May 10, 2017
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Pre-Medical
So I have been working in a research lab for 2 years and will be quitting this summer due to having to move. Through this lab, I was able to be on a couple of posters and 2-3 publications in mid-tier journals. As I am about to apply to medical school this summer, I wanted to use my gap year to possibly increase my research training and output a higher tier publication? I hope to continue doing research throughout my career and hope I can use this time to really maximize productivity.

Do you guys have any advice on finding labs that publish more often in higher tier journals and approaching them about running an independent project? Do you think offering to work as a volunteer in the lab would allow them to agree more easily than rather applying for jobs? I wouldn't mind volunteering my time rather than being an employee if it allows more opportunity.

Edit: Before the job I spent for years as an undergrad research volunteer
 
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ObjectiveBoba

SDN Bronze Donor
Bronze Donor
Nov 13, 2017
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Pre-Medical
Do you guys have any advice on finding labs that publish more often in higher tier journals and approaching them about running an independent project? Do you think offering to work as a volunteer in the lab would allow them to agree more easily than rather applying for jobs? I wouldn't mind volunteering my time rather than being an employee if it allows more opportunity.
I assume by your post that you are referring to basic science.

If you are starting your own independent project, you are unlikely to publish in a higher tier journal -- unless your new PI for some reason gives you an inordinate amount of trust. Keep in mind publishing in higher tier journals is difficult for even most postdocs and may take multiple years -- which I am sure you well know.

Your best chance of publishing in a good journal would be as a co-author, so look for labs churning out papers in good journals (Cell/Nature/Science or tier two journals like JCI and whatever top field-specific journal you are in). These laboratories are generally pretty rare, even at top tier research institutions. The chances of these labs hiring are probably even lower, so you may want to send the PI an e-mail seeking to volunteer at his/her lab rather than be hired as a research tech/assistant.

To be realistic here, a PI who routinely churns out top tier papers will have multiple R01s, and most likely don't have time for you. I would argue if you truly want to learn more about research (which will help you much more in the long run), your best bet would be to find an accomplished PI who is at the tail end of her career or a young up-and-coming PI. The reasoning being, either PI is more likely to guide you through the ins and outs of research versus the PI with 6 R01s.

To be honest, if you are applying MD-only, the extra time spent in research could be spent elsewhere during your gap year -- even if you are planning on pursuing research during medical school and beyond. But to each to her own.