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I could use some advice...

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by OncDoc19, Mar 3, 2007.

  1. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    Hi everyone!
    I posted this in the pre-allo forum as well, but I was hoping for some opinions from other MD/PhD hopefuls/current students. This is my MDapps page http://www.mdapplicants.com/viewprofile.php?id=7596 (sorry its a little long). I would really appreciate any comments/advice you could give me, especially about the schools I am thinking about applying to and the weak areas you see in my application.
    Also I am doing a pre-MD/PhD program this summer at the University of Iowa (my school) and have been told by the MSTP office that I should wait until after the program ends (7/27) to submit my primary app so I can include my research/clinical experiances from this summer in my app. Any thoughts about this? If I go ahead and submit in early June, as I was originally planning, would there be a logical place to include this experiance in my secondaries?
    Thanks!
     
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  3. ThatOne

    ThatOne New Member 2+ Year Member

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    Waiting is a dangerous game, seriously. I spent the summer traveling (and getting some clinical experience) and didn't submit the primary until late August when I got back -- it was the major reason that there were quite a few places I didn't get interviewed at. If you're already in this program, and there's no foreseeable reason you wouldn't complete it, why not just list it in the primary application. Just put the appropriate dates etc...

    And now that I've looked at your stats, what the heck are you waiting for?! You've got so much research and clinical experience already, you should have plenty to write about! You look like a great candidate on paper, now go write those essays, polish polish polish them up, and get going on this! (Yes, all those exclamation points were totally necessary!)
     
  4. Auraraptor

    Auraraptor 2+ Year Member

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    DO NOT WAIT.

    Include those activites anyway (though the provision is you MUST complete them)

    Expand on them in your secondaries, but INCLUDE them in your AMCAS!

    BTW, reading over your MDapps, you will be fine. Good Luck!
     
  5. solitude

    solitude Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    I agree--don't wait. Waiting two months could really tank your app. It looks like you have a great app to me.

    Also, welcome to the board. It's nice to see someone else from Iowa City (I'm from IC but go to college elsewhere).
     
  6. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd Administrator Physician PhD Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

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    I'm all for applying early, but I really don't see much difference between applying in June and applying at the end of July. You won't get secondaries until August/September even if you apply the first day AMCAS comes out.

    It's when you delay your primaries past August that I begin to get concerned usually... For secondaries you should try to send them back within a few weeks of receipt. Late to me are the 30%+ who submit their secondaries the week before the school's deadline.
     
  7. totalcommand

    totalcommand Senior Member 5+ Year Member

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    You can't include activities that you haven't begun yet on your AMCAS (it'll give you an error). At least that's how it was last year.

    I'd just include the activity in your secondaries, or just send an update letter to the schools.
     
  8. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    Thanks for the comments fellow Iowan. I am in awe of your app - way to go! As long as your essays turn out well you will have every school after you! Do you think I am over-reaching with the schools I plan to apply to? What about the number of schools?
    Like you, I'm also contemplating going Oxford by applying for a 3 year Fulbright scholarship. Frankly, Oxford would be amazing - but I'm not sure I have a shot at getting the scholarship plus I doubt I could defer for 3 years. Also,I think my parents would kill me if I spend money applying, get in and end up not going to med school for a few years to go to Oxford instead :eek:
     
  9. solitude

    solitude Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    You have an awesome app yourself, so give yourself some credit! From your mdapps it looks like you have a ton of clinical and research experience, and with your grades and MCAT you should be golden. I don't think you are over-reaching with your schools. I do think you probably have too many schools listed. I think with your qualifications, 10-15 would be more appropriate. (My pre-med advisor told me that if I was confident about 6ish schools and applied to a couple schools with more lax admissions requirements, I should only apply to about 10.) I think the number of applications exceeding 15 should depend on how much money you have and how much free time you will have to fill out the apps. If you have a lot of both, you can always apply to a bunch and then turn down interviews once you get an acceptance or two.

