September 10, 2015

‘Simple Beginnings’ ceremony welcomes doctoral students

Vanderbilt University welcomed 97 new doctoral students on Sept. 4 during the sixth annual “Simple Beginnings” ceremony in a Light Hall lecture room packed with family members and other well-wishers.

Incoming doctoral student Brennica Marlow receives her white lab coat from Kathy Gould, Ph.D. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Vanderbilt University welcomed 97 new doctoral students last Sept. 4 during the sixth annual “Simple Beginnings” ceremony in a Light Hall lecture room packed with family members and other well-wishers.

In opening remarks, Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences, told the students that Vanderbilt was “one of the top biomedical research institutes in the country,” and “really a great environment for you to achieve your goals.”

Marnett thanked their parents “for raising these aspiring scientists by giving them an appreciation for knowledge and a passion for science,” and urged them to have patience. “Sometimes experiments that should work, don’t work,” he said, but the degree “will eventually happen.”

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 that will result from your research or the impact that you, as trained scientists, will have on our world,” Gould said.

Roger Chalkley, D.Phil., speaks at last week’s Simple Beginnings ceremony for new doctoral students. (photo by Anne Rayner)

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

The students come from 14 countries. The largest group, 51 students, entered graduate school through the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP).

Other biomedical programs and departments welcoming doctoral students were Biological Sciences (5), Bioinformatics (2), Biostatistics (3), Cell and Developmental Biology (1), Cognitive Systems Neuroscience (8), Epidemiology (2), Hearing and Speech Sciences (10), Pharmacology (2) and Quantitative and Chemical Biology (13).

Seven of these students also participate in the Vanderbilt International Scholars Program, which Gould directs.

Justin Marinko was all smiles as he received his lab coat. (photo by Anne Rayner)

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 Kristin Kwakwa, fifth-year students Adrian Cadar and Victoria Cavener, and Peter Kropp, who has passed his qualifying exam. They were followed by faculty research presentations by Katherine Friedman, Ph.D., Mark Wallace, Ph.D., and Eric Skaar, Ph.D.

Cavener, a Ph.D. candidate in Neuroscience, discussed We Will Not Give Up, a grassroots social media campaign to raise awareness about the importance of biomedical research.

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.