How to get involved in research when you have NO research experience

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dtx_17

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I'm a second year medical student at a DO school.
In undergrad, I had some social anxiety and was always really afraid to speak to professors - making it hard for me to make my way into the lab. Thankfully, I made up for it in other ways and am in med school now.
But now, I'm in my second year, have no lab time, no publications, nothing. And I kind of feel like I've set myself up for failure - kind of a "how can I get into research when getting into research requires prior experience in research", etc. etc. etc.

Being at a DO school, opportunities are more rare and even when there are opportunities, I feel like they go to students who have higher GPAs - totally valid, but puts me at another disadvantage.

Can anyone speak to what I can do? I'm not raring to go into a competitive specialty - at this point I'm thinking peds (though who knows if that'll change come third year), but in the future, I'd like to not limit myself were I to sub specialize or want to pursue a fellowship or residency that values research.
 

Mr_Irrelevant

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Hey @dtx_17,
I just started my 4th year working in my research lab and am about to matriculate to DO school. I've seen about 3-4 med students come through the lab so I have some experience in what it takes to get involved. There's no one answer to this. In your case, it highly depends on where your DO school is located. If it is near a research university, I would recommend talking to your professors to see if they have any contacts there. At my research institute, we have partnerships with almost all of the in state universities, including our DO school. Additionally something to consider, and I am speculating here, research in molecular oncology may not be time well spent if primary care pediatrics is your goal. If you are just shooting your shot and seeing where you can land a research volunteership, regardless of the field, gain contacts. That's how every med student got involved. They knew a guy/gal. I am utterly average, GPA/MCAT wise, but my contacts granted me 10+ poster presentations, 2 speeches, 3 manuscripts. Even the cream of the crop have to fetch the opportunity. Another option for you is to see if any physicians are performing clinical research. Might be easier for you since you are already in med school and with rotations, you are bound to find a mentor with a curiosity for the unknown.
I hope this finds you well!
 

dtx_17

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Hey @dtx_17,
I just started my 4th year working in my research lab and am about to matriculate to DO school. I've seen about 3-4 med students come through the lab so I have some experience in what it takes to get involved. There's no one answer to this. In your case, it highly depends on where your DO school is located. If it is near a research university, I would recommend talking to your professors to see if they have any contacts there. At my research institute, we have partnerships with almost all of the in state universities, including our DO school. Additionally something to consider, and I am speculating here, research in molecular oncology may not be time well spent if primary care pediatrics is your goal. If you are just shooting your shot and seeing where you can land a research volunteership, regardless of the field, gain contacts. That's how every med student got involved. They knew a guy/gal. I am utterly average, GPA/MCAT wise, but my contacts granted me 10+ poster presentations, 2 speeches, 3 manuscripts. Even the cream of the crop have to fetch the opportunity. Another option for you is to see if any physicians are performing clinical research. Might be easier for you since you are already in med school and with rotations, you are bound to find a mentor with a curiosity for the unknown.
I hope this finds you well!
You're absolutely right! As much as I want to do research, I'd ideally want it to be in something I'd truly enjoy - I'll leave the molecular oncology to those who are passionate about it :) . I'd love to do clinical research/something with a tie to public health - that's what I studied in college. But I know I'm not in a position to pick and choose, so thank you for your advice! I guess I partly needed some reassurance that I haven't completely ruined my chances in research by not having a lick of experience at this point.
It's a bit of a toughie in that I'm in a rural location at a relatively new school, so opportunities are scarce. We have a partnership with the local university, but that started just a few months ago and is limited to those with higher scores.
Good luck with your future matriculation and congratulations on your work!
 
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Mr_Irrelevant

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Thank you so much! Some labs, such as my own, value teaching those with zero experience. We look for a foundation of knowledge that provides for understanding, which, medical students tend to possess. We all start somewhere. Medical students performing research tend to do so during medical school because they did not gain much experience prior.
 

Goro

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I'm a second year medical student at a DO school.
In undergrad, I had some social anxiety and was always really afraid to speak to professors - making it hard for me to make my way into the lab. Thankfully, I made up for it in other ways and am in med school now.
But now, I'm in my second year, have no lab time, no publications, nothing. And I kind of feel like I've set myself up for failure - kind of a "how can I get into research when getting into research requires prior experience in research", etc. etc. etc.

