Research Scientist of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology; PhD Yale University, 1986.
Evolutionary genetics of mosquitoes and tsetse species.; genetic differentiation between and within vector populations, levels of gene flow, and the forces shaping the genetic structure of populations; DNA–based diagnostic tools to identify taxonomic units; vector–based control and monitoring strategies.

Michael Cappello, Professor of Pediatrics and of Epidemiology and Public Health; MD, Georgetown, 1988.
Tropical diseases and parasitology; hookworm; mechanisms of pathogenesis and vaccines.

Maria Duik–Wasser, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health; PhD, UCLA, 2003.
Modeling environmental and ecological drivers of vector–borne and zoonotic diseases using intensive field and laboratory–derived data.

Erol Fikrig, Professor of Medicine, Microbial Pathogenesis, and Epidemiology and Public Health; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; MD, Cornell, 1985.
Vectors and vector–borne diseases; mechanisms of pathogenesis and transmission; Lyme disease, human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, and West Nile virus.

Durland Fish, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health; PhD, Florida, 1976.
Epidemiology of vector–borne pathogens; landscape epidemiology of zoonoses; population regulation of arthropod vectors.

Alison Galvani, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health; PhD, Oxford University (England).2002.
Infectious disease modeling; integrating infectious disease and epidemiology and/or economics in order to generate predictions that could not be made by either discipline alone for answering evolutionary questions, explaining empirical observations and informing public health policy.

Theodore Holford, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health; PhD, Yale, 1973.
Development and application of statistical methods in epidemiology; use of geographic information systems (GIS) to study factors that affect vector ecology and the subsequent risks that arise from vector–borne disease.

Diane McMahon–Pratt, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health; PhD, Harvard, 1978.
Immunology and developmental biochemistry of the parasitic protozoa Leishmania.

Yorgo Modis, Associate Professor, Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry; PhD, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, 1999.
Cell entry and innate immune recognition of flaviviruses and other pathogens. 

Leonard Munstermann, Senior Research Scientist in Epidemiology and Public Health; PhD, Notre Dame, 1979.
Population genetics and taxonomy of medically important insects (mosquitoes and sand flies), focusing on the species Aedes albopictus and Lutzomyia longipalpis, respectively, and their role in disease transmission.

Jeffrey Powell, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; PhD, California, Davis, 1972.
Molecular evolutionary genetics of vectors, especially the major vectors of malaria in Africa, the Anopheles gambiae complex.

Dieter Sőil, Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry; PhD Stuttgart University, 1962.
Genomics of translation apparatus.

Christian Tschudi, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health; PhD, Basel, Switzerland, 1982. Genetics of infectious diseases; genomic, bioinformatic and proteomic approaches in the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei.

Elisabetta Ullu, Professor of Infectious Diseases and Cell Biology; PhD, Rome, Italy, 1973. Mechanism, regulation and evolution of the RNA interference pathway in the protozoan parasites Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania braziliensis.

Hongyu Zhao, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Biostatistics; PhD University of California Berkeley, 1995. Mathematical statistical, computational and visualization tools to address scientific problems in molecular biology and genetics. 

International Research

A unique aspect of the Yale Program in Parasitology and Vector Biology has been/is the opportunities for fellows and graduate students to work with scientists from endemic countries and receive (as appropriate for their thesis/research work) training overseas. This is supported through programs of individual faculty members and also through the Downs International Fellowship Program. The Downs International Fellowship Program supports Yale students who undertake research in developing countries. The Program was initiated by and honors Wilbur G. Downs (1913–1991), M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health and renowned physician/scientist in the fields of tropical medicine and infectious disease. 

Faculty members have international collaborations and research projects in endemic areas throughout the world (Africa, South America, Asia). 

Dr. Karen Anderson is collaborating with Professor Yongyuth Yuthavong (BIOTEC Central Research Unit, National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology) in Thailand in an effort to discover new antimalarial drugs using the Plasmodium falciparum bifunctional thymidylate synthase dihydrofolate reductase as a molecular target. She is also collaborating with Professor Roger Hunter in South Africa on the development of new HIV drugs. 

Dr. Aksoy has ongoing research collaborations with the Livestock Health Research Institute, Tororo, Uganda on population genetics of tsetse flies and symbiotic infection prevalence in field populations. She is also working with Trypanosomiasis Research Centre, Kenya to train African scientists in the area of tsetse vector biology, functional genomics, population genetics and bioinformatics. Dr. Aksoy is a working with the South African National Bioinformatics Institute in Capetown, South Africa. In addition, the Li Foundation supports the training in her laboratory of graduate students from the Fudan University in China in vector biology, invertebrate immunity and host–pathogen interactions. She is also collaborating with Dr. McMahon–Pratt on a Fogarty Training Program with scientists in Colombia

Dr. Bucala presently directs a genetic epidemiology study in Zambia (Macha Hospital and University of Lusaka) that is examining the role of low and high expression MIF alleles in severe malarial disease. Notably, low expression MIF alleles are strongly over–represented in Zambian tribes. Dr. Bucala collaborates in this effort with Dr. Phil Thuma (Macha Malaria Research Institute, and Dr. James Chipeta (University of Lusaka). This research is coordinated with laboratory–based studies of malaria that include an examination of MIF's role in the immunologic response to parasitic infection using murine models of infection. Dr. Bucala also collaborates with scientists who have other malarial research programs in Africa, namely: in Kenya and Malawi

Dr. Caccone is collaborating with researchers on the evolutionary genetics of mosquitoes from the Anopheles gambiae complex. She is working with Frederick Simard (Laboratorire de l’Institut de Recherche pour le Development) in Yaounde', Cameroon, N'Fale' Sagnon (Centre National de Recherche et de Formation sur le Paludisme) and Carlo Costantini ( Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)) in Burkina Faso

Dr. Cappello has recently initiated international field based collaborative studies with colleagues in Latin America (Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala) and Africa (Ghana), where they are working to define the species distribution and immunoepidemiology of soil transmitted nematode infections. In Latin America, his group has defined novel immunoreactive antigens that may distinguish between Ancylostoma and Necator hookworms in endemic communities. In Ghana, Dr. Cappello is working with colleagues at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra on evaluating the effect of treatment regimens for soil transmitted nematode infections on child health and development. 

Dr. Munstermann has collaborative projects (Colombia, Peru, French Guiana) focused on a group of 28 related species of sand fly, the Verrucarum group, that is broadly distributed in Central and South America and are important vectors of cutaneous leishmaniasis and bartonellosis. Primary objectives are to use genetic tools to investigate evolutionary divergence, and phylogenetic relationships. 

Dr. McMahon–Pratt collaborates with scientists in Spain (an endemic country for visceral leishmaniasis) on vaccine studies directed toward the development of a vaccine in canine reservoir host. As Director of an NIH ICIDR Program, she is involved in this ICIDR in collaborative studies [Drs. Saravia (CIDEIM, Colombia) and Dr. Bucala] of the immune and inflammatory responses to infection by Leishmania (Viannia) parasites. In addition, a Fogarty Training Program supports the training of Colombian scientists working on molecular aspects of Leishmania–host interactions (vector and host).