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How hard is for undergrad to get published

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by hardworker101, Nov 22, 2005.

  1. hardworker101

    hardworker101 Member
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    hi
    I have started volunteering in a lab since mid summer. I really want to be more involved in the lab, and do more stuff other than what the grad students tell me which is mostly taking mesurments. I wouldn't call it labor work, but it's not reasearch either. Should I quite now and find someone else?

    Those of you who are happy with your research, what is your recommendation? how do you get your name in a paper? what courses are absolutly neccessary to have before starting research? i am taking biochem, gentics and microbilogy next term. Is it because I haven't taken these yet, that is causing problem.

    thanks alot
     
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  3. Jon Davis

    Jon Davis I killed the bank.
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    I would find the guy in your school that is pumping out papers like crazy. Those are the guys that are fighting to get tenure usually. Join one of their labs, you will get great exposure, assuming this person will admit you in their lab. Good luck.
     
  4. coral

    coral Member
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    Although I was just looking for experience, for me, it was finding a relatively small lab doing research in a fairly unique and not hugely popular topic that I still had some interest and background in--gastroenterology, after finishing Mammalian Phys. I &II. The M.D. Ph.D. I work with is great and really supportive of applying to medical school and just teaching in general and already is well published so doesn't mind helping his students out.
    My bio dept had a list of faculty that had projects available for students to receive credit for a quarter of independent research, and I just emailed those that sounded interesting and felt I had some background knowledge, if not something to contribute. If you are willing to stay on longer than a quarter/semester and commit to a project it would probably be a lot easier. What was the arrangement when you came to work at the lab? I'd say if you are fairly intent on getting published, ask if there is a possibility of you learning new techniques and maybe a project in the future, if not and your unhappy, look elsewhere, but realize that it takes time. good luck :)
     
  5. DropkickMurphy

    DropkickMurphy Membership Revoked
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    I don't think it's as difficult as people think. Remember that most peer-reviewed journals (read as: the only journals that count for all intents and purposes) have blinded review, meaning that the person reviewing it for publications doesn't know who you are as the author or what credentials you have.

    As far as finding publication opportunities, one of the papers I'm working on is totally independent of my research affiliations, and the others were pretty much of my own design. The docs were like "Come up with an idea and run with it. If you need anything else, let us know." :thumbup:
     
  6. fever5

    fever5 Senior Member
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    first, what are your goals?

    if your goal is just to get your name in PubMed, then one of the best, easiest ways to do it, is to coauthor a review article. A review is more or less a summary of the current literature in a particular area. Reviews are generally short and relatively easy to publish.

    second, all journals are not the same. Journals are evaluated on a concept called impact factor - or how many people read/cite them. For example Nature has an impact factor of about 28 (roughly +/- 3 pts), where as another journal may have a factor of 4. Rule of thumb: if a PhD student gets a Nature paper or journal of similar impact they're doing really well.
    The point here is that you could write some trivial paper on technique optimization (e.g. electroporation parameter opitmization for increasing transient transfection effeciency - may sound complicated but very trivial)

    third, follow the advice given above. Some researchers are very kind about including their summer students names in papers, for as little as editing or suggesting one or two points. Just don't expect to end up as first or second author :)

    finally, be patient. persistance and continual learning will pay off. in the end publishing papers will NOT likely be the critical element in getting you into med (unless you are pursuing an md/phD route possibly?). what you can talk about in an interview is far more important then your name in print.
     
    roflolhahaha likes this.
  7. Shredder

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    just get into a decent lab in a decent position (not a tech or lab rat) and after a year of commitment its almost inevitable id say. minimum of 1 yr, that is. less if youre lucky. get started early and stick with one person and youll be set as far as papers go.
     
  8. CerealBox

    CerealBox Senior Member
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    great advice. i had the same mentor for >3 years. The first year, I was basically just an assistant and didn't get my name in anything. Second year, I was trusted to take a larger role and became an author. After that, I was trusted to initiate and carry out my own projects and have become an author on multiple papers.
     
  9. ultimateend

    ultimateend fear is the mind killer.
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    I say the most important thing to get published early is how nice the PI and people you are working with are. At a lot of colleges they take their undergrad help for granted since they have such a pool to draw from and don't put you on papers as easily as other labs. I spent 3 months at Mayo during the summer and have one publication and maybe another on the way. You shouldn't have to spend a year putting in your time to get on a paper, just find someone who is sympathetic to your cause.
     