    With regards to Oxford, it's been my experience that Fulbrights aren't terribly hard to win, but I don't know how many people use them to study at Oxford (I think relatively few?). If I were you I would think about the Rhodes and Marshall (for Cambridge): they're pipe dreams for everyone, but somebody has to win right? Also, most schools don't advertise this on their websites, but nearly every MSTP will grant a one or two-year deferral for Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright scholars (and others). I heard this straight from the horses' mouths--I wasn't sure if I should bother applying to the Rhodes/Marshall because I really want to matriculate right after college, and so I e-mailed all of my potential schools, most of which returned my e-mail indicating that they do grant deferrals for the Rhodes, Marshall, and other scholarships (and some for Teach For America and related programs). Thus, I plan to apply this summer to MSTP's and also post-grad scholarships for study abroad, and then defer from MSTP if I am lucky enough to receive one of the scholarships. Otherwise, I'll matriculate in the MSTP in fall 2008. Hence, unless you want to defer a year - and it seems like you don't plan on it - I would recommend applying this summer as planned. Your parents won't kill you because you won't have to apply a second time!

    Where are you from in Iowa?
     
  10. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    Thanks for the kind words. Everyone keeps telling me I sould be more confident, and aout most things I am so I'm not sure why I am so insecure about my application. Hopefully as I get interview invites I will gain more confidence. About the number of schools, I will definately be narrowing that down. I am doing some major soul searching right now. I know I want to be in academic medicine but I don't know whether I want to do cancer cell biology or history of medicine (yes I know, two COMPLETELY different fields). I am really good at science - in fact for my second major I'm taking graduate science courses in Free Radical and Radiation Biology and Cancer Cell Biology and am beating most of the grad students. I'm just
    not sure that I want to do wet lab science research as a career. It seems like most science professors end up working in one tiny niche area of their field and I am concerned I would get bored after a while becuase I have so many interests other than the regulation of protein pathway X. I know that the history of medicine route isn't exactly the easiest way to go, but I really feel its my passion (its not that I don't enjoy cancer cell biology, its just that history of medicine allows me to integrate my interest in science and in history). The sad part is, I didn't figure this out until about a year ago and by then it was too late to get a degree in history, so I'm afraid this will hurt my chances of getting into a program. Also, there are so few programs and they are all at the top tier schools. Plus it would take longer to get through the degree and the funding is not as good, plus the job opportunities are more limited. Part of the reason I have so many schools listed is that I'm still in the process of calling schools to find out if they have a MD/PhD in the history of medicine or not - for now the schools on the list are the schools that have a history of medicine grad program and a medical school.
    As you can tell I'm a bit conflicted about my future career path. At least I have a little bit of time to figure it out before the application process starts. I will probably end up applying to 10-15 schools, depending on what PhD program I decide on (more if I go with history of medicine)

    There is actually a specific Fulbright scholarship for Oxford that last 2 years, with the possibility of a third. I want to go Oxford because the premier institute for the history of medicine is based at Oxford. I would like to do the coursework for the D Phil during that time, but I don't think I would finish the thesis too in 3 years. If I just did an M Phil, I'm not sure I'd be any farther ahead (although I would have gotten to spend a few years in Europe:D) I guess I will ask the history of medicine MD/PhD schools if I could get a deferment to get an MPhil at Oxford and then come back and finish the PhD. Ahh so complicated! About the Rhodes/Marshall scholarship - are those just for science or for humanities as well?

    (Sometimes the number of questions I have overwhelms me especially considering I have 3 months to figure it all out!)

    I go the the University of Iowa in Iowa City, but am from a small town called Le Claire, just outside of Davenport by the Mississippi river.
     
  11. greg12345

    greg12345 New Member 2+ Year Member

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    Wow, I'm glad I applied to MSTP's way back in the day when all they required for admission was a pulse because I would get creamed if I was competing with you guys for a slot. I am going to start sounding like a broken record to all you fresh faced wunderkids, but think long and hard about anything that will add extra years to your training. Make sure that the Fulbright, etc. will really contribute to your training and potentially speed things along (as it sounds like it will if you end up doing a history of medicine PhD) rather than just pushing back the start date of your real training by 3 years. Yeah, Europe is amazing and you might be studying something utterly fascinating, but think long and hard if it will not have a large and significant contribution to your future goals.