Being at a DO school, opportunities are more rare and even when there are opportunities, I feel like they go to students who have higher GPAs - totally valid, but puts me at another disadvantage.

Can anyone speak to what I can do? I'm not raring to go into a competitive specialty - at this point I'm thinking peds (though who knows if that'll change come third year), but in the future, I'd like to not limit myself were I to sub specialize or want to pursue a fellowship or residency that values research.
Not all research has to be in the wet lab. Do data crunching; write up case histories.

As a caution, I wouldn't take on a student who had no lab skills. I've learned from bitter experience that it's a waste of time and reagents.
 
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AnatomyGrey12

Absolutely do NOT work in a wet lab. That kind of research takes way too long to publish.

Find a residency near your school and contact them saying you are looking to help the residents with any research and wish to be put in contact with them.
 
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sab3156

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For someone like yourself who has zero experience in basic science research, you should disregard any advice from anyone who suggests you go waste the precious 2 years of publishing time you have left by hanging around in a basic science lab with nothing more to guide you than questionable mentoring. You need to be realistic with yourself. Try doing what @AnatomyGrey12 said above. If that doesn't work out, you're in a tough position, to put it bluntly.
 
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Epilepsy365

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I'm a second year medical student at a DO school.
In undergrad, I had some social anxiety and was always really afraid to speak to professors - making it hard for me to make my way into the lab. Thankfully, I made up for it in other ways and am in med school now.
But now, I'm in my second year, have no lab time, no publications, nothing. And I kind of feel like I've set myself up for failure - kind of a "how can I get into research when getting into research requires prior experience in research", etc. etc. etc.

Being at a DO school, opportunities are more rare and even when there are opportunities, I feel like they go to students who have higher GPAs - totally valid, but puts me at another disadvantage.

Can anyone speak to what I can do? I'm not raring to go into a competitive specialty - at this point I'm thinking peds (though who knows if that'll change come third year), but in the future, I'd like to not limit myself were I to sub specialize or want to pursue a fellowship or residency that values research.

You're screwed for going to a DO school in the first place. I would hustle hard for any opportunity to write up case reports. But, that idea is also difficult for someone who hasn't done one, and doesn't have access to mentorship.

Meanwhile, our MD colleagues with that extra 4-5hr/wk of OMM free time are pumping out 10-15 case reports per year.

But, have no fear. Primary care spots are still in excess and will welcome you.
 
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mwsapphire

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Not all research has to be in the wet lab. Do data crunching; write up case histories.

As a caution, I wouldn't take on a student who had no lab skills. I've learned from bitter experience that it's a waste of time and reagents.
What about students who did their undergrad degree in Bio with higher-level lab classes- but no formal research experience? If i get in, I'm afraid of being in this position myself. I don't have any UGrad research experience but took a couple of 4000's lvl's with lab such that I know my way around the wetlab.
( Sorry if this is a threadjack, I've genuinely been curious about this exact thing myself.)
 

Goro

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What about students who did their undergrad degree in Bio with higher-level lab classes- but no formal research experience? If i get in, I'm afraid of being in this position myself. I don't have any UGrad research experience but took a couple of 4000's lvl's with lab such that I know my way around the wetlab.
( Sorry if this is a threadjack, I've genuinely been curious about this exact thing myself.)
They at least know how to handle a micro-pipettor. They're trainable.
 

mwsapphire

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They at least know how to handle a micro-pipettor. They're trainable.
*phew* So have you included them in your labs?
OP, what was you UGrad major? Did you also do Bio ? Or another STEM field?
 
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AnatomyGrey12

What about students who did their undergrad degree in Bio with higher-level lab classes- but no formal research experience? If i get in, I'm afraid of being in this position myself. I don't have any UGrad research experience but took a couple of 4000's lvl's with lab such that I know my way around the wetlab.
( Sorry if this is a threadjack, I've genuinely been curious about this exact thing myself.)

I can't emphasize enough the fact that a wet lab is the last place you want to be doing medical school research unless you're doing a combined PhD track or something.
 
