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graduate courses during md/phd training

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by Jorje286, Mar 2, 2007.

  1. Jorje286

    Jorje286 Member
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    OK, I basically want to do my PhD in neuroscience, focusing especially on the cognitive/behavioral aspect (so not strictly molecular). However, my undergraduate institution doesn't offer neuroscience courses, so my main training is in general biology, focusing especially on cellular and molecular biology. I've already taken and I plan to take a few more neuroscience courses from the psychology department, since this where they offer them, but they really don't get into too much detail about cellular physiology..etc.

    Now the thing is, I know that MD/PhDs don't take a lot of strictly graduate classes because they take graduate credits from their MD years, and so they begin their research almost directly after the MD years. So my question: would my background affect my acceptance into an MD/PhD program if I specify that I want to get into neuroscience? (and I am already doing research in vision science, using behavioral methods and single cell recordings). And how much graduate courses do MD/PhDs generally take that aren't part of the medicine curriculum?

    Thanks in advance for any help.
     
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  3. gbwillner

    gbwillner Pastafarian
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    Hahahaha.... if only that were true.
    Your undergraduate coursework will NOT affect your acceptance into an MD/PhD program. I know several individuals with a BA in music in MSTP programs.
    If you enter a neuroscience program you WILL do plenty of coursework- don't worry about that. The difference between programs is in the timing of the courses- some programs have little overlap between MD and PhD, whereas some combine the coursework. Regardless, you will be well informed about neuroscience techniques and research before starting your PhD training.
     
  4. Circumflex

    Circumflex Junior Member
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    Yeah, don't worry about your undergrad courses, other than getting good grades. In the PhD program, you will need to take a few classes specific to the department - I took 3 courses in my first year, plus the required seminar classes throughout my training.

    Not that this is necessary, but you may want to look at taking a graduate class at another local university or grad. school. I did this in my last year of undergrad - not to help my application, but for fun. It may be something you could look into.
     
  5. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    This is true. It's one of the reasons I switched out of the neuroscience department here, even though I'm a Neuroscience guy. I was a neuroscience major for undergrad, worked in several different neuroscience labs, and took alot of graduate level courses in neuroscience as an undergrad. The Neuroscience program here would have still wanted two years of coursework including TAing an undergrad lab and offered me no exemptions for having been MD/PhD or my undergrad coursework.

    So I switched departments to Biophysics. I use biophysical techniques to study the brain and I'm learning lots of new stuff. It's the road less travelled, but an option to keep in mind. There's lots of other departments and courses you can take to enhance your knowledge.
     
  6. Jorje286

    Jorje286 Member
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    Thanks a lot guys! Good to hear that my worries are unfounded. I thought because they try to combine the MD and the PhD as much as possible, then not having a very strong background in what your PhD will be in might affect your admission.

    That sounds interesting. Don't you need acceptance to those grad schools so you can take those courses? I also have money issues (since I'm on a scolarship in my uni and I can't really afford to pay for a full course somewhere else), but if the credit price was low, I guess this is a possibility.
     
  7. Circumflex

    Circumflex Junior Member
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    Check with your major department and/or registrar. Some universities have reciprocal agreements where students can take classes at the other school and get credit. Send some emails or make some calls - you never know. If not and you have some free time, you can just go sit in on a class if it really interests you.
     
  8. solitude

    solitude Senior Member
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    I don't know if I agree that one's undergrad courseload will have no effect on their MSTP acceptance (or lack thereof). In addition to my pre-med advisor, I have had numerous members on adcoms tell me that they look closely at one's rigor of courseload, number of science courses, grad-level courses, etc. This isn't to say that those with science-lite courseloads can't get admitted, only that it can be a small factor to their disadvantage, IMO.

    For example, Tri-I says:

    "We look for applicants who take more then just the required science courses. We want students who consistently challenge themselves. "

    http://www.med.cornell.edu/mdphd/admissions/faq.html?name1=FAQ&type1=2Active
     
  9. greg12345

    greg12345 New Member
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    My recs would be to take a lot of science classes, but they don't necessarily have to be in your chosen area of interest. For example if you were going to a neuroscience PhD, it might be good to take hard core courses in things like immunology (so if you get interested in multiple sclerosis in the future) or molecular biology (just a good foundation for any kind of basic science research). Get a nice broad solid science education, it will serve you well once you get to grad school and are forced to severely narrow your scope of focus. I personally wouldn't waste my undergrad time taking any non-science course that wasn't required...but that's just my opinion. When I was an undergrad I took way above and beyond the requirements for my molecular bio major - i took extra courses in immuno, microbiology, virology, etc. and these all served me very well once I got into med school/grad school.
     
  10. solitude

    solitude Senior Member
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    Yeah I agree. It's too hard to know exactly what area will be one's PhD, and a broad smattering of courses in biological and medical science can only help.
     
  11. Jorje286

    Jorje286 Member
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    That's actually exactly what I'm doing. I'm currently taking virology, immunology (bio grad courses) and biological bases of behavior (psych grad course). So yeah, I think you're right that you should build a foundation as strong as you can. There's only so many courses that you could take however :laugh:. I also want to have strong background in mathematics, so I'm planning to take linear algebra, calc 3, diff equation and probablity and stats.
     
  12. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith
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    Taking advanced coursework looks good but will not make or break your application. Do it more for the experience, as you seem to be doing anyway. :)

    As for non-science courses, I say take those too--but not to the detriment of your science courses. I have found the classics courses I took in college to be extremely valuable in my neuroscience research. You can't imagine how impressive it sounds to know the etymology of terms like "hippocampus" or "CA1". ;)
     

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