    You know what you smart MSTP kids should do in your PhDs? Invent a time machine so I can go back in time and start med school at age 12 so that by the time I'm junior faculty I won't have to use a walker. The years really do add up - I will have been in training for 14 years (8 years MSTP + 3 years residency + 3 years fellowship) before I apply for my first junior faculty position and we all know that's when things REALLY get crazy and stressful as you furiously try to establish yourself professionally not to mention battle for tenure in the academic arena (no walk in the park). And if you're a woman I hope you can reproduce asexually cuz there is really no good time to have a baby/family and raise children...and doesn't the risk of down's/other congenital problems increase exponentially after age 35? Let's not forget to mention that your best friends from med school may also be your attendings by the time you finally struggle back to 3rd year med school (happened to my friend - so depressing!). I am not trying to scare anyone, just open people's eyes to the long, brutal, hard and unforgiving reality of the training track you are choosing. Life is good for me now, I am essentially done with my MSTP and waiting to move on to the next phase of my training, but I still have by far the hardest years ahead of me and I am already feeling much much older and tired than my 29 years. Q4 overnight call for 9 months, here I come!

    And to the oncdoc or whatever your name is, if you decide to do a science PhD you should look very very very closely at radiation oncology (different than heme/onc through the internal medicine pathway). Interesting field, tremendous research opportunities, outpatient based (including your residency training!) meaning superb quality of life EVEN AS A RESIDENT, and they are incredibly well compensated. They are also in need of academic physicians b/c most rad-onc grads (being that they are some of the smartest people you will meet) are wise enough to go to private practice and sleep naked surrounded by hundred dollar bills thanks to their 500K/year salary...oh yeah, and they sleep well cuz getting called in in the middle of the night is very rare.
     
  12. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    Maybe others aren't considering the extra years for MD/PhD, but I completely agree with you. I will only be applying for a Fulbright if I decide to do history of medicine. Even if I apply for the Fulbright, I would seriously reconsider it if I got into a good history of medicine program here in the US. I want to teach and research as well as be a clinician, but I'm not willing to be in school for the rest of my life to do it.

    Believe me, I feel the ol' biological clock ticking. But as far as a "good time" to have a baby, I'm not sure there really is a good one ever for most people. But I'm sure my boyfriend will be using this argument as a reason for me to go to U Iowa where he starts as an M1 in the fall. (Yeah, there's another complication to this whole scenario)

    You're suggestion is a great one, in fact an MD/PhD in my lab who just finished his PhD is looking for a RadOnc match. From what I've heard a residency is incredibly hard to get because of the good hours and high pay. I'm actually taking some grad courses from the Free Radical and Radiation Biology department at my university right now and enjoy them very much.

    Thanks for the words of caution!
     
  13. greg12345

    greg12345 New Member 2+ Year Member

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    The best times to have children (in my opinion):

    1. grad school - preferably maybe your 2nd or 3rd year after you are done with qualifying exams/courses and just have to crank out your thesis research. your time is totally flexible and you have total control of how your time is spent (which you will never have again most likely)

    2. 4th year med school - cush year with minimal elective requirements; the only issue is residency interviews and the boards, but with careful planning it could be done this year

    3. your last (or latter years) of residency (assuming you are not fast-tracking) - least inpatient months required (as long as your residency program is front loaded with inpatient months as most programs are) during this year, a lot of female residents have children at this time

    4. your research years of your fellowship - you will only have clinic one-half day a week, the rest of the time will be in the lab which is flexible time....although you might need clomid to get pregnant at this age if you are MSTP

    Good luck with everything, you should kill it with your credentials.
     
  14. solitude

    solitude Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    Agree. You should be more confident, and you will gain more confidence as the process goes well.


    Very interesting situation. I too love history of science and medicine, but for me it's a hobby and not a serious professional aspiration. I admire you for potentially giving it a shot!


    Good to know about that specific Fulbright. My plan, on the off-chance that one of the postgrad fellowships works out, is to do the 2-year MPhil and then come back to the states for the MD/PhD. My understanding is that some people go in with that intention but ultimately simply complete the DPhil abroad and then find funding (scholarships, family money, or loans) for the MD. The MD/PhD programs that I talked to said that taking a 2-year deferral to pursue an MPhil would be fine with them. Obviously, they're not going to fund you if you stay 3yrs for the DPhil.


    Ditto. SDN, and this forum especially, are great.


    Awesome. I grew up in Iowa City. I love it, so much so that I'm coming home in a few days for spring break (wild, I know).
     
  15. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    Wow, what a small world! PM me if you'd like to meet up for coffee and talk apps/study abroad programs.
     
