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What to Expect

People studying virology and immunology learn how to fight disease, from the common cold to the AIDS virus.

Mike Bolton took the interdisciplinary graduate program in molecular and cellular biology at Tulane University's school of medicine. He also worked in the department of microbiology and immunology.

As a graduate student, Bolton didn't regularly attend classes. He spent most of his time working.

"When I had classes, I studied about three to four hours a night," he says. When working, he put in 10 to 12 hours a day.

His typical day began with talking to other people on the Internet about his research. He would analyze data and design his experiments for the day around the information he found.

How to Prepare

Focus on math and science. Take biology, physics and math.

As an undergraduate, Bolton studied general microbiology, virology and immunology. He earned a bachelor's degree in microbiology and botany from Miami University in Ohio.

During his undergraduate years, Bolton chose to work in a virology laboratory. He started out at the bottom, performing cleaning tasks and finally working up to doing his own research project.

"I would recommend students try to get this type of exposure to the actual work involved in virology as early as possible to decide if they want to commit themselves to it," Bolton says.

"In graduate school, the single most important factor that will shape your experience is who your mentor is," he adds. "Ask as much as you can from other students about the professors...and try to choose a program with enough options to find a mentor who is compatible with you."


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