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Training Activities and Events

Throughout graduate training, students are expected to engage in scholarly activities, such as studying the scientific literature with the goal of integrating this new information into their own research questions, and attending lectures, journal clubs, and scientific meetings in order to keep abreast of the most recent scientific achievements. Meeting these and other expectations will foster a student’s professional development, establishing a scientific life-style of learning that will persist throughout the professional career. These activities include:

  • Department of Pharmacology Seminars
  • Works In Progress Research Seminars
  • Graduate Student Journal Club
  • 3-Minute Talks
  • Thesis Defenses
  • Joel G. Hardman Student-Invited Pharmacology Forum
  • Department of Pharmacology Annual Retreat
  • Allan D. Bass Lecture
  • Elaine Sanders-Bush Lecture
  • Shockley Lecture
  • Paul D. Lamson Lecture
  • Informal Lunches with the Faculty


Departmental Research Seminar Series

The Department of Pharmacology sponsors a four o’clock seminar on alternating Tuesdays with mandatory attendance by all graduate students. The Department of Pharmacology invites a number of scientists from universities throughout the United States, and an occasional visiting international scientist, as speakers at the seminar series on wide-ranging topics. Visiting speakers for Tuesday seminars meet with graduate students, who have specifically identified an interest, after the seminar. This provides an opportunity for students to ask additional questions about the science that was discussed in the seminar. However, students also exploit this opportunity to query the visiting scientists about other issues, including how they made career decisions, how they chose the research problems that have engaged them for so many years, how they know when to change directions in their research activities, how they maintain a high level of information and scholarship in their area, and how they integrate career with other aspects their lives. Each graduate student in the Training Program is required to select at least two speakers a year to meet with in the above manner.

Graduate Student Journal Club

After completion of Scientific Communication Skills (PHAR 8322), the graduate students in the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program participate as speakers in an ongoing Journal Club series. Students select a paper which is submitted to the faculty in charge of the Journal Clubs in advance for approval, and once approved forwarded to the program manager for distribution.

Students will work with their advisor to choose a recent (published within last 18 months) and seminal (major impact on field) paper with general relevance either to pharmacology or to the student’s proposed thesis work. The paper’s authors cannot be from Vanderbilt and the findings must be of significant general interest to members of the Vanderbilt Pharmacology community. The final paper must be approved by the Journal Club faculty advisor (currently Christine Konradi) and the instructors for Scientific Communications (Sean Davies and Claus Schneider).

Works in Progress Seminars

Senior students (year 3 and year 4 in the Pharmacology program) participate in this series which alternates on Tuesdays with the Departmental Research Seminar Series. During the academic year, students in year 3 in the program give a 20-minute Works-in-Progress seminar, and in year 4 a one-hour seminar. This provides an opportunity for these individuals to have their data and presentation examined by a critical audience composed of faculty, fellows, and students in the department. This environment allows students and fellows to polish presentations targeted to potential postdoctoral mentors and employers. Post-doctoral fellows are encouraged to present as well.

Joel G. Hardman Student-Invited Pharmacology Forum

For the Joel G. Hardman student-invited Pharmacology Forum, students identify emerging areas of research that they think are important for understanding as trainees in pharmacological sciences, and invite three nationally or internationally recognized scientists to participate in an annual symposium. The one-day Forum includes poster presentations by all students, thus giving our students the opportunity to get constructive input about their ongoing projects from the visiting scientists as well as scientific colleagues at Vanderbilt. For additional information, see past Forum topics.

Students also use the occasion of the Forum to present the Pharmacology Teaching Award to a faculty mentor of their choosing who, in their estimation, has contributed significantly to their education. The plaque, given each year to a selected faculty member, reads ‘With special recognition for excellence in lecturing and willing assistance in the design and execution of experiments”. The students nominate faculty, select the annual recipient and the results of their vote are revealed in an institution-wide presentation as a prelude to the Forum Symposium.

