Ph.D. Candidates Don New Lab Coats

 A doctoral candidate receives his lab coat during the Graduate School's Research Induction ceremony.
Doctoral candidate Rakesh Bam receives his lab coat from advisor Shmuel Yacoby, Ph.D., (back) and interdisciplinary biomedical sciences program director William Wessinger, Ph.D., during the Graduate School's Research Induction ceremony.
Jackln Daniels, a doctoral candidate in interdisciplinary biomedical sciences, poses with Graduate School Dean Robert McGehee, Ph.D., and her adviser Susan Kadlubar, Ph.D.
Jaclyn Daniels, a doctoral candidate in interdisciplinary biomedical sciences, poses with Graduate School Dean Robert McGehee, Ph.D., and her advisor Susan Kadlubar, Ph.D.

Oct. 8, 2012 | In front of an overflow crowd of friends, family and colleagues, 33 doctoral candidates received white lab coats from their mentors and advisors at the Graduate School's Sept. 24 Research Induction ceremony, signifying the next step in their academic career.

And it seemed like all of the more than 180 in the audience at the Wilson Education Building let out a collective "awww" as the young daughter of microbiology and immunology student Joseph Graham called out "Hey Daddy!" as Graham received his coat.

Michael Preston, a student in the Health Systems Research program, called the moment a little overwhelming. "It's a final milestone in a student's career," he said following the ceremony as friends and family rushed to congratulate him. "I just feel really happy."

The ceremony marks a transition for graduate students who passed their doctoral candidacy exam. The exam follows the first two years of graduate school, which is spent mostly in the classroom. Now the students begin work toward their research-focused doctoral dissertation.

"The process may vary depending on the program the student is in, but it is incredibly rigorous," said Graduate School Dean Robert McGehee, Ph.D.

The ceremony also marks a time when the students have selected a mentor or major graduate advisor who assumes the role of mentor from their academic program’s graduate director. The mentor supports and guides the student on his/her academic journey and is usually selected based on the student’s research interest.

During the ceremony the students don their coats one by one with help from their advisor and their program director.

"It's a process for these students, but they are not doing this by themselves," McGehee said, adding that in many cases the relationship between the student and program director is career long. "The graduate program director plays a very vital role."

The program director helps the student identify a mentor, suggests labs to rotate through for experience and coaches the student along the path toward a doctorate.

Lauren Bailey, a student in the interdisciplinary biomedical sciences program, said to her the new coat represented hard work that helped her get to this point. A student in the M.D.-Ph.D. program, she will finish her doctorate before returning to complete her final two years of medical school.

After receiving their white coats, the candidates recited an Affirmation of Scientists, pledging to "ensure that the results of my research and other scientific activities ultimately benefit humanity" and to “become a worthy role model deserving of respect by those who follow me.”

The doctoral candidates represented nine programs: biochemistry and molecular biology, cellular physiology and molecular biophysics, communication sciences and disorders, health systems research, interdisciplinary biomedical sciences, microbiology and immunology, neurobiology and developmental sciencesnursing science and pharmacology.

Upon passing the candidacy exam, doctoral candidates have seven years to complete their dissertation, a document submitted in support of their doctoral candidacy that usually details the findings of a research project in their chosen discipline.

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