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MARC Program

National Institutes of Health-funded Undergraduate Program

MARC Scholarship Program

Vanderbilt University is proud to host a National Institutes of Health-funded Maximizing Access to Research Careers undergraduate program (MARC at Vanderbilt). The overarching goal of the Vanderbilt MARC Scholars program is to increase the number of individuals in biomedical research from under-represented groups in the *biomedical sciences by preparing undergraduate students for successful application to and graduation from Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. biomedical training programs, aligning fully with Vanderbilt’s mission of inclusive excellence across all disciplines.

Benefits of the MARC Program

  • Engagement with a diverse and welcoming community of scientists
  • Mentored full-time research in top Vanderbilt University labs
  • 24 months of stipend support
  • Summer stipend support for two summers of research
  • Career development and student panels on graduate school and the M.D./Ph.D.
  • Personalized training in scientific presentation
  • Presentation of research at national conferences

Students can identify their interest in biomedical research and their future goals of training as a Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. as early as the first semester of their freshman year. In doing so, students begin participation in pre-MARC program activities such as START, which includes professional skill development activities, career roundtables, and meetings with nationally recognized biomedical scientists who are guest speakers in the Vanderbilt MARC Scholars seminar series. START and MARC scholars engage in academic year and summer biomedical research, both at Vanderbilt University and nationally, including with scientists at other major research universities.

Applying to MARC

Students apply in the spring of their sophomore year for MARC Scholar funding, which provides a 24-month stipend to permit continued research engagement during the academic year and summers, as well as tuition support. MARC Scholars share their research findings at national meetings of biomedical scientists in their research area, as well as participating in career and professional development training to help prepare them for successful entrance into Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. programs following graduation. *To be eligible for NIH MARC support, students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and major in one of the sciences or engineering fields related to biomedical science. Applications are for the 2024-2026 cohort are now closed.

For questions, please contact

2023 MARC Summer Research

MARC, START, and Beckman Symposium on Peabody campus. 35 Vanderbilt students (and 2 non-Vanderbilt students) will be presenting the summer research that they have done through either oral presentations or posters.

For Summer 2023, eleven Vanderbilt MARC Scholars from diverse backgrounds successfully engaged in 9-10 weeks of intensive summer research, mentoring, and career development with Vanderbilt faculty mentors, and at other institutions including MIT, Meharry, and Duke Marine Lab.  In addition to intensive research, MARC and START Scholars engaged with the Vanderbilt Summer Science Academy and met biweekly for enrichment sessions, including presentations from the Career Center and the Vanderbilt office for Experiential Learning & Immersion Vanderbilt. Students wrote and edited abstracts of their work with help from graduate students and attended a workshop on best practices for poster and oral presentations.

The MARC/START Summer Symposium was a highlight with 35 oral and poster presentations from the MARC and START Scholars, Beckman Scholars, and several affiliated students. We also heard from BSCI graduate student and MARC mentor Christina Chavez. It was an exciting day to learn from each other and celebrate our accomplishments!

2023 Meeting Presentations

In November of 2023, eleven MARC Scholars and three START Summer Scholars traveled to Phoenix, AZ to attend ABRCMS (Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists). There, they presented their research, attended lectures by preeminent scientists, met with representatives of graduate and professional programs from myriad universities, and networked with faculty and students from across the country. The Scholars were accompanied by Dr. Kathy Friedman and MARC mentor Christina Chavez. Five Scholars won presentation awards:

  • Abbie Carr (MARC, oral presentation; Physiology and Pharmacology)
  • Keval Patel (MARC, poster presentation; Cell Biology)
  • Cheryl Quartey (MARC, poster presentation; Engineering, Physics, and Mathematics)
  • Henoc Zinga (MARC, poster presentation; Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)
  • Hannah Bhattacharya (START, poster presentation; Immunology)
2023 ABRCMS in Phoenix, Arizona

2023 MARC Scholar Outcomes

Congratulations to our second graduating class of MARC Scholars who matriculated into the Bioengineering PhD program at the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, MD/PhD program at UCLA. Other Scholars are completing a postbac program at the NIH or serving as a research technician while applying for MD/PhD programs.

