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Susan Wente, Ph.D., right, presents Starr Winters with her white lab coat during last week’s Simple Beginnings ceremony for VUMC’s new doctoral students. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Ceremony welcomes new doctoral students to VUMC

BY: LESLIE HILL

9/08/2011 - Last week, 126 new doctoral students at Vanderbilt University Medical Center were welcomed into the scientific community in the second-annual “Simple Beginnings” ceremony.

The name of the ceremony comes from the last paragraph of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.”

Students from 13 Ph.D. programs were presented a white lab coat with a thumb drive in the pocket by Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and Susan Wente, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences.

Among those receiving their white lab coats at the event were (front row, from left) Patricia Sorias, Paula Zamora,  Ankita Burman and Gokhan Unlu, and (back row, from left) Ushashi Dadwal, Ramya Chandrasekaran, Andrew Flyak, Xiaohan Wang and Yan Xia. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Among those receiving their white lab coats at the event were (front row, from left) Patricia Sorias, Paula Zamora, Ankita Burman and Gokhan Unlu, and (back row, from left) Ushashi Dadwal, Ramya Chandrasekaran, Andrew Flyak, Xiaohan Wang and Yan Xia. (photo by Anne Rayner)

During the ceremony, Wente challenged the students to consider four commitments: discovery, scientific method and hypothesis testing, the highest ethical standards and hard work.

“We cannot yet conceive of the complexity and breadth of discoveries that you will make, both in terms of your professional development — as an individual and as a scientist — and in terms of the research that you will conduct,” Wente said.

“These gifts and this ceremony are intended to mark the beginning of your professional training in your chosen field.”

New this year was an informational session for guests of students explaining the graduate education process at VUMC.

Roger Chalkley, D. Phil., senior associate dean for Biomedical Research Education and Training, organized the session and gave an overview of the program.

Lauren Matise, a third-year student in the lab of Hal Moses, M.D., director emeritus of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, spoke from a students’ perspective, and four researchers presented a major health problem and how students’ work in their labs was contributing to solutions.

This year’s ceremony was made possible by the support of the Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Association and more than 100 faculty donations.

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