Partner Resources

Thank you for considering partnering with The Vanderbilt ASPIRE Program to host a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow in your workplace for an externship or internship experience.  The ASPIRE program was launched in 2013 as a means to connect the 21st century scientist with a wide variety of meaningful career paths.  Through participation in the ASPIRE program, trainees will be introduced to broad strategies intended to best prepare them for a wide range of future careers.   

Nearly 50% of Vanderbilt’s biomedical PhD alumni are employed in careers outside academic research and teaching. To provide our trainees with hands-on experience and exposure to career paths of interest, we are establishing externship and internship programs.  We seek employers from a range of professions to serve as hosts, including, but not limited to the following career areas: 


Industry R&D Start-Ups Clinical Research Technical Sales
Business Development Regulatory Affairs Medical Communications Journalism
Consulting Patent Law Venture Capital and Finance Public Health
Science Outreach Policy & Government Defense & Intelligence Law Enforcement
Research Administration Undergraduate Teaching Non-Profit Management Academic Administration


Externship Program
The Externship Program will offer biomedical sciences PhD students and postdoctoral fellows an opportunity to shadow a professional at their job for 1-3 days. This experience will help trainees investigate a career path and develop insight into skills required for success in a profession. During the externship, the trainee will observe the host and ask questions about the job and work environment. Hosts are encouraged to engage the trainee directly in a small project or team meetings, provide a company tour, and facilitate meetings.  The externship program will be held annually each spring starting in 2016. Externships are unpaid and do not carry academic credit. Prior to conducting an externship, trainees will complete a career development workshop focused on career planning and networking.

Externship Host Responsibilities

  • Provide a substantive 1 to 3 day experience at your place of business; externship hosts may engage externs directly in a project if feasible.
  • Help students and postdocs learn about your career and industry.
  • Complete an online information form describing your role and industry so we can facilitate a match between you and an extern who is interested in your field.
  • Complete a follow-up survey.


Internship Program

The Internship Program will offer trainees professional, hands-on work experience. Internships will likely occur in the last 12 months of a trainee’s PhD or postdoctoral training. Internships can be part- or full-time depending on the employer’s needs. Part-time internships should be less than 8 hours per week and the internship must not interfere with the trainee’s research progress in the lab. If paid, the compensation must comply with university and funding agency guidelines. Full-time internships are also a possibility. For full-time internships lasting more than two weeks, students will take a Leave of Absence from the PhD program and employers should compensate full-time internships at a rate equal to or greater than a student stipend and health insurance costs (currently $2254/month). Postdocs will be eligible for internships pending approval of a leave of absence by the university and/or funding agency.

Prior to conducting an internship, trainees  participate in a career development seminar course and workshops to prepare them for the internship application process and experience. The course and workshop will address self-assessment, career decision making, networking, and tips for having a successful internship experience.

Internship Host Requirements:

  • Provide a hands-on, project-based work experience related to your field.
  • Serve as a mentor to help students and postdocs learn about your career and industry.
  • Complete an online information form describing the internship opportunity so we can advertise it to students and postdocs.
  • Interview and select an intern; compensation is required for interns conducting full-time internships lasting longer than two weeks (see “Internship program,” above, for details).
  • Help the intern complete an internship plan that clearly lays out the goals for the internship
  • Complete a follow-up survey.


About Biomedical Sciences Trainees at Vanderbilt:

Nearly 1,500 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows conduct biomedical research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  Our biomedical sciences PhD students are enrolled in one of 11 PhD programs in the biomedical sciences. Our postdoctoral fellows are affiliated with these basic science programs or one of a variety of research centers, institutes or clinical departments.

Our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are broadly trained scientists who are accustomed to teamwork and cross-disciplinary research.  


Benefits to Your Organization:

  • Network with talented, energetic PhD students and postdocs eager to apply their skills at work.
  • Engage a PhD student or postdoc to help complete a project at your company.
  • Mentor a student or postdoc in the career decision-making process.
  • Showcase opportunities in your career, industry, or company.


Thank you for considering partnering with The ASPIRE Program at Vanderbilt University to assist graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in exploring a variety of enriching career paths. 

We also welcome your generous philanthropic support which has a tremendous impact on the training opportunities afforded our PhD students and postdoctoral fellows. Please consider giving to our ASPIRE Scholar Fund to assist our trainees in gaining the skills and experiences necessary for a meaningful career.


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