Graduate Programs

Combined Clinical Microbiology Residency/PhD Graduate Program

VMP MicrobiologyWashington State University offers clinical microbiology residency training leading to eligibility for American College of Veterinary Microbiologists (ACVM) certification, coupled with state-of-the-art training biomedical research leading to the PhD. The department research and training programs focus on infectious diseases, with target areas of immunology, epidemiology and host-pathogen interactions at the molecular level. Pathogens studied by department faculty include bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections of both animals and humans.

In pursuit of the PhD degree, trainees develop a strong academic background through coursework in biochemistry, bioinformatics, cell biology, disease pathogenesis, immunology, molecular genetics, and statistics. Dissertation research is carried out under the direction of a highly collaborative research faculty who are experienced in mentoring trainees within state-of-the-art laboratories funded by NIH, USDA, FDA, Grayson Morris Animal Foundation and the Morris Animal Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust. Further, a unique and close partnership with USDA-Animal Disease Research Unit expands opportunities available for PhD training.

Microbiology residency training occurs within the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL), a full service veterinary diagnostic laboratory that is integrated into the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine. WADDL has three primary facilities: a full service laboratory in Pullman, an Aquatic Health laboratory in Pullman and an Avian Health and Food Safety Laboratory branch in Puyallup. The laboratories are accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD).  WADDL is one of 22 founding members of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (funded through USDA/APHIS) and one of the nine veterinary diagnostic laboratories that serve as a reference lab in the Laboratory Response Network for Bioterrorism (funded through the Centers for Disease Control). Specialized sections in aquaculture, bacteriology, molecular diagnostics, parasitology, serology, and virology ensure that residents develop a strong background in all aspects of clinical microbiology, including detection and diagnosis of emerging and zoonotic pathogens. Additional information about WADDL is available at

Residency training occurs under the direction of ACVM-certified microbiologists and is enriched by faculty with expertise in infectious diseases, including zoonotic agents and emerging pathogens. The rich and diverse case load provides direct experiential learning and is supported by specialized seminars in infectious diseases. Trainees are eligible for ACVM-certification and historically have been actively recruited for positions in academia and government laboratories.

Although the program is rigorous, the dual training leading to the PhD in combination with ACVM certification prepares trainees for leadership positions in academia as well as national and international laboratories. Our trainees are very competitive for these positions. All trainees that have taken the ACVM boards have been successful in achieving certification.

Overview of the PhD Program

Research training leading to the PhD degree is tailored to the individual's background and career goals, with the proviso that a strong foundation in basic sciences is indispensable in preparation for infectious disease research. PhD candidates are required to earn 72 credits; 16 of these credits must be formal graded graduate courses. The remainder is earned in courses related to diagnostic microbiology and supervised dissertation research. Mentored laboratory research is the most critical part of the PhD training and is the primary mechanism by which the philosophy of research is imparted to new scientists. The major advisor and trainee interact intensively to define a research hypothesis and the appropriate experiments to test the hypothesis, and develop a directed course of research. Throughout the training period, all graduate students attend weekly research seminars where faculty and trainees present recent results. The goal of trainee participation in these seminars is exposure to critical analysis of data, experimental design and discussion of research significance. Trainees are expected to conduct original research leading to a significant contribution to knowledge in the trainee's area of emphasis and culminating in publication in leading international scientific journals. This publication is required for and constitutes the PhD dissertation. The final PhD examination is preceded by a public presentation of the research, followed by an oral examination that is a defense of the original research, and also may cover the general fields of knowledge pertinent to the degree.

Areas of Research Emphasis

Department research interests surround a central theme of microbial pathogens and their interactions with animal hosts and the environment. Integrated and complementary programs include:

  • Bacterial and viral respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases
  • Innate and acquired immunity, immunogenetics, and vaccine development
  • Parasitic infections
  • Persistent viral infections
  • Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies
  • Vector-borne diseases
  • Zoonotic and food-borne pathogens

Overview of Microbiology Residency

The Microbiology residency is an intensive 5 years experience with emphasis in microbiology diagnostic training. Microbiology residency training is accomplished by rotations in the virology, serology, bacteriology/mycology, parasitology and molecular diagnostic service at WADDL. Successful individuals must be able to supervise a microbiology diagnostic laboratory, develop independent research directed to infectious diseases and be eligible for board certification in veterinary microbiology by the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists (ACVM).

Microbiology Residency Training

During the first and second year trainees are required to complete assigned duties in different laboratory sections, which also include a necropsy rotation and histopathology training. Trainees will prepare samples, perform essential diagnostic tests and relate closely with faculty and staff at WADDL. Training is supervised by faculty microbiologists.

In the second year, trainees are expected to initiate consulting microbiologist duties under supervision of faculty.

In the third year, trainees are considered Senior Microbiology Residents, able to perform clinical case interpretation and participate as a microbiology consultant.

Throughout the course of program, trainees develop communication skills necessary for interacting with clients, technicians, pathologists and other WADDL staff.

Senior trainees pursue one or more special projects to evaluate or develop current laboratory procedures in an area of special interest. Attendance to Anatomic Pathology Seminar, Seminar in Diagnostic Microbiology and weekly Microbiology Rounds is required.

Teaching Experience

During the first and second year, trainees have the opportunity to acquire teaching experience by contributing to instruction of 4th year veterinary students in the diagnostics rotation. After the third year, trainees with a specific interest in teaching may, with the agreement and mentorship of course directors, have the opportunity to deliver one or more lectures in the Veterinary Bacteriology, Virology, or Immunology courses in the DVM curriculum.

Application Procedures

Applicants must hold the DVM degree or equivalent from an AVMA accredited institution. U.S. citizenship or permanent residency is not required, but is preferred. Applications should include veterinary college transcripts, curriculum vitae, statement of professional goals and three letters of reference.

Please submit applications to:

Claire Burbick, DVM, PhD, DACVM
Clinical Microbiology Residency Coordinator
Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology
402 Bustad Hall
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99164-7040

Candidates with a DVM and who are US citizens may apply for a position within the USDA-Animal Diseases Research Unit. These positions are fully integrated with the program. Applications should be submitted directly to VMP as described above, and candidates eligible for a USDA position will be nominated by the Department Chair. More information on the USDA-ADRU can be found at

Washington State University is an affirmative action/equal opportunity educator and employer. Protected group members are encouraged to apply.