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Vanderbilt Summer Diabetes Research Program

This program provides undergraduate students who are interested in diabetes with the opportunity for a research experience in one of the many laboratories associated with the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center.

The term diabetes refers to a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to respond to and/or produce insulin. Today 23.6 million children and adults in the United States—7.8% of the population—have diabetes. In addition, in the United States alone 1.6 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in people aged 20 years and older each year. The Vanderbilt Diabetes Center (VDC) is one of the leading centers for diabetes patient care and research in the United States: An important component of the VDC is the NIH-funded Vanderbilt Diabetes Research and Training Center (DRTC)

The DRTC is an interdisciplinary program involving more than 90 faculty members distributed among 18 departments in two schools and four colleges at Vanderbilt and at neighboring Meharry Medical College. One of the key missions of the DRTC is to train new diabetes scientists.  As part of that mission the DRTC funds the Vanderbilt Summer Diabetes Research Program. The primary objective of the Vanderbilt Summer Diabetes Research Program is to provide a substantive research experience that will allow each student to actively participate in a laboratory project including reading the relevant diabetes literature, developing ideas, performing experiments and communicating findings to colleagues.

Students will also benefit by their association with the broader Vanderbilt Summer Science Academy (VSSA). The VSSA provides enrichment seminars that include guidance and preparation for entrance exams to graduate school that will help construct a strong foundation on which to build scientific careers. Students will have the opportunity to learn about the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP) and Quantitative and Chemical Biology Program (QCB) at Vanderbilt University. These programs allow students to perform research rotations in 4 laboratories before choosing one of those laboratories for their Ph.D. research. A strong performance in the Vanderbilt Summer Diabetes Research Program is likely to significantly improve the chances for subsequent admission into the IGP or QCB. In addition, students will have the opportunity to participate in a seminar series with lectures given by leading diabetes scientists. This seminar series is part of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Student Research Training Program (SRTP).

Invitations to participate in the Vanderbilt Summer Diabetes Research Program are sent to the selected qualified applicants by February 15th. Students have until February 22nd to reply with their decision to participate.  In the event that applicants decline to attend, invitations will be sent out to the next most highly qualified applicants. Upon accepting our offer to participate, the Program Director will contact the students to assist with the selection of a suitable mentor with whom they would like to work during the summer. The process of finding a suitable mentor will be completed by late March allowing students the chance to establish communication with the assigned mentor prior to their arrival. Once in the lab, summer students will engage in laboratory experiments using a variety of biomedical techniques and instruments. Students will hone their laboratory skills, collect data, make inferences based on their results, and become very familiar with the nature of scientific inquiry. Students will then present the results of their own independent research projects at the research symposium organized by the VSSA that is held at the end of the summer.


The summer research interns will receive a stipend of $3375 for the ten-week period. Housing will be provided at one of the Vanderbilt University campus dormitories.

Eligibility and Application

  • Rising juniors or seniors with a GPA of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale.
  • Applicants must have taken a biology, chemistry, and/or biochemistry course.
  • Students must apply online using the “Application” link below. IMPORTANT: In the ‘Personal Statement’ section of the application please indicate how you came to develop an interest in diabetes research. For example, do you or a family member have diabetes or have you already had prior experience working in a diabetes research laboratory?
  • The 2021-2022 application for the Summer Diabetes Program opens on October 1st, 2021. The VSSA application will close on February 1st, 2022
  • Starting the Online Application HERE