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Science educations bloom from ‘Simple Beginnings’

Sep. 4, 2014, 9:41 AM

Jessica Almer smiles after receiving her lab coat from Kathy Gould, Ph.D., during last week’s ‘Simple Beginnings’ ceremony in Light Hall. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Vanderbilt University welcomed 99 new doctoral students last Friday, Aug. 29, during the fifth annual “Simple Beginnings” ceremony in a Light Hall lecture room packed with family members and other well-wishers.

In opening remarks, Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, noted that “science today is a team sport.”

“The best science is now being done at places where people enjoyably and comfortably work together across disciplines for the science, and not for themselves,” he said. “The way those things are handled ultimately determines the health of people.

“I hope you will learn great science, as well as great culture, great collaboration,” said Balser, who earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in Pharmacology at Vanderbilt. “That is truly being educated as a scientist.”

Doctoral students Jenny Aguilar, left, and Bethany Dale share a laugh with Roger Chalkley, D.Phil, following last week’s ‘Simple Beginnings’ ceremony in Light Hall. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Kathy Gould, Ph.D., associate dean for Biomedical Sciences and director of Graduate Student Support, said the name of the ceremony comes from Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species:” “from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

“From so simple a beginning as graduate school, we cannot yet imagine the breadth of discoveries … you as trained scientists will have on our world,” Gould said.

Gould and Roger Chalkley, D.Phil., senior associate dean for Biomedical Research Education and Training (BRET), presented each student with a white lab coat, a “classic symbol” of scientific training.

The students come from seven countries. Seven are supported through the Vanderbilt International Scholars Program, and the largest group of 58 students entered graduate school through the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program.

Incoming doctoral student Matthew Kent, right, is congratulated by James Patton, Ph.D., after receiving his lab coat. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Other biomedical programs and departments welcoming doctoral students were Biological Sciences (7), Biomedical Informatics (2), Biostatistics (4), Cognitive Systems Neuroscience (6), Epidemiology (3), Hearing and Speech Sciences (3), Molecular Physiology and Biophysics (1), Nursing Science (2), Pharmacology (1) and Quantitative and Chemical Biology (5).

During a special session for students and families preceding the ceremony, Chalkley discussed challenges students will face during their training and what effect this might have on parent-child communications.

Graduate student perspectives were given by second-year student Ian Williams, fourth-year student Cara Wogsland, and 2014 graduate Odaine Gordan, Ph.D. They were followed by faculty research presentations by Katherine Friedman, Ph.D., Mark Wallace, Ph.D., and James Crowe, M.D.

Faculty, staff and family donations and the Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Association provided support for the ceremony and lab coat gifts. The BRET office organized the event.

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