New graduate students suit up for the future

The School of Medicine has set records in its recruitment statistics for doctoral students following the implementation of a funding model that encourages graduate students to follow their passion and take risks.

William Talbot helps graduate student Stephanie Kabeche into her lab coat at a ceremony Sept. 25. Lila Hope (left) is president of the Stanford Medicine Alumni Association, which sponsored the event.
George Nikitin

The School of Medicine set recruitment records with this year’s new class of doctoral students, receiving the largest-ever pool of applicants and boasting the highest acceptance rate in the school’s history.

Of the 2,030 applicants to Stanford’s biosciences PhD programs, 174 were offered admission and 116 accepted, according to William Talbot, PhD, the medical school’s senior associate dean for graduate education and postdoctoral affairs. 

“We look for people who take risks, are creative, work hard and have integrity,” he said. “We look for people who are going to be leaders.”

Talbot and Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, welcomed the doctoral students on Sept. 25, the first day of classes, during a ceremony where they were presented with lab coats.

Dean Lloyd Minor welcomes the medical school's new PhD students during the lab coat ceremony Sept. 25 at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge.
George Nikitin

“Welcome to all of you as you begin what will be one of the most significant journeys of your lives,” Minor said to the new students gathered at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge.

This class is also one of the most diverse in the school’s history, with 25 percent of new doctoral students coming from underrepresented backgrounds in the biosciences. “Diversity has been a major focus of the dean and of our team,” Talbot said. The school has increased outreach programs, recruitment visits across the country and community building to provide a welcoming environment for all students in an effort to increase its diversity levels, he said.

In addition to the 116 new doctoral students, 64 students seeking master’s degrees in the biosciences have started their coursework.

Independent funding model

This year, the student yield — the percentage of applicants who accepted offers — was extraordinarily high, Talbot said. Sixty-seven percent of the doctoral-program applicants offered admission decided to matriculate at Stanford, a figure that has steadily increased since the school implemented the Biomedical Innovation Initiative. Also known as the independent funding model, the initiative, which was launched in 2013, guarantees PhD students full funding for four years without having to rely on a faculty researcher’s funding.

The initiative gives students the freedom to pursue inventive biomedical research, Talbot said. Students are funded by a combination of fellowships and training grants, as well as by the school’s fundraising efforts.

“Within the first five years of our independent funding model, we’ve been amazed by the results,” Talbot said. “The ultimate outcome of this is that we want our students to be empowered to pursue the science that means the most to them.”

Minor discussed the importance of the philanthropic funding for the new class at the lab coat ceremony.

“If you’re really passionate about something, if it captures your mind, your heart and your soul, then you’re going to have an impact in that area,” he said. “I hope these investments give you the confidence you need to take risks right now and to persist in your explorations.” 



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