Pharmacology Retreat


Annual Pharmacology Retreat

Each fall, the Dept. holds a retreat at a nearby location. Students & postdoctoral fellows present and the retreat is an important component of the Pharmacology Department and the Ph.D. Program. The Retreat has been a joint Vanderbilt-Meharry retreat for almost 20 years. The joint retreat is a successful continuation of our efforts to foster the alliance that has developed over the years between the two institutions.

Since 2006 the graduate students in the Program have organized the retreat. Students organize competitions for “Best Talk” Awards, develop thematic programs, identify and invite the keynote speaker (usually an alum of the Pharmacology Program), and oversee every aspect of the retreat.tree.jpg

Retreat talks last 10 minutes and focus on future research plans not past accomplishments. First year student presentations are developed to use a few minutes of the presentation to explain their research problem, its importance, and what has been learned to date. However, students are reminded that the majority of the presentation is for explaining what they want to accomplish or learn in the coming year and what strategies they will employ. This emphasis on the future tense encourages substantial input, discussion, and critical consideration of the student’s project. Furthermore, by learning the methodologies being established in different laboratories, students can readily learn from one another. Often collaborations emerge at the retreat and this scientific exchange has fostered enhanced productivity of students and mentors alike.


2018 Retreat - Thursday, October 25


Nelson Andrews Leadership Lodge
3088 Smith Springs Rd<
Nashville, TN 37013


Take I-40E (toward Knoxville) to Exit 219 (Stewarts Ferry Pike).
Turn RIGHT onto Stewarts Ferry Pike (which becomes Bell Road), for approx. 4-1/2 miles.
Turn LEFT onto Smith Springs Road.
Continue approx. 1-1/4 miles to YMCA/Camp Widjiwagan entrance on the LEFT.
Please follow signs to EVENT PARKING
Walk to the event location (max. 5 minute walk)



Retreat Schedule

Schedule Half sheet.jpg

2017 Retreat - Wednesday, October 25


Retreat Schedule

2017 Retreat Schedule, half page_Page_2.jpg

2016 Retreat - Wednesday, October 26


Congratulations to Presentation Winners!

Best Oral Talk (tie) - Brittany Spitznagel (Weaver lab) and Bradley Steiner (Hadjifrangiskou lab)

Best 3MT Presentation - Shan Parikh (Knollmann lab)

Best Poster Presentations - Grad Student Andrea Belovich (Galli lab) and Postdoctoral Fellow Branden Stansley, Ph.D. (Conn lab)


Retreat Schedule

2016 Retreat Schedule, full page.jpg

Retreat Book, including Abstracts

Printed copies of the Retreat Book will not be available at the retreat site. Access the Retreat Book through the link below.


Keynote Address

Keynote - Page 1 for Website.jpg

Keynote - Page 2 for Website.jpg


2015 Retreat - Thursday, October 29




Congratulations to the Retreat Prize Winners

  • Best 1st Year Talk: James Maksymetz
  • 2nd Place, 1st Year Talks: Tie between FJ Prael and Nicole Perry
  • Best Poster, Session 1: Alex Nackenoff
  • Best Poster, Session 2: Michael Grannan
  • Best 3MT-style presentation, Grad Student:  Megan Shuey
  • Best 3MT-style presentation, Postdoc:  Linda Zhang
  • BEST COSTUME: Seva Gurevich

Retreat Abstract Book


Keynote Address



2014 Retreat - Tuesday, October 28



Congratulations to the Best Retreat Talk Winners

  • Best Talk, first year student: Shan Parikh
  • Second Place, first year student talk: Joel Everett
  • Third Place, first year student talk: Erin Breland
  • Best Overall Talk: Shan Parikh


Other Awards

  • Best Poster (tie):  Taneisha Gillyard and Elizabeth Ennis
  • Best Speed Science Talk:  Rocco Gogliotti, Ph.D.


