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Academic Curriculum

Please note: The Masters of Laboratory Investigation program will close following the Summer 2020 semester. We will no longer accept new students.

Degree Tracks


The Master of Laboratory Investigation curriculum enables students, with the help of mentors and committee members, to plan a course of study in light of their talents, interests, and professional objectives. The program strives to foster the personal growth of and intellectual investment in non-PhD Vanderbilt research staff to help them advance their career interests in academic research.

The MLI degree program requires students to complete thirty-six semester credit hours. Students who work full-time while in the program are generally allowed to take no more than twelve hours per academic year, unless approved in advance by the program director. Students who work part-time during enrollment in the program may be allowed to enroll for a heavier course load.

To complete thirty-six hours of credit, students choose between three program tracks:

1) Research with Thesis Track: For those interested in developing a research project under the direction of a mentor. Students who choose this track will register for twelve semester hours of research. To complete this track, one must write a manuscript suitable for publication and present it to one’s committee for approval. Note: Only research conducted outside of one’s job requirements can be considered for thesis research credit.

2) Modified Research Track: For those interested in developing a research project for a formal presentation. Students who pursue this track are not required to write a manuscript, but are expected to present their research to a formal audience, which may include a conference gathering or poster presentation at Vanderbilt University. This track requires six semester hours of research and at least six hours of technique training modules. Note: Only research conducted outside of one’s job requirements can be considered for research credit.

3) Techniques Track: For individuals who have a strong academic/research background, but are interested in strengthening their laboratory techniques. This track requires twelve semester hours of advanced technique modules.


Each student is required to assemble a committee of faculty members who will direct one’s research, selection of course work and technique modules throughout the degree program. A committee includes a minimum of two to three faculty members, one of which will be the student’s mentor, and the director of the MLI program. Each semester, students are responsible for coordinating a committee gathering. During this meeting, students will present the progress of their research and coursework. The committee will provide the student with advice regarding research direction and course selection. Each semester, students will obtain a form from the program coordinator, meet with their committee, complete the form documenting that they have satisfied their committee’s progress expectations, and return it to the program coordinator.

Required Courses

Entering students are required to attend the Responsible Conduct of Research course. The course is taught prior to the beginning of each fall semester. All entering students will be required to take Lab Theory I in the fall semester. Students’ other courses will be selected in consultation with their mentors, their committees, and the program director. Because students’ professional goals and backgrounds vary widely, it is important for each student to carefully select courses to meet their long-term goals and research interests. MLI students are able to choose any course taught within the Graduate School in the biomedical sciences. Course offerings will be posted prior to the beginning of each semester. Students must seek the approval of the course instructors before enrolling in the course. By seeking the approval of the instructor, students will be able to verify that they have the necessary background to succeed in the course. Students may earn a maximum of 6 semester credit hours for Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP) bioregulation modules.