ASPIRE For Faculty

As a mentor, you play a critical role in shaping the career trajectory of your trainees.  To complement your efforts, the ASPIRE Program provides career exploration tools for biomedical scientists at all stages of their training.


All trainees, regardless of stage, should consider taking advantage of monthly PhD Career Connections, the Annual Career Symposium and Beyond the Lab video series. 

Stage Appropriate Opportunities for your Graduate Students:

Year 1:  Students in their first year participate in the Impact Phase of ASPIRE which exposes trainees to various topics on professionalism through weekly mentor-led small group discussion sessions.

Years 2-3: Explore Phase of ASPIRE is appropriate for students in their second or third year:

  • ASPIRE to Plan is a four-part seminar series to empower trainees to make effective career decisions and identify specific training opportunities that are relevant to their career goals. Students participate in guided self-assessment of their strengths and work-related values, explore career options for scientists, and use Individual Development Plans to set goals for their career development.  It is offered twice each year.  The next session starts November 4, 2014.
  • ASPIRE to Connect is a half-day workshop offered each spring that is designed for industry professionals and faculty to share advice with trainees for building and maintaining professional relationships. ASPIRE to Connect 2015 is Tuesday, February 17th.

Students who participate in ASPIRE to Plan and ASPIRE to Connect are eligible to further enhance their training by taking part in an ASPIRE Externship. The ASPIRE Externship will connect students with employers for a 1-3 day shadowing experience at a company; beginning in 2015, students may apply for ASPIRE travel funds to conduct an externship.

Years 3+:  Enhance Phase of ASPIRE is appropriate for students post-qualifying exam:

  • ASPIRE Modules are short, non-credit bearing electives that broaden the training experiences of biomedical sciences trainees through exposure to topics in three theme areas: business and entrepreneurship, communication, and clinical research.

  • The ASPIRE Internship is an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with a project in a professional work environment. The Internship requires prior participation in ASPIRE to Plan and ASPIRE to Connect. Additional details will be available when the internship program begins in the 2015-2016 academic year.

  • ASPIRE Teaching Internship trainees have the opportunity to gain exposure to teaching and experience in the undergraduate classroom. The Teaching Internship requires prior completion of the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching, “Seminar in College Teaching”.


Opportunities for your Postdoctoral Fellows:

Explore Phase and Enhance Phase activities are appropriate for postdoctoral fellows throughout their training, based on their interest and availability.

As outlined above for students, ASPIRE to Plan and ASPIRE to Connect are prerequisites for participating in the ASPIRE Externship and ASPIRE Internship programs.  Taking part in the ASPIRE Teaching Internship requires that postdocs have already completed the “Seminar in College Teaching” offered independently through the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching.

ASPIRE Cafe for Postdoctoral Fellows A bi-monthly series specifically designed for postdoctoral fellows to learn more about the Vanderbilt ASPIRE Program and to explore topics in career development and professionalism. Sessions are led by Ashley Brady, PhD., ASPIRE Program Manager.  Please visit the webpage for the most up to date schedule and to see a description of topics covered. 

We encourage all trainees who wish to participate in ASPIRE programming to maintain open communication with their advisor regarding time commitments outside of the laboratory.

All ASPIRE and Office of Career Development programs will be advertised in the Office of Career development e-newsletter and blog, as well as on the ASPIRE and Office of Career Development websites.

Allowable Student and Postdoc Activities

Questions about activities students and postdoctoral scholars can participate in?

Frequently Asked Questions from The Office of Management and Budget’s Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (2CFR 200) (see .400-2 "Dual Role of Students and Postdoctoral Staff" on page 19 of the PDF)

.400-2 Dual Role of Students and Post-Doctoral Staff

The Uniform Guidance states; "For non-Federal entities that educate and engage students in research, the dual role of students as both trainees and employees contributing to the completion of Federal awards for research must be recognized in the application of these principles." Staff in postdoctoral positions engaged in research, while not generally pursuing an additional degree, are expected to be actively engaged in their training and career development under their research appointments as Post-Docs. This dual role is critical in order to provide Post- Docs with sufficient experience and mentoring for them to successfully pursue independent careers in research and related fields.

Does 200.400(f) require recognition of the dual role of postdoctoral staff appointed on research grants as, both trainees and employees, when appointed as a researcher on research grants?

Yes, the Uniform Guidance 200.400(f) requires the recognition of the dual role of all pre and post-doctoral staff, who are appointed to research positions with the intent that the research experience will further their training and support the development of skills critical to pursue careers as independent investigators or other related careers. Neither Pre-Docs or Post-Docs need to be specifically appointed in 'training' positions to require recognition of this dual role. The requirements and expectations of their appointment will support recognition of this dual role per 200.400(f).

Thank you for supporting your Ph.D. students or postdoctoral fellows in their professional development!

For questions, please contact: 

Kathy Gould, Ph.D.

Associate Dean for Biomedical Sciences 
Louise B. McGavock Professor 
Department of Cell and Developmental Biology 
Director, Vanderbilt International Scholar Program 
Director of Graduate Student Support