September 5, 2013

‘Simple Beginnings’ ceremony welcomes 98 doctoral students

Alexander Sevy dons his white coat with the help of Kathleen Gould, Ph.D., at the fourth annual “Simple Beginnings” ceremony for new doctoral students. (Photo by Anne Rayner)

Vanderbilt University welcomed 98 new doctoral students into its scientific community last week during the fourth annual “Simple Beginnings” ceremony in a Light Hall lecture room packed with family members and other well-wishers.

“Today you are officially joining our Vanderbilt family,” said Susan Wente, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs and senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences. “We are here … to be your professional family for the next four to six years.”

The name of the ceremony comes from the last paragraph of 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.”

Susan Wente, Ph.D., welcomed new students to the “Vanderbilt family.” (Anne Rayner)

“From so simple a beginning as graduate school,“ Wente said, “we cannot yet conceive the complexity and breadth of discovery that will result, both in terms of your own professional development and in terms of the research you will conduct.”

Not all of the entering students participated in last week’s ceremony.

Those who attended were presented with personalized white lab coats by Kathleen Gould, Ph.D., associate dean for Biomedical Sciences and director of Graduate Student Support, as Roger Chalkley, D.Phil., senior associate dean in the Office of Biomedical Research Education and Training (BRET) read their names.

new graduate students come from throughout the United States and several other countries. Seven of them are supported through the Vanderbilt International Scholars Program (VISP), which also is directed by Gould.

The largest group of 54 students entered graduate school through the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP).

Other programs and departments welcoming doctoral students in the biosciences were Biological Sciences (7), Biomedical Informatics (3), Biostatistics (4), Cell and Developmental Biology (1), Cognitive Systems Neuroscience (5), Epidemiology (2), Hearing and Speech Sciences (4), Nursing Science (9) and Quantitative and Chemical Biology (9).
During the ceremony, Wente challenged the students to make four commitments: to discovery; to the scientific method and hypothesis testing; to the highest ethical standards; and to hard work.

“We take really great pride in leading and innovating graduate education,” she added. “It’s something that is really at the heart of what we do at Vanderbilt. We are discovery. We are education. And we are taking care of others.”

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