May 19, 2000

Graduate students become colleagues

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Teresa Johnson, who received her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology, chatted with her mentor, Dr. Barney Graham, prior to the Graduate School’s ceremony. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Graduate students become colleagues

Graduate students who made research discoveries in every corner of Vanderbilt University Medical Center were honored at last week's commencement ceremonies.

Forty students earned Doctor of Philosophy degrees in biomedical sciences in August, December, or May. Thirteen of these students participated last week and were hooded by their mentors or other departmental faculty members.

"Graduate students are critical to the research efforts of the University," said Roger Chalkley, D.Phil., senior associate dean for Biomedical Research Education and Training. "If you ask the research faculty what they want in their labs, bright, creative graduate students top the list every time."

Graduate students interested in biomedical research enter the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP), and after a year of coursework and laboratory "rotations," they choose research mentors and home departments.

On average, students require five years and four months to earn the Ph.D. degree.

The majority of new graduates continue their research training as postdoctoral fellows.

"Our graduates are getting good postdoctoral fellowships, where they want them — mostly at other first-rate institutions," Chalkley said.

He is impressed with the Vanderbilt graduates.

"It always amazes me that these students come in from very diverse backgrounds — some are well prepared, some are wet behind the ears — and they turn into sophisticated, confident scientists," he said. "Somehow they metamorphose from students into colleagues."