2014 Retreat Schedule


Detailed Schedule

Retreat Abstract Book


Congratulations to the Best Retreat Talk Winners

  • Best Talk, first year student: Shan Parikh
  • Second Place, first year student talk: Joel Everett
  • Third Place, first year student talk: Erin Breland
  • Best Overall Talk: Shan Parikh


Other Awards

  • Best Poster:  Katherine Betke
  • Best Speed Science Talk:  Rocco Gogliotti, Ph.D.


Keynote Speaker

Alexander Pfeifer, M.D.
Professor and Director
Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology
University of Bonn, Germany


"The obesity pandemic - Novel pharmacological targets to rebalance energy homeostasis"




2013 Retreat  - October 22, 2013


Congratulations to the Best Retreat Talk Winners

  • Best Talk, first year student: Hussain Jinnah
  • Tie for Second Place, first year student: Megan Shuey and Yuantee Zhu
  • Best Overall Talk: Matt Karolak

Other Awards

  • Best Poster:  Katherine Betke
  • Best Speed Science Talk:  Robert Gould, Ph.D.


Detailed schedule

Abstract Book


Keynote Speaker

Elaine Sanders-Bush, Ph.D., Professor of Pharmacology, Emerita

Born and raised on a small farm in Kentucky, Elaine Sanders-Bush attended Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, where a visiting professor in Pharmacology fromVanderbilt University introduced her to the excitement of scientific research and the significant opportunities made available by advanced training. Upon graduation with a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry, she joined the graduate program in Pharmacology at Vanderbilt in 1962 and earned a Ph.D. degree in Pharmacology in 1967. After postdoctoral training, she joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1969, where she remained until her retirement in 2010, interrupted only by brief sabbaticals at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Stanford University. Her service locally and nationally has been transformative.  In 2006, she was elected President of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. In that year, she was also named the Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor at Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Sanders-Bush’s research has made major contributions to the understanding of serotonin and its receptors, from pharmacology and signal transduction to in vivo brain function. Her research interest in serotonin dates back to her graduate school days studying the metabolic inactivation of a hallucinogenic serotonin derivative. Over time, as neuroscience research expanded exponentially, her work evolved to take advantage of the tremendous advances that were offered in molecular biology, genetics and behavior. Her research accomplishments have brought her broad recognition at a national and international level; among her research awards are a Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Neuroscience Research, a MERIT Award from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Heftner Prize for Outstanding Basic Research. 

Dr. Sanders-Bush has been a leader in the development of neuroscience research and graduate education at Vanderbilt. In 1997, she spearheaded the creation of a new Ph.D. degree program in Neuroscience and served as director of that program until 2008.  During this decade, the program grew to more than sixty graduate students. In 2002, she was appointed the first Director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute. In recognition of her impact in graduate education at Vanderbilt, the Elaine Sanders-Bush Award for Mentoring Graduate and/or Medical Students in the Research Setting was created in 2006.  Dr. Sanders-Bush has a deep personal commitment to enhancing opportunities for minority trainees and has worked to enhance minority training programs at Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College, and Vanderbilt. In recognition of her commitment and accomplishments, she was the first recipient of Vanderbilt’s Levi Watkins, Jr., Award for Leadership Diversity in 2002 and, in 2009, the Dr. Dolores C. Shockley Lecture and Partnership Award.

Over the course of her career, Dr. Sanders-Bush has mentored scores of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows as well as junior faculty. She has a strong record of training students who think both creatively and critically and is recognized for being a nurturing mentor while insisting that her students function at their highest level. Her former trainees hold prominent positions at major U.S. academic centers and in the pharmaceutical industry.


2012 Retreat - October 23 & 24


Congratulations to the Best Retreat Talk Winners

  • First Place: Cody Wenthur
  • Second Place: Scott McCall
  • Third Place: Susan Yim

Honorable Mentions

  • Andrea Belovich
  • Kiera-Nicole Lee, Meharry

October 22, 2013

Joe C. Davis YMCA Outdoor Center, Nashville, TN


October 23, 2012

Paris Landing State Park, Buchanan, TN

October 25, 2011

Lake Barkley State Resort Park