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Journey of discovery starts from Simple Beginnings

Sep. 7, 2017, 9:24 AM

James Patton, Ph.D., left, director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program, and Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., right, dean of Basic Sciences, pose with Jeffrey Jian, a new graduate student from Cornell University. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Vanderbilt University welcomed 104 new doctoral students Sept. 1 during the eighth annual Simple Beginnings ceremony in a Light Hall lecture room filled with family members and other well-wishers.

“They made a very good choice for graduate studies,” Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., dean of Basic Sciences in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said in opening remarks. “Vanderbilt has a fantastic faculty with tremendous breadth and depth of research interests,” he said. “We have outstanding technology that enables students to tackle any research idea that they can conceive of. And Vanderbilt has worked hard to build a welcoming, inclusive environment that nurtures all students equally.

New graduate student Alexis Jameson, left, shares a laugh with Kathy Gould, Ph.D., associate dean for Biomedical Sciences, as she tries on her lab coat. Jameson earned her bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University. (photo by Anne Rayner)

“Research is one of humanity’s noblest endeavors because it offers hope for the future,” Marnett added. “This is especially true for biomedical research because … it points the way to improved diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease.”

Kathy Gould, Ph.D., associate dean for Biomedical Sciences and director of Graduate Student Support, explained that the ceremony’s title 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.”

“From so simple a beginning as graduate school, we cannot yet imagine the breadth of discoveries that will result from the research you will conduct,” she said, “or the impact that you as trained scientists will have on our world … We’re going to be watching with interest where life takes each of you.”

Gould, the Louise B. McGavock Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, delivered a special message to the women graduate students who, although equally competitive with their male counterparts, can become less confident in their abilities.

Vanderbilt’s newest class of Biomedical Sciences doctoral students pose for a group photo following last Friday’s Simple Beginnings ceremony in Light Hall. (photo by Anne Rayner)

She encouraged them to “commit to your aspirations, take risks, face challenges and competition, don’t worry about what obstacle life might get in your way down the road. You can’t predict or control the future. You can only prepare yourself well to capitalize on the fruits of your labor.”

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

The students come from 10 countries and 31 states. The largest group, 60 students, entered graduate school through the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP).

Other biomedical programs and departments welcoming doctoral students were Biochemistry (1), Biological Sciences (5), Biomedical Informatics (2), Biostatistics (5), Chemical and Physical Biology (1), Epidemiology (5), Hearing and Speech Sciences (4), Neuroscience (3), the Vanderbilt School of Nursing Ph.D. Program (7) and Quantitative and Chemical Biology (11).

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

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