Department of Pharmacology Annual Retreat

Each fall, the Department of Pharmacology holds a retreat at a nearby state park. The speakers at the retreat are students and postdoctoral fellows, and the retreat is considered an important component of the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program. Each of the talks by the students is ten minutes in length, and focuses on future research plans rather than past accomplishments. Although a few minutes of the presentation are used to explain the research problem under study, its importance, and what has been learned to date, the students are expected to spend the majority of the ten minute presentation explaining what they want to accomplish or learn in the coming year and what strategies they will employ to do so. This emphasis on the future tense encourages a great deal of input, discussion, and critical consideration of the project at a level of intensity that would not necessarily occur following presentations of already-completed work. Furthermore, by learning the methodologies being established in different laboratories, participants in the training program can more readily learn from one another, rather than ‘reinventing the wheel.’ Important collaboration and ‘crash courses’ in different technologies have emerged because of this retreat, and this mode of scientific exchange has fostered an acceleration of the productivity of graduate students and participating mentors alike.

3-Minute Talks

Students in year 2 in the program give a 3-minute talk. Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) celebrates the exciting research conducted by PhD students. The exercise cultivates students’ academic, presentation, and research communication skills. The competition supports their capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

• A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description are allowed.
• No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.
• No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
• Presentations are limited to 3 minutes maximum and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified.
• Presentations are to be spoken word (eg. no poems, raps, or songs).

Earl W. Sutherland, Jr. Symposium

The Earl W. Sutherland, Jr. Signal Transduction Symposium is a yearly half-day symposium held in early May devoted to topics of current interest to Pharmacology students, postdocs, and faculty. There is a lunch for the speakers hosted by the graduate students and faculty, and a reception after the symposium for ample discussion between the students and the speakers. Past speakers have included: Lewis Cantley, Vytas Bankaitis, John York, Scott Emr, Craig Garner, Wolfhard Almers, George Augustine, Joshua Kaplan, Steven Siegelbaum, Joseph Noel, John Scott, Lee Limbird and Heidi Hamm.

Allan D. Bass Lecture

The Allan D. Bass Lecture was established in 1977. It is held bi-annually in late October. Lunch before the lecture and an open reception following give students an opportunity to talk with our distinguished speakers.

2009 Xiaodong Wang

2007 Brian K. Kobilka

2005 Morgan Sheng

2003 Susan S. Taylor

1998 Phillip Needleman

1995 David E. Clapham

1993 Roger A. Nicoll

1989 John R. Blinks

1987 Richard W. Tsien

1985 Elliot S. Vesell

1983 Norman Weiner

1981 Elizabeth C. Miller

1981 James A. Miller

1979 James A. Miller

1979 James R. Gillette

1977 Avram Goldstein

Paul D. Lamson Lecture

In 1964 a Lamson Group consisting of past and present members of the Vanderbilt Department of Pharmacology was formed in honor of Paul D. Lamson. The lecture occurs biannually in late October. Lunch before the lecture and an open reception following give students an opportunity to talk with our distinguished speakers. The following historical list of Lamson speakers includes several Nobel laureates, indicated by an asterisk and year of the award.

2010 Susan L. Lindquist

​2008 Ann M. Graybiel

​2006 Marc Tessier-Levigne

​2004 Sir Michael Berridge

​2002 Robert Lefkowitz

1998 Leroy Hood

1996 Lucy Shapiro

1994 Kevin P. Campbell

1992 Bert Sakmann *1991

1990 Alfred G. Gilman *1994

1988 Eric R. Kandel *2000

1986 Philip Needleman

1984 Robert F. Furchgott *1998

1982 Floyd E. Bloom

1980 Solomon H. Snyder

1978 James W. Black *1988

1976 Julius Axelrod *1970

1975 Werner Kalow

1974 Paul Greengard *2000

1972 Robert E. Handschumachel

1971 Bernard B. Brodie

1969 Harry Eagle

1967 Karl Beyer

1966 Maurice Seevers

1965 K.K. Chen

Informal Lunches With the Faculty

Graduate students, in the early spring of their third year, meet and have lunch with the Director of Graduate Studies during which time he asks the students to read and, at the end of the summer, be prepared to meet again and discuss biographies of scientific ‘heroes’ or other ‘creators,’ such as com­pos­ers, writers, sculp­tors, painters, or visionary political leaders, in an effort to understand what is common in cre­ativity but what can be diverse in the structure of a creative life. Such discus­sions hopefully will reveal to each student how to protect unfragmented time in their lives for musing, despite the expectations to be met toward others in their lives.

Division of Clinical Pharmacology Seminars

The Department of Pharmacology has a noon seminar on Tuesdays sponsored by the Division of Clinical Pharmacology and attendance by our graduate students is strongly encouraged.