Undergraduate Training Opportunities and Procedures

The opportunity to host undergraduate and high school scientists in labs represents an outstanding opportunity for training and for advancing a lab's research. There are several different pathways that undergraduate and high school students can take to join Basic Sciences labs to conduct research. Each of these pathways has its own specific requirements in addition to policies that apply to all undergrad and high school trainees regardless of entry pathway or home institutional affiliation.

Click here to view a document that Assistant Dean Selene Colon put together that outlines the various routes by which undergraduate and high school students can enter Vanderbilt labs and what the requirements for each pathway are. In preparing this document she was assisted by a number of experts on various aspects of the processes. I hope you will take a look at this, or at least keep it on hand for future reference. Some requirements, such as the imperative to ensure that students receive appropriate safety training, are quite important.

Immersion Resources

  • Overview

    The goal of the Undergraduate Immersion experience in the School of Medicine (SOM) is to provide Vanderbilt undergraduates with a comprehensive mentored experience in discovery research. Projects should address a specific scientific question or gap in knowledge with systematic and methodologically rigorous investigation. Opportunities will include developing skills in reviewing significant literature, gathering new information and data, analysis and interpretation of the findings, and ultimately, a formal presentation of the completed research.

    Vanderbilt undergraduates choosing to conduct Immersion in the SOM should expect:

    • to begin no earlier than spring semester of their sophomore year
    • to engage scholarship that is structured, rigorous, and substantive
    • to present their final work at the Undergraduate Research Fair

    Vanderbilt Undergraduates interested in completing their Immersion experience in the SOM have several options to identify faculty mentors and develop their projects. Students are encouraged to start conversations with potential mentors early and build relationships before designing and submitting their Immersion plan. Students may also use existing undergraduate research programs such as VUSRP, VSSA, Research for Credit, and SyBBURE.

  • Resources for students
  • Resources for faculty

Quick-Start Guide to Hosting Undergraduate or High School Students in the Lab

  • VU undergraduates

    Vanderbilt undergraduate students have several options to participate in research experiences in Basic Science laboratories. They are allowed to be hired as a student worker, to do research for academic credit through their major/minor area of study or Immersion Vanderbilt, and/or to participate in various organized summer programs. 

    1. Student Worker
      If you are looking to recruit a student worker, please refer to the Vanderbilt student employment website, Hire A Dore. Once your hire is confirmed, please notify your VBS Office of Human Resources (OHR) administratorso they can add your student employee to Oracle. If you have already identified the student you would like to hire, please notify VBS OHR.  They will work with you and student to get them added in Oracle and hired. Faculty sponsors must notify VBS OHR at least a week before the student worker's proposed start date. The student worker must complete required paperwork before work may begin.
    2. Research For Academic Credit
      Students must work with their advisor or research program administrator if they want to gain research experience for credit in a VBS laboratory. VBS OHR does not handle these placements. All institutional biosafety requirements apply. The Undergraduate Research at Vanderbilt website is a valuable tool for inquiring students. The website has all the relevant information about the programs available to both VU and external students interested in research experiences for additional learning.  The A&S departments below offer several courses in which students are awarded academic credit for research experiences. 

    School of Medicine Basic Sciences designated faculty contact

  • Non-VU undergraduates

    External undergraduate students or postbaccalaureate trainees have several options to participate in research experiences in Vanderbilt Basic Science laboratories. They are allowed to be appointed as research interns (paid), be appointed as student observers (unpaid), or participate in various organized summer research programs. 

    1. Research Intern (paid)
      Research Interns are students (high school students, undergraduate students, or postbaccalaureate trainees) who are appointed for educational purposes only for short-term periods not to exceed a year. Research Intern appointments are not applicable for individuals with terminal degrees (ex., PhD). Internships are for individuals looking for research experience and are not appropriate for general lab work. If you have identified a person to be appointed as a Research Intern, please contact your VBS OHR administrator to begin the process for appointing the trainee through the BRET office. If you would like to accept an international student for a training experience, please contact VBS OHRfirst to ensure all relevant documentation and visa requirements are understood before requesting an appointment. Please contact the Office for International Students & Scholars Services for more information.

    2. Visiting Student Observers (unpaid)
      Visiting Student Observers in research laboratories are students from institutions outside of Vanderbilt who wish to observe research activities for purely educational purposes. These positions are short-term, typically no longer than eight weeks. Please note that strict criteria govern the placement of visiting student observers in research laboratories. Observational experiences are only approved if they are for a legitimate educational experience. Additionally, the experience is only accepted if the proposed activity is not one that a regular employee would typically perform.

    Vanderbilt runs several Undergraduate Research Programs during the summer. If selected for program participation, the program will handle the appointment paperwork for participants.

    Lab duties/services
    For students providing services, such as dish washing, media preparation, lab maintenance, data entry, etc., please contact your VBS OHR administrator who will help to hire someone for your needs through Vanderbilt Temporary Services.  

  • Policies for All Short-Term Trainees
    1. Minors in Labs
      There are additional requirements for hosting minors (anyone under 18) in your lab. Please see the Guidelines for Minors in Vanderbilt University Laboratories. Numerous steps are involved in appointing minors in VBS research labs, so please allow at least 4 to 6 weeks for approval. Anyone under 18 must always be directly supervised by the faculty sponsor or designated supervisor while in the laboratory. Protection of Minors Policy.

    2. Institutional Health Insurance Policy Requirements

    Departments should keep proof of health insurance for all interns in their departments. If the intern does not have health insurance coverage for the period of the internship, the department is required to provide one and the mentor is required to pay for the expense.


    1. Safety for All Short-term Trainees
      The faculty sponsor's laboratory must be in full compliance with all Vanderbilt safety programs and regulations. The faculty sponsor/designated supervisor is responsible for ensuring that students complete all safety and compliance training.
      1. Department of Environmental Health and Safety
      2. Environmental Health and Safety Training List
  • VUMC Faculty

    If you are a VUMC faculty member, please seek the guidance of Medical Center Relations (vumc.iso@vumc.org). Faculty requesting research interns/student observers should contact their department or division Human Resources Director to initiate the process.  For health care observations (shadowing), see VUMC Observational Experience (VOE)


    If you are an Engineering or A&S faculty member seeking guidance, please contact your own school administrators for options and procedures for placing high school, undergraduates, or recent college graduates in your lab. Provost guidelines are available here.