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cytochromeshe

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Hi all, I'm an incoming undergrad this fall and I've started researching labs in my university. I have a high interest in epidemiology and am wondering what the general consensus on epi vs basic science research is. Is basic science research more respected? I personally don't have a problem with doing basic science research, but if there's no issue, I'd probably go into epi given the choice. Thoughts?
 
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OnePunchBiopsy

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I believe basic science research would look better on residency applications. This is because it often takes a lot of work & time to take things from the bench to a journal. That being said if you had to settle for epidemiology I don't think it would hurt you, especially if it was applicable to your desired specialty.

Research is always a positive.
 

seeinghowitgoes

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Respectfully disagree that basic science is looked upon more favorably - just that statement is too broad in my opinion.

Before I continue, I'm going to make the assumption that with either project you're significantly involved and can explain the rationale, methods, results for the project when asked (aka you're not just getting your name on something).

With that in mind, if you don't really care about research and if you can have one publication and it can be either epi/clinical or basic science when you're applying to Med school or residency or whatever, the basic science will most likely look "better." This is largely because for said type of individual, who isn't necessarily selling themselves as the hardcore researcher but who wants to show they can use the scientific method to arrive at a result, the research is a proxy measure for hard work and ability to follow through on a project, not necessarily research prowess, and basic science work does often take more to see through (at least in time).

However, where that breaks down is when one is trying to carve out a niche in an academic sphere. Then it becomes much more about narrative and showing consistency in the examples used to craft that narrative. If one wants to do clinical or public health research long-term, then obviously publications in that field support the narrative and are respected. If one says they want to run a lab, obviously the bench research is more important. The purpose of research for the person that actually wants to continue conducting research in the long term is not to look just like they work hard and not just to show knowledge of the scientific method (though any research will show this) but to pick up marketable skills and then show they have the ability to apply those skills to generate publications and funding. The methods don't matter at this point because both types of research are equally impactful in different ways, and most in the field of medicine and public health recognize both types of expert researchers are needed to improve the system and would be happy to take either individual.

Obviously this gets a bit more complicated because ultimately different types of research can pull in different amounts of grant funding, which can play a role at some level, but that level is when you're being hired as a researcher, not when applying to Med school or residency.
 
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Lifeblood_20

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OP is an incoming UNDERGRAD. Why are we talking about residency apps? For someone just starting out that seems like pretty far away.
 
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EverStriving

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Both basic and epidemiology research are critical components of the machine that generates new medical knowledge, so I'm not sure why admissions committees would favor one over the other. I would recommend that you try to get into an epidemiology lab if that's what interests you more. Being interested in and excited about what you are researching will not only lead to your performing better in the lab (because you're more engaged) but it will also help you describe the research and your contribution to it in a compelling fashion during your interviews.
 

DameJulie

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Does Epidemiology/medical research count both as research&clinical experience?

I always assumed medical research was viewed more favorably slightly upon because it could double-dip for a PI letter AND a physician letter.
 

EverStriving

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By 'medical research' do you mean clinical research? Like testing medications/procedures? Basic and epidemiology research are both 'medical research,' after all.

I would reason that epidemiology would only count as clinical experience if you had direct contact with patients, which is often not the case. A lot of the time you're just handed a set of data, or a set of tissue samples to generate data from. This helps keep the researcher blind to the identity of the patients, which is important not only for patient privacy, but also for protecting the integrity of the data set from unconscious bias.
 

DameJulie

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By 'medical research' do you mean clinical research? Like testing medications/procedures? Basic and epidemiology research are both 'medical research,' after all.

I would reason that epidemiology would only count as clinical experience if you had direct contact with patients, which is often not the case. A lot of the time you're just handed a set of data, or a set of tissue samples to generate data from. This helps keep the researcher blind to the identity of the patients, which is important not only for patient privacy, but also for protecting the integrity of the data set from unconscious bias.

Yes, or something like "working in a dermatology lab". One of the pre-med advisors mentioned working for "medical research" could be more favorably looked upon since you can double dip it as "research" and "clinical experience." Killing two birds with one stone.
 

LizzyM

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Yes, or something like "working in a dermatology lab". One of the pre-med advisors mentioned working for "medical research" could be more favorably looked upon since you can double dip it as "research" and "clinical experience." Killing two birds with one stone.

Or you run the risk of being neither fish nor fowl. Some research participants are patients but some are not; they are research subjects only. Furthermore, in some clinical research studies you are doing the equivalent of low level tech work without actually practicing any bench skills as your primary job is moving paper (or electrons) for regulatory compliance or phoning subjects to remind them of tomorrow's appointment.

Epidemiologic research may involve neither laboratory nor patients. The data may be collected from electronic medical record repositories, or from periodic exams of research cohort members, or from data collected by mail. Depending on the skills one learns, it can be a valuable experience.
 
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gonnif

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Does Epidemiology/medical research count both as research&clinical experience?

I always assumed medical research was viewed more favorably slightly upon because it could double-dip for a PI letter AND a physician letter.

That assumes that a physician letter will somehow be viewed more favorably by adcom members, a large fraction of which are non-physician, PhD basic researchers. Additionally the largest percentage of physician letters for applicants come from shadowing. Since these physicians often write enthusiastic recommendations for a student over a very short-term, passive observational, non-interactive situation that obviously has no evidence that the writer has any indepth knowledge of the applicant, physician letters have to overcome this common perception
 
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