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Student Research

Redefining Medical Knowledge

Excellence in medicine isn’t knowing what to think; it’s knowing how to think. From differential diagnoses to biomedical discovery, knowing how to investigate and implement new biomedical knowledge is a crucial skill for any physician.

That’s where our four-year research path comes in.

Year 1: CASE

During Clinical Applications of Scientific Evidence (CASE), you’ll learn to critically and systematically evaluate scientific literature so you can apply evidence-based medicine to the cases you’re seeing in clinic. In this first-year course, you’ll also connect with a diverse group of physician-scientists and learn how research can play into your future career.

Year 2: Discovery

The second milestone on the research path takes a deep dive into the resources and community of the top-tier research campus surrounding you.

In Year 2’s Discovery course, you’ll explore the amazing variety of research going on at Vanderbilt, meet with potential research mentors, and select a research project that best fits your own interests.

Most medical students select a project from one of the four following areas:

  • Bench2Bedside (B2B)
    From traditional lab research to translational cell culture investigations, B2B research takes you on an unforgettable journey into lab-based biomedical research. If drug development, computational research, or first-in-human studies spark your interest, B2B could be right for you.
  • Community and Global Health
    If you’re passionate about improving population health, consider a research project in community and global health. From barriers to treatment for underserved populations in America to transnational health issues, community and global health research is all about addressing the health care needs of specific populations, both here in Nashville and around the world.
  • Epidemiology and Informatics
    A cornerstone of public health, epidemiology research informs policy decisions and evidence-based practice by identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive health care. Meanwhile, biomedical informatics helps clinicians store, retrieve, and analyze data to improve the quality of care for patients on an everyday basis. If strengthening evidence-based practice or bolstering public health appeals to you, this research area might be the right fit for you.
  • Ethics, Education, Policy, and Society (E2PS)
    Want to dive into the ethical and social dimensions of medicine? The E2PS research area encompasses historical inquiry of medicine, patient accounts of illness, legal aspects of health policy, ethics of genomics, and so much more. The medical humanities come to the forefront here, as biomedical research connects with philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and law.

Over the course of your four years at VUSM, you’ll develop the research skills and experience needed to stay on the cutting-edge of evidence-based practice.

Think you might be interested in longer-term research? Check out our Medical Scholars Program, which gives you full funding to turn your selected project into a year of uninterrupted biomedical research.

Year 3: PLAN

Early in your immersion phase, you’ll complete PLAN, an intensive one-month project-planning course. The course consists mostly of small group sessions and individual work where you’ll refine your own research goals, methods, and predictions.

By the end of PLAN, you and your research mentor will have completed a research plan to serve as a detailed guide during the following research immersion months.

Year 3 or 4: Research Immersion

During this 3- to 6-month immersion period, you’ll work full time on your project, attend weekly research area group meetings, and provide updates to your mentor and research director as needed.

Research Immersion is also a time for professional growth and networking. By the end of the research months, you’ll have developed a strong working relationship with your research mentor and others. Plus, you’ll have a scientific paper ready to submit for publication.

From Researcher to Physician Leader

Our research course equips you to turn your own personal curiosity into publishable research— but that doesn’t mean that you’re in it on your own.

Beginning with CASE in Year 1 and stretching through your research immersion months, dedicated research directors and mentors constantly provide guidance and support as they:

  • Connect you with any needed resources to complete your project
  • Introduce you to possible collaborators and experts on your topic
  • Help you refine your analytical skills as you process your results
  • Provide feedback on your research paper as you prepare to submit for publication

At the end of these four years, you’ll be equipped in the fundamentals of research and scientific communication, equipping you to become a leader in the ever-evolving field of evidence-based medicine.

Student Research Leadership

A man with glasses crosses his arms
Patrick Hu, MD, PhD

Luke Finck, EdD, MA
Associate Director


As you investigate biomedical knowledge and make new discoveries, Drs. Hu and Finck guide you to identify questions important to you and your field of interest. While you steer your own projects, they connect you with broad opportunities to address everything from basic science questions to inquiries about biomedical ethics, diverse patient experiences, and more.

With nearly 30 years of experience as a physician-scientist, Dr. Hu brings practical approaches to the vibrant field of medical research. Dr. Hu knows the importance of strong networking and support in student research, having served as a faculty leader for the Avery-Cohen Advising College in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at VUSM and as director of the Physician Scientist Training Program (PTSP) in internal medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He can answer your questions about potential project designs, the research process, and ways to maximize your connections at Vanderbilt and beyond.

Dr. Finck thinks broadly about what it means to conduct medical research, helping you identify your personal aspirations for work across the research spectrum. Informed by two decades in higher education, Dr. Finck retains a student-focused, goal-oriented approach to help you customize your tracks. He’ll also connect you with top mentors and partners in your field to guide your studies.