December 6, 2012

Research training program seeks global impact

For Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Ph.D. programs in the biomedical sciences, “diversity” means more than “international.”

For Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Ph.D. programs in the biomedical sciences, “diversity” means more than “international.”

The Vanderbilt International Scholar Program in Biomedical Research (VISP) is currently recruiting students to the University’s biomedical Ph.D. programs from Latin America and Eastern Europe — areas that have been underrepresented in the Medical Center’s graduate student population.

“One goal of the VISP steering committee is to increase the diversity in the pool of our international Ph.D. program applications because we know there are great students all around the world,” said VISP coordinator Amanda Connolly.

Established in 2010, VISP is directed by Kathy Gould, Ph.D., Louise B. McGavock Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
VISP includes the Vanderbilt International Summer Research Academy, an eight-week-long program launched last year for international undergraduate students who are considering careers in biomedical research.

In October 2011, Gould visited Prague’s Charles University in the Czech Republic.
As a result, 15 Charles University students applied and four attended this summer’s research academy.

Through connections made by former students and researchers now at Vanderbilt, Gould and Connolly visited universities in Chile and Peru in March and mid-November. After their first visit in March to Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, 10 students applied for the summer research program.

That visit also spurred the creation of the “Southern Hemisphere” version of the summer research program, which will be held for the first time in January-February 2013 for students from New Zealand and Australia as well as Peru, Gould said.

Participants in the undergraduate research programs are encouraged to apply to Vanderbilt’s graduate programs. “Our goal is for students to realize what fantastic opportunities exist at Vanderbilt for their research training,” Gould said.

“We also want to select students that will make significant contributions to the scientific research endeavors here, who will make life-long connections with Vanderbilt faculty and students and who will translate their training to make a positive contribution to where they came from,” she said.

“Our programs are one small, but exciting, part of Vanderbilt’s larger efforts to strengthen its world-wide connections, reputation and opportunities.”

Information about VISP programs, including applications and deadlines, can be found online at