Program Overview

Goals

There are several inter-related goals in the training of pharmacological sciences at Vanderbilt University. At the scientific level, we seek to provide a didactic curriculum that assures that each student has an understanding of the core knowledge in pharmacology and related physiology, including the molecular, cellular and integrated understanding of drug action, receptor theory, pathways of drug metabolism, pharmacokinetics, and rational drug design.

Additional goals in our training program are to:

  1. show, by example, how to construct a rational hypothesis;
  2. teach, again by example, how to apply the scientific method to test an hypothesis;
  3. provide a basic understanding of a broad range of techniques;
  4. provide more in-depth training in those techniques that are particularly germane to a chosen research area of a particular student;
  5. teach how to communicate effectively their research findings to the scientific community, and
  6. instill a scientific ethic and respect for the pursuit of knowledge. 

Other aspirations of the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program are:

  1. to foster the ability of students to learn how to learn on their own for the rest of their lives, a skill critical for continued excellence in scientific inquiry,
  2. to free students from the fear of failure, and
  3. to impart to students an appreciation for diversity.

Each of these latter goals is essential for sustained contributions and leadership in any career, and particularly in biomedical research.

 

Framework

The Pharmacological Sciences Training Program participates in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in the Biomedical Sciences (IGP).

First Year

  • Students spend the first year in an interdisciplinary core course that blends insights in current topics on bioregulation with fundamental principles governing cell structure and regulation of biological processes. This course also provides exposure to the basic principles underlying modern laboratory techniques.
  • Flexible research rotations begin after the first seven weeks and through the spring semester to familiarize students with the science, personality and working environment in the laboratories of potential research advisors.
  • Elective course work also begins in the spring semester.
  • In April of the first year, students select an advisor and a graduate program and begin focused laboratory research during the first summer.

Second Year Through Completion

  • For those students who select the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program, additional course work is planned by students and mentors together to meet the individual interests and needs of each student. Interdepartmental course work and individualization of the curriculum for each student is emphasized.
  • Laboratory research continues nearly full time during the second year of course work and comprises the student's entire efforts in subsequent years of study.
  • Students are encouraged from the outset to understand science as a question-asking process and to acquire skills in posing questions, selecting and designing appropriate experimental strategies, and outlining possible outcomes and interpretations. This conceptual framework repeats itself in didactic course work, laboratory rotations, journal club presentations, and in scientific presentations at the annual fall departmental retreat, student-invited Spring Pharmacology Forum, and at national meetings.

 

Pharmacology Program Statistics

  • Current Students = 38 (18 male; 20 female)
  • Seven year average time to degree is 5.3 years
  • Graduation Rate: Seven year overall average is 85.3% (29 out of 34 students, with 10 still in training)
  • Pharmacology students receive a broad foundation that allows them to be leaders in many different scientific environments. Please see link to the T-32 Training Grant page, on the right, for specific former student information.