Vanderbilt University’s CBMS Training Program Receives Funding for Innovative Lab Safety Initiative
The Cellular, Biochemical, and Molecular Sciences (CBMS) Training Program at Vanderbilt University has received a grant supplement to T32GM137793 in response to “NOT-GM-22-010: Laboratory Safety.” This funding will support an exciting new initiative aimed at enhancing laboratory safety practices and cultivating a safety mindset among graduate students and lab leaders. The CBMS training grant is under the leadership of Drs. Katherine Friedman, Todd Graham, and James Patton in the Department of Biological Sciences.
“We are excited about the new lab safety pilot program,” said Kathy Gould, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Biomedical Research Education and Training (BRET). She added, “It will bridge the gap between standard lab safety training and the incorporation of best practices in students’ laboratory approaches. The initiative will contribute to a safer research environment and aligns with our commitment to provide cutting-edge training experiences for our students.”
The lab safety pilot program, which features an educational module titled “Developing a Lab Research Safety Mindset,” will be led by Dr. Madhvi Venkatesh, DPhil, Curriculum Director for the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and Robin Trundy, MS, RBP, CBSP, Vanderbilt University’s Associate Director of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and Institutional Biological Safety Officer. Ms. Trundy, a seasoned biosafety professional with over 25 years of experience, will provide strategic direction for the initiative. Working closely with Ms. Trundy, Dr. Venkatesh will integrate the safety module into existing graduate curricula and offer pedagogical support to facilitate student engagement.
The module will equip students with a strong foundation in risk assessment as it applies to lab research activities. Through a combination of didactic lectures, interactive activities, case studies, and peer discussions, students will learn to effectively use lab safety orientation checklists, apply risk assessment principles, identify improper safety practices, and incorporate risk assessment into their research activity plans. The module will span four weeks and culminate in students sharing how they will integrate a safety mindset into their own research projects.
“We believe that by emphasizing risk assessment and a safety mindset, this module will prepare students to work safely with various research-related hazards throughout their graduate education and beyond,” said Dr. Madhvi Venkatesh. “We are committed to instilling a culture of safety that promotes students’ use of optimal safety practices and encourages other lab members to do the same.”
In addition to the lab safety module, the grant supplement will also support a safety resource fair aimed at supporting frontline lab leadership in implementing the best safety practices, documents, and equipment within their laboratories. This coordinated approach targets multiple levels, ensuring that individual research laboratories foster a culture of safety that aligns with the training received by students.
“I am looking forward to coordinating the lab safety resource fair that will provide frontline lab leaders with a much-needed opportunity to engage directly with numerous Vanderbilt units that support safety in lab operations as well as EHS. Building resource networks between those who manage lab operations and safety-related support units will elevate the lab research safety culture, and that is the long-term goal,” said Ms. Robin Trundy.
The CBMS Training Program is grateful for the support received from various training grant directors, including Joey Barnett (Pharmacology), Digna Velez Edwards (IMSD), and Walter Chazin (Molecular Biophysics), who provided letters of support for this grant application.