  10. CerealBox

    CerealBox Senior Member
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    i think it probably depends on your level of involvement in the research too. full time over the summer is very different than a few hours a week over a school quarter.
     
  11. jon0013

    jon0013 Senior Member
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    also depends on if your project is feasible....if you aim high or if your lab aims high then chances are its high risk high reward...ive worked for 2 years in a lab on 2 separate projects and its been frustrating to get stumped endlessly by confounding factors...if my professor's goal was to solely publish as much as possible then i assume he'd have a different approach...
     
  12. JG198

    JG198 Senior Member
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    YOUR focus on research SHOULD NOT be based on whether you get your name in a paper. I find that as an insult to the field. No wonder some PhDs don't like pre-meds. If you are going to be involved in research I hope it is for an interest in it and not as a way to enhance your CV.

    In regards to how much work you have been doing, your responsibilities will grow over time. Be patient.
     
  13. JG198

    JG198 Senior Member
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    Shallow to expect someone to put your name on a paper because you are applying to med school. If you deserve it, then you will be on it.
     
  14. ultimateend

    ultimateend fear is the mind killer.
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    Many pre-meds work in these labs for free only to get treated like crap by PI's who expect them to come in on the weekends and nights. We aren't slave labor and shouldn't be treated like it. I'm not saying they should put you on a paper just because you're there. I'm saying if you do work that they use in a paper they should include your name on it.
     
  15. laboholic

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    Ok, some of these posts I agree with and some I dont. First of all, you started volunteering mid summer. If I do my math right, you have not even been there 6 months. To get published as primary author, you need to put at least a year or more into a project. (part time takes many years) I have been with my lab doing real research for 2 years and am just finally getting together a primary authorship. Many times you have to start low on the totem poll (dishwasher) and work your way up. Contrary to the above post, I also believe that you should have to work your ass off. You are there to learn and you owe them for giving you a chance. During my undergrad career, i would come in after class until 11 at night to do experiments. You will only gain respect of PIs by showing that you are willing to work hard. Otherwise, you are going to remain a lab slave.

    Now, if you just want to be published and are not concerned with being a primary author, there are different levels of authorship. You can be one of those middle names in the list of authors by just contributing one figure to a paper. So maybe you can ask your PI or a grad student if there is an experiment that you can work on. If they use the data in a paper, they have to put you as one of the authors. Kind of a crap shoot.

    Overall, the lab matters a lot too.. labs that have more people and crank out more papers may give you a better chance of getting published sooner. But, as I said above..your attitude is the key factor. Work hard and put some effort into understanding the labs research and goals and it will pay off.

    Good luck!
     
  16. laboholic

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    to answer your other question about courses:
    You need the basic courses like biochem and genetics to have a general understanding. courses cant really teach you much about what a lab might be working on. This stuff is cutting edge and therefore isnt in a text.. The best thing you can do is go to pubmed.com and do a lot of reading on your labs research topic (especially previous publications by your lab). Every publication will have an introduction which gives background in the field.. this is great to help you understand why people are doing the experiments they are. After you do this you will be able to come up with ideas for your own experiments. Coming up with your own project really impresses PIs and they just might give you more responsibility. You cant expect a project just to be given to you.
     
  17. jebus

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    I agree with almost all of this. There are labs that are publication machines. If you work for a post-doc who is driven and really trying to get an associate professor position at Stanford or Harvard after 4 years of being a post-doc you'll be a in a good position. They also tend have good grants that will pay you to be a tech. If you're eligible for work study you'll definitely put yourself in a good position: you are cheap labor. Everyone loves cheap labor.
    Generally, well-funded labs pump out a lot of papers in big name journals. PIs who are members of the National Academy of Sciences or are HHMI investigators seem to get a few papers in PNAS every year. (not the best journal, and you won't be first author but there is some really solid research that gets published each week.)
    Luck plays a big factor. If you work with a post-doc who gets sick you're screwed. Trust me, it happens. $200K a year in grants as a first year post-doc and then quit because of poor health to pursue a JD? I've seen it happen 3 times. And they're all doing really well in law school/IP law practice.
     
