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Academic & Course Information: First Year Curriculum



A key element of the IGP year is laboratory research, giving students a chance to sample different subject areas and experience the culture of their chosen rotation laboratories. Each of the 4 required rotations is chosen by the student and lasts approximately eight weeks. By May of the IGP year, students will choose a mentor, enter one of the participating departments, and begin their thesis research.

Fall Semester


During the fall semester, students attend one hour lectures three days a week given by expert faculty from the participating departments. This course, Bioregulation I, surveys key biological processes and principles from macromolecular structure and function to cell biology and the regulation of cell growth. Students receive six didactic credit hours for this course.

Our course curriculum undergoes constant updating to reflect cutting-edge scientific understandings. Additionally, each year, feedback is collected and the curriculum is updated to meet the educational needs of students. The course will continue to be based on the most recent literature in the subject fields of the sections of the course. This means that lectures and discussions are heavily dependent on recently-published journal articles.

Bioregulation I Sections

Macromolecular Structure and Function
Gene Expression
Cell Biology
Cell Cycle and Chromosome Dynamics



All first year IGP students take a 2-credit course entitled FOCUS (Facilitating Open Communication to Understand Science). FOCUS sessions cover research papers that complement the didactic portion of the fall semester of Bioregulation. They serve as a teaching tool to understand how science is done, the basics behind key experimental methods, authorship issues, publication practices, and Responsible Conduct in Research. One of the key objectives in the first year graduate program is for our students to become proficient in reading and critically analyzing the primary scientific literature. As a method for instruction in developing these skills, students in the Bioregulation course are divided into small groups each with a faculty, postdoc and graduate student leader to facilitate discussion of seminal papers in the field of biomedical sciences. Discussions are centered around identifying the central hypothesis being tested, various experimental methods and technologies used, key experimental controls, analyzing the authors’ interpretations of the data, and using this discussion as a springboard to identify future directions.


While the IGP is a moderately sized program, we value the benefits that come with small, personal groups and meaningful faculty-student interactions. One way we facilitate that interaction is through small discussion groups in a course called IMPACT. Students in the IGP, which typically has around 65 members, are sub-divided into small groups of approximately 10 individuals led by a faculty mentor.

Each group meets every week and the content of the meetings vary throughout the year, depending on student needs. Initially, we discuss a range of issues relating directly to the new environment of graduate school, including advice on lab choices and the balance of lab time versus studying for courses. At the same time, we introduce the tools and skills necessary to perform at a high level in required courses and the FOCUS group journal article reviews. As the year progresses, we spend time on presentation skills and developing the critical skills necessary to review literature.

The IMPACT course demonstrates our commitment to personal development of graduate students. It is the first stage of the ASPIRE program which is a three-phase initiative administered through the Office of Career Development within the Office of Biomedical Research Education and Training (BRET).

Spring Semester


In the spring session of the Bioregulation course, students tailor their coursework to their individual research interests. IGP students take a total of eight didactic hours of coursework in the spring. The eight hours are acquired by combining a variable number of the Bioregulation mini-elective modules (each worth one credit hour and lasting approximately five weeks) and departmental electives. These modules can also be audited by older students seeking additional/introductory information as their projects develop.


Advanced Membrane Protein Biology: from Molecule to Disease Integrating Genomics and Phenomics: Characterizing Disease Mechanisms
Adventure Travel Guide to the Microbial World Lipid Metabolism in Physiology and Disease
Angiogenesis: The Good and The Bad Measuring Blood Flow and Metabolism Using In-Vivo Imaging
Applied Bioinformatics: Gene Expression Membrane Protein Structure and Function
Applied Bioinformatics: Practical Analyses of Genes, Genome Annotations and Sequences Metabolism and Disease
Data Analysis for the Biomedical Sciences with Python Metabolism in Cancer and Cell Biology
DNA Structure and Topology Model Systems for Biomedical Research
From Mouse to Meaningful Data: Comparative Pathology for Biomedical Researchers Molecular Aspects of Obesity and Disease
Genetics of Neurodevelopmental Disorders Molecular Basis of Microbial Pathogenesis
Genetics, Cell Biology, Biochemistry of Parkinson’s Disease Parkinson’s Disease
Genome Wide Association Studies of Eye Disease Physiology and Mechanism of Striated Muscle Contraction
Getting Hooked: The Biology of Addiction Programming with Python for the Biomedical Sciences
Getting the Most from Your Mouse: Leveraging Mouse Genetics, Genomics and Genome Engineering Protein-Protein Interactions Make Cells Go ‘Round
History and Applications of Model Systems in Biomedical Research Quantitative Systems Biology
Human Behavioral Genetics Receptor Theory and Enzyme Kinetics
Human Genomics by Eye Signal Transduction in Disease
Immunobiology Small Molecule Design
Introduction to Biologic Drugs Studies in Ocular Genomics
Introduction to Modern Biological Microscopy Techniques in Biomedical Research I & II
Introduction to Structural Biology The Physiology and Pharmacology of prostaglandins and other Lipid Mediators
Introduction to Translational Research The RNA World
Ion Channel Structure and Function Viruses



In the spring semester, students take elective courses as they begin to extend their knowledge into a specialty area of interest. These electives typically fulfill required credit hours in the program that the student will join after their IGP year. For a current listing of courses offered by each program, visit the program websites.

Other First Year Requirements


When IGP students matriculate in August, they attend an introductory “Responsible Conduct of Research” session.  The following May, students in the IGP attend a one-day Responsible Conduct of Research workshop.  The workshop is designed to help scientists identify and deal with ethical issues and dilemmas. Formal lectures, small group discussions and study analyses address topics such as institutional and NIH policies regarding scientific misconduct and conflicts of interest, ethical use of human and animal subjects in research, and data management and intellectual property.  The full day RCR training held in May is a requirement for Vanderbilt graduation.  Additionally, all students and postdocs supported by the NIH are required to attend the full day training at a frequency of no less than once every four years.

After the first year

After the first year of graduate training with the IGP program students will join their dissertation lab and select one of our eleven participating training programs to continue their graduate education. Each of these programs may have additional requirements for the second year training, including course work. Each program also has their own requirements for their qualifying exam. Most programs require students to have a written plan for their thesis project in the style of a grant proposal and to pass an oral exam based on this proposal. For most programs, all required coursework and exams will be completed by the end of the second year of graduate studies. For program-specific information, visit the program websites.