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sab3156

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What about students who did their undergrad degree in Bio with higher-level lab classes- but no formal research experience? If i get in, I'm afraid of being in this position myself. I don't have any UGrad research experience but took a couple of 4000's lvl's with lab such that I know my way around the wetlab.
( Sorry if this is a threadjack, I've genuinely been curious about this exact thing myself.)

No. Taking a few 4000 level biology courses does not count as any sort of basic science research experience. Knowing how to hold a pipette doesn't mean you can produce data in a research lab. Even if you did have experience with all laboratory techniques, you still know nothing about the scientific literature of a particular field, which means you cannot even begin to ask a research question in that field, which means you need a mentor in that field, which brings us to the main problem that DO students have - lack of, or terrible, mentoring (this isn't just true for basic science). That kind of situation will yield nothing for you. Even doing some case reports for a physician who has zero clout in their field is better than wasting all of your time in a basic science lab without a a solid mentor to guide you.

I should really emphasize that your question would have a totally differently answer if you went to a good MD school. You would likely have access to great labs and great mentoring. Top schools especially will pride themselves on setting up the interested students into basic science labs in any department in the specialty they want to explore. That's their culture. DO schools do not have this culture at all. In my research team's meeting today, we had some new faces - our PI took on new medical students at the school who will be taking part in some cutting edge basic science projects. They may not have extensive basic science experience, but they go to a top school, so they have access to great mentors who are leaders in their fields. They also don't have to waste their time learning OMM or learning all the Step 2 material in second year, which is a bigger deal than most appreciate at first. While DO students are learning how to do cranial osteopathy, the MD students will have the time and the educational resources to be able to produce noteworthy basic science papers. A DO student is setting up for the race a mile behind the starting line with very little chance of success, unfortunately.

If you end up at an MD school that helps you out like that, then that's great. But DO students do not have those resources, period.
 
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DennisReynolds

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If you want peds, just do okay to great on boards and audition at places you wanna attend. You don't need research.

You can do research in residency for any fellowships you want but obviously... it's about who you know that helps a lot in life.

I know somebody applying IM right now who has family on the committee for the GI fellowship at one of the places he/she interviewed at and was told that they can get him/her a spot at that fellowship AND the 3 neighboring GI places due to "politics". This is in writing.

If you don't wanna do research, don't do it.

Kill boards.

Kill auditions.

Match.

Set up good relationships and be a real one. You'll go far.
 
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ohmanwaddup

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You're screwed for going to a DO school in the first place. I would hustle hard for any opportunity to write up case reports. But, that idea is also difficult for someone who hasn't done one, and doesn't have access to mentorship.

Meanwhile, our MD colleagues with that extra 4-5hr/wk of OMM free time are pumping out 10-15 case reports per year.

But, have no fear. Primary care spots are still in excess and will welcome you.
So much doom and gloom
 
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AnatomyGrey12

the MD students will have the time and the educational resources to be able to produce noteworthy basic science papers.

Very very few MDs produce noteworthy basic science papers.... I agree with your point but let’s not pretend that MDs are producing neurosurgery Nature pubs on a consistent basis.

According to my friend, like actual friend not just an acquaintance, in an elite ENT residency, most MDs just find anything that will stick to hit their research numbers. It’s not often very high quality, but it does tend to get published. The big difference is that they have far more opportunities to find research that is publishable because even low ranked MD schools far out strip DO schools with access to these kinds of opps.
 
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sab3156

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Very very few MDs produce noteworthy basic science papers.... I agree with your point but let’s not pretend that MDs are producing neurosurgery Nature pubs on a consistent basis.

According to my friend, like actual friend not just an acquaintance, in an elite ENT residency, most MDs just find anything that will stick to hit their research numbers. It’s not often very high quality, but it does tend to get published. The big difference is that they have far more opportunities to find research that is publishable because even low ranked MD schools far out strip DO schools with access to these kinds of opps.