MARC Preceptors

View the current list of preceptors, lab information, availability, and project descriptions.

Recent Articles

MyVU article about 2023 Symposium

National Institute of General Medical Sciences – Catching Up With ReMARCable Vanderbilt Graduates

National Institute of General Medical Sciences – Making a MARC at Vanderbilt

University Partners

The Vanderbilt MARC Scholars program partners with Fisk University and Tennessee State University MARC U*STAR programs, and with graduate programs at Fisk and Vanderbilt Universities, to provide MARC Scholars with a large cohort of peers and role models similarly interested in a career that contributes to better human health through research.

Read the program’s description on the NIH website.


We do not have a requirement for the particular major being pursued by a scholar. It is important, however, that any scholar be committed to pursuing a Ph.D. or combined M.D./Ph.D. program after graduation (not the M.D. only).

Students can apply in the spring of their sophomore year for MARC Scholar funding.

Applicants must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to be eligible for MARC support.

The program appoints six scholars each year.

The goal of the NIH MARC Program is to increase diversity and inclusion in biomedical research of those from underrepresented groups, including those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds (Pell-grant eligible), first-generation college students, and those with disabilities defined as physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. See

In the selection process we consider diversity broadly and ask that candidates address how they will contribute to diversity, with an emphasis on how their lived experiences have shaped their interests and academic/career goals. Please note there are additional dimensions by which a candidate could add to the diversity of our program. We encourage candidates to bring these dimensions forward in their statements to be considered in our selection process.

The committee choosing successful scholars from among the applicants will consider many aspects of the application, including the prior performance of the student, promise in research, intent to earn the Ph.D., and the way in which the research program will prepare the student for that path.  

The program is intended by NIH as a pre-Ph.D. program, not a pre-med program. It includes a lot of training activities specific to entering and succeeding in doctoral (Ph.D.) programs. Pre-Ph.D. includes M.D./Ph.D., but only students who are truly committed to the Ph.D. part should undertake the program.

We expect that at this stage some students may have already initiated research, and some may not. What is key is your long-term interest in biomedical research as a career goal. The idea is that you can reach out now to faculty on the MARC research mentor list whose research may interest you. They know MARC applicants will be trying to initiate relationships at this time, so they are expecting that students will contact them and will welcome your inquiry. If you find a match, then they can write as your research sponsor on the application.

Yes. New mentors would need to request preceptor status. They can reach out to for information.

In the selection process we consider diversity broadly and ask that candidates give us an idea of how they think they can contribute to diversity. This is particularly in reference to NIH’s stated interests, which include increasing representation of groups that have been shown to be underrepresented in the biomedical sciences, such as:

  • Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders
  • Individuals from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds (for example, Pell-grant eligible)
  • Those with disabilities (defined as physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity)
  • Additional descriptions

However, there are many additional possible dimensions by which a candidate could add to the diversity of our program. We encourage candidates to bring these forward in their statements and we consider multiple potential dimensions of diversity, according to the candidate’s statement, in our selection process. For example, females are still under-represented at the faculty level in the sciences, although that is not described in this NIH statement. Using this example, there are many additional possibilities.

Yes, someone could indeed apply for both VUSRP and the MARC program, but there are very big differences. MARC provides two years of full-time research training; including two summers of support, stipend support during the AY, and summer and tuition support. VUSRP would provide one summer of research support only. It is possible to be accepted into both programs if the opportunity arose. To discuss these possibilities in more detail, please reach out to

We have bi-weekly meetings of the MARC program and students throughout the year for workshops on grad school applications, professional development, presentation practice and skills, and research talks. This provides a good balance and substantial community building.

A key feature of the MARC program is that each student has a mentoring committee of three faculty – their lab PI, plus two additional faculty expert in their area of research.  Scholars meet once a semester with their committee to give progress updates and get guidance and mentorship on research, as well as selection of graduate or M.D./ Ph.D. programs, and the application process. You’ll have three top faculty to guide you and to provide letters of recommendation, much like an honors project.

Please contact to apply or request for information.