January 21, 2000

Patton named to lead science training effort

Featured Image

Newly named IGP director James G. Patton, Ph.D. (second from right), discusses data with students (from left) Christian Goche, Daron Barnard and Billy Dye. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Patton named to lead science training effort

James G. Patton, Ph.D., associate professor of Molecular Biology, has been named director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in the Biomedical Sciences (IGP).

Patton takes the reins from G. Roger Chalkley, D.Phil., senior associate dean for Biomedical Research Education and Training, who has served as the program's director since its inception in 1992.

"Roger did a fabulous job getting the IGP off the ground and running," Patton said. "The challenge now is to grow the program as the faculty grows and to continue to attract, educate, and train top notch students. It is an exciting challenge, and one that I think will be fun to be part of."

Chalkley accomplished his goals of establishing a successful interdisciplinary program and increasing the number and caliber of the graduate students. When the IGP started, there were 129 students in the seven participating departments, compared to 333 students in the program today.

"We have achieved national stature with this program; it is a model for other universities," Chalkley said.

"I am looking forward to a productive relationship with Jim [Patton] as I support his efforts to take the program to the next level — to strengthen it, support its diversity, and increase the number of trainees."

The IGP recruits and educates graduate students who are interested in basic biological and biomedical research.

The program is responsible for organizing the training of these students during their first year at Vanderbilt. Subsequently, the students choose a mentor and a department to pursue their studies.

The IGP includes the six basic science departments of the Medical Center, the department of Medicine, the Neuroscience graduate program, and the department of Molecular Biology in the College of Arts and Science.

The department of Biology will be included as well, after its merger with Molecular Biology to become the department of Biological Sciences.

Chalkley and Patton agree that the selection of a director from a University Central department to lead the program sends a clear message that the recent trans-institutional initiatives are real and that the IGP is truly interdisciplinary, encompassing all biological and biomedical sciences on campus.

As it moves forward, the IGP faces the continuing challenge of assuring that graduate students are readily available to all faculty members in all departments, while at the same time offering students the freedom to choose from a variety of programs and mentors.

"Graduate students are the lifeblood of research efforts here," Patton said, adding that recruiting talented postdoctoral fellows to Vanderbilt is difficult, especially for young faculty.

Patton brings "interesting ideas for new ways to do things" and "refreshing youthfulness" to the director position, Chalkley said.

"It is important for the students to interact with someone they can be comfortable with and respect," Chalkley said. "They'll really like Jim. He's ideal for the job."

Patton received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the Mayo Clinic and completed postdoctoral training at Harvard University with Dr. Bernardo Nadal-Ginard. He joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1993.