  18. dsq

    dsq Member
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    It really depends entirely on your PI and the project that you work on. If you are on a long term project and have a lot of complications, then you might not get published after a year or 2 of work. Find something that your are interested in (possibly in a smaller lab where you can do more work), and stay there for as long as you can. Doing so will increase your chances of getting published.
     
  19. _ian

    _ian Senior Member
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    Years of in-depth research that didn't result in a publication is far better than third author in a low-impact journal netted after a few months of cleaning glassware. Don't worry about publications, worry about your experience.
     
  20. hardworker101

    hardworker101 Member
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    How do you approch the PI to tell him that you want to start on a project? How many hours a week is minimum to be productive. I was supposed to be in lab for 6 hrs a week, but quite frequently the grad student would tell me to not show up one day of the week, (just 3 hrs a week), which seems like i am not doing anything. How much you put in lab and not impact your grades?

    What are some of the things you would look for before joing a lab, in order to be productive?

    thnaks
     
  21. TigerLilies

    TigerLilies Senior Member
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    How can do you which professor at your college publishes like crazy? Is there any way to find this?

    Thanks!
     
  22. jebus

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    I'm not sure what you mean, but I think you want to know how to find out which professors at your school are successful. (Maybe you just want to have sex with them. I couldn't tell by your question.) Find out the names of professors at your school. Plug their names into PubMed and see how many publications come out of their lab. It's that easy. Alternatively, find out which professors are HHMI investigators or which are members of the National Academy of Sciences. (If the professor is an HHMI investigator they are almost assuredly a member of the NAS.) But these labs are difficult for pre-meds to get into because people who actually want a career in basic science try to get positions here. If you're a PI are you going to want a pre-med who cuts and runs to get a publication or a student who wants to devote his or her life to research?
    Looking for a PI who "publishes like crazy" is a really shîtty way to approach this. A lot of researchers hate pre-meds because they ask questions like "I just want to get published. How do I get published quick so it looks good on my application?" You're much better off finding a directory list of professors at your school and looking at their research and finding a professor who is doing work you think is interesting and then contacting those professors. You'll enjoy it more, you'll get more out of it, the professor will get more out of it (s/he has grants to support!), if you think the research is interesting and you approach it with some questions (hypotheses) you may get to pursue your own research, and you'll appreciate the findings more if you give a damn.
     
  23. curlycorday

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    Hi arminshivazad,

    You can't define productive research based on how many hours you work. Here's how you get published as an undergrad:

    STEPS:

    1. Find a PI with lots of clout-- collaborators, publishings, chair of a department, lots of post-docs, lots of phD students.

    2. Read every paper he/she has published in the last 6 months. Find a specific project that is interesting to you.

    3. Tell he/she you want to work on that project.

    4. Apply for undergrad grants/ awards to fund your work. You usually need to be able to write an abstract, intro, timetable, plans for dissemination of results, and references to start.

    5. Work until you have good data. This could be an hour or a hundred. If you're counting hours, you're not being productive enough-- if you're counting data you are.

    6. Remember that mistakes are the blood of science. My PI always says, "If you're not messing up and breaking something, you're not learning. You'll never repeat the same mistake twice."

    7. Keep a diligent lab notebook (look at ACS website or talk to PI).

    8. Don't engage in social gossip/ unprofessional behavior. Go to every guest lecturer/ speaker at your university-- establish your own collaborations.

    9. Write a manuscript. Keep extrememly detailed methods/materials sections, and data. Make sure you keep original data and note where it is stored in your analysis computers.

    10. Let your PI watch and add you as a 5th or 6th author. 1st author if you really care and are willing to bleed for it.

    This is how I did it-- 1st author in a Blood paper. Also, pay attention to citation indexes. You don't want to publish in a weakly cited journal. THis will allude that your science is not strong. Hit for citation index >10 (Science, Nature, Nature Med, Blood, Oncogene).

    Good luck
     
  24. MadameLULU

    MadameLULU Saucy
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    Some professors post their CVs on their departmental website, so you could kinda guage how much they publish. Most full professors have a good number of publications, so if you're interested in research, you may consider hooking up with a full professor.
     

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