Nature, NEJM, and BMJ aren't the only journals that publish quality research - and quality for a med student is simply something that is done well and of importance enough to get published in a scientific journal, not necessarily something that is going to change the field. Noteworthy doesn't mean Nobel Prize level work. There is simply no argument that working in the lab of a decent mentor (which most MD schools have plenty of) is likely to generate basic science papers of good quality and importance to a field. The point is, as you reiterated, that if you want to do it as an MD student, you can easily do it if you have the motivation to do so because you have way more resources - as a DO student, you're stuck in a hole that you will be a huge pain to dig yourself out of.
 
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mwsapphire

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@dtx
Very very few MDs produce noteworthy basic science papers.... I agree with your point but let’s not pretend that MDs are producing neurosurgery Nature pubs on a consistent basis.

According to my friend, like actual friend not just an acquaintance, in an elite ENT residency, most MDs just find anything that will stick to hit their research numbers. It’s not often very high quality, but it does tend to get published. The big difference is that they have far more opportunities to find research that is publishable because even low ranked MD schools far out strip DO schools with access to these kinds of opps.
( can I PM you with followup Q's?)
 
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DNC127

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Nature, NEJM, and BMJ aren't the only journals that publish quality research - and quality for a med student is simply something that is done well and of importance enough to get published in a scientific journal, not necessarily something that is going to change the field. Noteworthy doesn't mean Nobel Prize level work. There is simply no argument that working in the lab of a decent mentor (which most MD schools have plenty of) is likely to generate basic science papers of good quality and importance to a field. The point is, as you reiterated, that if you want to do it as an MD student, you can easily do it if you have the motivation to do so because you have way more resources - as a DO student, you're stuck in a hole that you will be a huge pain to dig yourself out of.

Now that my class cohort (who does a lot of research) is going through the application / interview process it is very clear that once you are above 230 usmle / high 500's comlex, research will carry your further than only having high board scores for a competitive specialties. If you want something competitive, do research. If you think you want something competitive before medical school, try and go to places with the opportunity to do so or take a research year. My 2 cents.
 
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Epilepsy365

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Whatever your II baseline is for your specialty, you will double that amount with at least 2-3 published case reports.

Below average stats with no research/published case reports as a DO? Better get used to the primary care express train. Your DO faculty will love you bc you're sending an extra $5K of cha-thing coins to their bank account at the end of the year.
 
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mwsapphire

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Whatever your II baseline is for your specialty, you will double that amount with at least 2-3 published case reports.

Below average stats with no research/published case reports as a DO? Better get used to the primary care express train. Your DO faculty will love you bc you're sending an extra $5K of cha-thing coins to their bank account at the end of the year.
But is publishing case reports something that is doable for someone with no research experience coming out of undergrad.? Thats the issue here.
 

sab3156

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But is publishing case reports something that is doable for someone with no research experience coming out of undergrad.? Thats the issue here.

Case reports, though considered "research publications", aren't really research. You are simply presenting a case for the field to take note of. For example, a case that presented in an atypical way never seen before, a unique therapy tried for the first time, etc. Case reports are really some of the least impressive additions to a research CV, but they help.

Again, this is another area where you should have some form of mentoring (for example, the physician who wants to publish the case report should guide you if you are new to this).
 
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AnatomyGrey12

But is publishing case reports something that is doable for someone with no research experience coming out of undergrad.? Thats the issue here.

Yes. Case reports are easy.

Yes you can PM me.
 
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AnatomyGrey12

Now that my class cohort (who does a lot of research) is going through the application / interview process it is very clear that once you are above 230 usmle / high 500's comlex, research will carry your further than only having high board scores for a competitive specialties. If you want something competitive, do research. If you think you want something competitive before medical school, try and go to places with the opportunity to do so or take a research year. My 2 cents.

But how many case reports do YOU have bruh? Zero. Pitiful. ;)

But seriously though, research really is what makes the difference once you have an above average board score, that much is very clear from what we've seen this current cycle.
 
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You shall know the Truth

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Not all research has to be in the wet lab. Do data crunching; write up case histories.

As a caution, I wouldn't take on a student who had no lab skills. I've learned from bitter experience that it's a waste of time and reagents.
Would you say they were the limiting reagent?
 
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hungrydoc710

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Not having research does not mean failure. Research is always a plus and rarely a must (but is for hyper-competitive residencies).
Ask yourself your goals.
 
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