Balancing Research & School

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by blazinfury, Jun 15, 2008.

  1. blazinfury

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    For those of you who are (or have) done research while in undergrad, how did you balance research and coursework? Did you do research during the school year? If so, around how many hours did you spend in lab? I would to inquire this because as time progresses courses get harder and students need to devote time to them, while keeping a high GPA. Did your school work suffer in the process?
     
  2. blazinfury

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    What about those of you who went to ivy's or top 20 schools?
     
  3. linuxizer

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    Same way you balance classwork and other extracurriculars. You just do it. I aimed for 10 hours/week in the lab during the school year. In terms of total research load (including another, non-lab interest), I came somewhat below that some weeks, way way above that others.

    I thought school got easier after the intro courses, because you already knew how the field "thought," etc. Not sure if you're just worried about upper-levels or if you're already experiencing them as much more work. If the latter, just keep at it, and perhaps back off a bit next semester on the courseload.

    G'luck,
    Ari
     
    #3 linuxizer, Jun 15, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2008
  4. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    This is going to vary depending on the student. There is no intrinsic right way to balance things, and some people need to spend more time and effort to make the same grades as someone else who just looks over their notes once. If you find that doing research is affecting your ability to pull the grades, cut back on your research. You can easily take an extra year after college to do research full-time and shore up your research record, but you can't easily repair a subpar GPA. Alternatively, see if you can register for research credits. Some schools let students do that, and then your time in the lab will be like one of your classes.

    I went to a hippie liberal arts college with no grades or GPAs and a required honors thesis, so it was geared nicely toward letting students spend a lot of time in the lab. Junior year was probably my hardest year in terms of class load, but I still was able to work in the lab maybe 10-15 hours per week and full time during breaks. (We also had the whole month of Jan. off as an interterm, which was great because I could work full time then.) In my senior year, I was a thesis student. So that year, I was working almost full-time in the lab (maybe 30-35 hours per week) and only taking a few classes for fun.
     
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  5. ecoli

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    It definitely depends on factors like your PI, the type of work your doing and you personally.

    I have a friend who's PI makes him stay in the lab until 2AM to make sure he gets work. My PI is really chill, and doesn't expect to see me at all when he knows I have exams.

    He knows I'll be making up the missed hours on weekend and summer/winter breaks.

    Research is important, but not more important than your grades.
     
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  6. seraph524

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    2 AM? O_O

    Wow...that is a hardcore PI...
     
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  7. ecoli

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    HE missed a lot of classes last semester, too, in order to work in the lab. Not worth it, IMO.
     
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  8. seraph524

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    I think thats the first sign to switch labs...
     
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  9. blazinfury

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    I understand exactly what you mean-- grades outweigh research. However, does the name of your school also outweigh research. For example, say you have a person from an ivy competing against a person from a state school. And the person from the state school has more research experience than the one from the ivy. Would then the person from the state school be a more likely candidate to be admitted than the person from the higher named school, considering their GPAs were more or less equal (say 3.7-3.8) and 34-36 MCATS?
     
  10. seraph524

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    I would like to think that brand names mean less in the MD/PhD application world than MD...
     
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  11. achamess

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    The answer is yes and no.. if the GPAs are comparable, then most likely the prestige of the institution will play a deciding factor, although the extent to which it will be so will vary. Also, it is likely that, given the parity of two GPAs, an adcom might also take into consideration his/her knowledge of the relative difficulty of attaining those grades at a given institution - but don't count on this. With this said, it has be said many times here on SDN that, unless you have some other really notable redeeming factor, a low GPA from a prestigious school will not trump a significantly higher GPA from a lesser known school.
     
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  12. Neuronix

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    I went to undergrad at the University of Delaware. I am one of two in my program who went to UDel. Undergrad name does matter IMO, but not a whole lot.

    The biggest downside to going to UDel as an undergrad is that they're almost rabidly anti-MD/PhD, but that's a different story.
     
  13. ecoli

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    It's a good question, and it probably depends a lot on the school. My uni is a public school, but we're considered one of the best for research, especially undergrad research.

    But, I mean a lower GPA from a tougher school with more competition should be taken into a consideration. Though, it's probably not a good idea to gloat about it during an interview. (especially if the interviewer didn't go to an Ivy!)
     
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  14. blazinfury

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    But that would be a good question. I ask because I have looked at who gains admission into MD/PhD programs and nearly everyone is from a top 20 school. As a result, that led me to feel that no matter what students in non-top 20 schools do, their fate is sealed and they are lucky if they get into an MD/PhD program period.
     
  15. seraph524

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    Well, in my opinion that is because top schools have a more dominating research environment, leading to more interest in research in their student body, resulting in more MD/PhD success stories.

    I recently graduated from Michigan State University, and I have had no trouble with MD/PhD applications. I'm actually one of several people from my school who have had done well entering MD/PhD programs. To echo Neuronix, going to a less prestigious school usually means theres a pro-MD/anti-MD/PhD sentiment, not that the level of research will seal your fate.
     
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  16. blazinfury

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    Who sets this "pro-MD/anti-MD/PhD sentiment"-- your undergrad or MD-PhD adcoms? And how will this affect your admission to an MD/PhD program specifically?
     
  17. seraph524

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    Your undergrad, and typically it will be your pre-med adviser. And usually its not so much as "i hate md/phd," its most often "what is an md/phd."

    Advisers and the such at less prestigious universities don't really have the know-how on applying to MD/PhD programs, so they will try to steer you away from a research career and more into a MD mindset, leading to a poor application when applying to MD/PhD.

    Whatever the reason, adcoms dont care. All they care about, in the order of importance, is 1) what research exposure do you have, and what have you learned from it, 2) GPA/MCAT, 3) umm...anything else i guess.
     
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  18. blazinfury

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    Also couldn't going to a top 20 school be more detrimental than going to a state school for MD/PhD because more ppl will probably to MD/PhDs from top schools. So say that that there are 2 students who are applying to MD/PhD from the same top 20 school. If one of the applicants beats the other in GPA, research, and maybe MCATs or even 2 out of the three, wouldn't that applicant be more likely to be chosen for MD/PhD than the one who's accolades and grades were lesser. And another aspect has to be taken into account. Most MD/PhDs apply to the same schools since there are only 35 MSTP schools and each MD/PhD program (with its limited # of spots) can take 1-2 max or not even anyone from that given school. So it seems to me that in a way, if an applicant excels at a state school, at least their app will be looked at, whereas when 2 ppl from a top 20 school apply, one student's app will outshine the other and the one with lower grades may not even get accepted no matter how hard he or she worked. Of course the counter argument would be that the one who has higher accolades can only choose one school to attend, so the other applicant with lower accolades can still be accepted to the schools that the other one withdrew from, was waitlisted at, or rejected from. Am I correct in a way?
     
  19. Neuronix

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    I doubt it. Adcoms aren't really looking at what school you went to so they're not going to give special emphasis to compare 2 people from the same school. They've also been doing this long enough to know what a competitive applicant is over years of selecting.
     
  20. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    I can only speak for my own research-oriented school (MD program, not involved with MD/PhD). But FWIW, at least here, UG institution name isn't that important. The main time it ever comes up is when a lot of the adcom members are not familiar with that school. Then they just look it up.

    What matters to the adcom is that you have a respectable GPA and set of MCAT scores, that you have significant research experience if you're going into the research track, that you have stellar LORs, and that you have significant clinical/volunteering experience. Oh, and you also have to come to the interview and not make a total a** of yourself for one whole day, which is surprisingly hard for some students to do. :smuggrin:
     
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