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
    • Clinical Pharmacology Grand Rounds
    • Departmental Research Seminar Series
  • Works In Progress Research Seminars
  • Graduate Student Journal Club
  • Joel G. Hardman Student-Invited Pharmacology Forum
  • Department of Pharmacology Annual Retreat
  • Earl W. Sutherland, Jr. Symposium
  • Allan D. Bass Lecture
  • Paul D. Lamson Lecture
  • Informal Lunches with the Faculty



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.

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.

Senior students and postdoctoral fellows elect to participate in this series which alternates on Tuesdays with the Departmental Research Seminar Series. During the academic year, students nearing completion of their degree, and postdoctoral fellows in the program are encouraged to present an hour-long seminar describing their work. 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. This seminar series has been enthusiastically welcomed by both students and postdoctoral fellows. 

After completion of Scientific Communication Skills (PHAR 322), the graduate students in the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program participate as speakers in an ongoing seminar series. Currently, the student seminars are held at 4:00 PM on Mondays (location TBA). Students select a topic of interest to them (and specifically not the area of their own research program), submit a topic title to the faculty member overseeing the seminar series, and provide a one-page summary of critical research papers they will review as an annotated bibliography for all students. The quality of the student seminars is outstanding and faculty often attend as a way to update their own information in a particular area. Attendance at student seminars is required of all graduate students in all years of the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program.   

or 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 recipientand the results of their vote are revealed in an institution-wide presentation as a prelude to the Forum Symposium.

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. 

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.

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

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  

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.