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New award honors research by graduate students

Aug. 23, 2018, 9:56 AM


The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has established a new award to recognize and support outstanding graduate students who have distinguished themselves through the excellence, significance and scientific rigor of their work.

This month eight graduate students entering their fourth year of training will receive the inaugural Dean’s Award for Exceptional Achievement in Graduate Studies. The award provides $5,000 in stipend support for each of the next two years. Six graduate students entering their fifth year of training will receive one-year awards.

“The best students make discoveries that change our conceptual understanding of basic biological mechanisms, reveal causes of human disease, or lead to changes in clinical practice,” said Lawrence Marnett, PhD, dean of Basic Sciences. “This award recognizes these outstanding students.”

Marnett, who holds the Mary Geddes Stahlman Chair in Cancer Research, is University Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry and professor of Pharmacology.

Winners of the two-year awards, their programs and mentors are listed below:

  • Wyatt McDonnell, Microbe-Host Interactions, Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP), mentored by Simon Mallal, MBBS;
  • Sarah Milian, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, mentored by David Jacobson, PhD;
  • Natalya Ortolano, Cell and Developmental Biology; mentored by Vivian Gama, PhD;
  • Sierra Palumbos, Neuroscience, mentored by David Miller, PhD;
  • Megan Rasmussen, Cell and Developmental Biology; mentored by Vivian Gama, PhD;
  • Jamie Robinson, Biomedical Informatics, mentored by Joshua Denny, MD;
  • Corey Seacrist, Pharmacology; mentored by Raymond Blind, PhD; and
  • Claire Strothman, Cell and Developmental Biology, mentored by Marija Zanic, PhD.

Winners of the one–year awards are:

  • Chloe Snider, Cell and Developmental Biology, mentored by Kathleen Gould, PhD;
  • Nicole Perry, Pharmacology, mentored by Tina Iverson, PhD;
  • Nicole Fisher, Pharmacology, mentored by Colleen Niswender, PhD;
  • Aimee Wilde, Microbe-Host Interactions, mentored by James Cassat, MD, PhD;
  • Jenny Aguilar, Pharmacology, mentored by Aurelio Galli, PhD, (adjunct professor); and
  • Katherine Konvinse, Molecular Pathology and Immunology, mentored by Elizabeth Phillips, MD.

Students in the following PhD-granting programs in the School of Medicine are eligible: Biochemistry, Biomedical Informatics, Biostatistics, Cancer Biology, Cell and Developmental Biology, Chemical and Physical Biology, Epidemiology, Hearing and Speech Sciences, Human Genetics, Microbe-Host Interactions, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Molecular Pathology and Immunology, Neuroscience and Pharmacology.

Students in the Medical Scientist Training Program also are eligible.

Nominations received from faculty members with primary appointments in the School of Medicine will be considered by a committee consisting of the directors of Graduate Studies for each of the PhD-granting programs.

Awards are based on the originality, significance and rigor of students’ dissertation research, on research excellence as evidenced by fellowship awards, publications and presentations at conferences, and on mastery of a discipline as revealed through classwork, qualifying exams and performance in committee meetings.

For more information contact committee chair David Cortez, PhD, professor of Biochemistry, at

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