  16. orangeneuro

    orangeneuro

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    OncDoc,

    Hope you don't mind if I ask you a few questions. Is the summer pre-MD/PhD program you mentioned in your first post the SUMR program? If so, when and how (by email, phone call, postal mail) were you notified of being accepted? I applied to this program, and I haven't heard back yet. I thought I might have a chance, because I applied to another pre-MD/PhD summer program at the University of Cincinnatti (the only other one I knew of) and I have already been accepted there. Now I'm starting to wonder...

    Thanks.
     
  17. Jorje286

    Jorje286 Member 10+ Year Member

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    That's something that bothered me too. My own personal conclusion is don't commit yourself to science if you are just fascinated by the topic. Because a lot of the work is on a very minute portion of the topic in general. What should really come in your decision is whether you just love using the scientific method and thinking scientifically irrespective of your topic, and the only way you'd know that is to do science yourself.
     
  18. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    Yes it was the SUMR program. I was notified last Wednesday 2/28 by email. They said that the class will be finalized by the end of next week. So its still possible that you could be accepted. I would assume that they sent out an initial round of aceptances and then they offer more depending on how many people accepted in the first batch, but I could be wrong. Good luck and prehaps we will meet this summer.
     
  19. wisguy

    wisguy 2+ Year Member

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    For general information, the difficulty of getting a Fulbright is highly variable, depending primarily on the country and type of grant. The UK is the most competitive country because it is English speaking and there are lots of good programs and universities. Applicant numbers often aren't all that high, but the pool is very self-selective and the sponsoring institution often weeds out less competitive applications.
    That being said, I heartily recommend research/coursework abroad if it fits with your other goals. I'm very happy with my decision to delay med/grad school to pursue some research interests, weigh my career options and explore europe. PM me if you'd like more info about the Fulbright program and application process.
     
  20. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    Ok, this has nothing to do with my original post, butu I didn't want to clutter up the forum with a new thread. Could anyone tell me exactly what extra questions I will have to answer for the MD/PhD app as compared to the regular MD only primary. Also I have heard rumors that secondaries can be found online for some schools - does anyone know where I can find the secondaries and which schools offer this? Thanks and sorry if this has been asked before!
     
  21. ThatOne

    ThatOne New Member 2+ Year Member

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    You'll have two extra essays, one detailing your research experience and one detailing why you want the MD-PhD (in addition to the personal statement) for your AMCAS primaries. I don't recall any of the schools I applied to having secondaries freely available online (you had to login). But don't stress so much about secondaries yet, you'll have plenty of time to do them and you'll be able to recycle some of the material from your primaries as well.
     
  22. Auraraptor

    Auraraptor 2+ Year Member

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    Yes, but you can include activites you are currently doing (ie doing in the summer). Apply in the summer, right after you start and list the activities.
     
  23. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    I would assume there are word/character limits on both of these essays - do you know what they are?
     
  24. ryouland

    ryouland Guest

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    Anyone else hear about admission/rejection to Iowa's SUMR program? I'm betting i didn't get in. :(
     
  25. ThatOne

    ThatOne New Member 2+ Year Member

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    Character limits from the 2006/2007 admissions cycle (for matriculation in Fall 07)
    personal statement: 5,300; MD-PhD essay 3,000; and research essay 10,000
     
  26. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    Well if you are a white male from U Iowa its highly unlikely that you got it. They haven't taken someone from U Iowa in a couple of years and even though its not stated on the application, they are really looking for women and minorities from other schools - as evidenced by their past participants. Don't take this too hard though, I personally know a white male from U Iowa who is currently a 3rd year MSTP student at Iowa and didn't get into SUMR. Good luck - you may still hear positive news!
     
  27. ryouland

    ryouland Guest

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    Yeah I kinda figured that, most of the summer programs favor minorities and such. If only we were judged purely on our academic performance and capacity for research....

    On another note: for those Iowa MSTP people (or any others willing to give advice), what did you do in your undergrad years? I do volunteering and all the typical non-research stuff, but how did you get involved in research other than summer type programs? Does it matter what type of research? I'm a BME major and will likely minor in chemistry, so would doing research in either of those areas be good or is it better do to something more medically related (although BME is fairly close)?
     
  28. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    If you haven't done much research that could also be a reason why you didn't get into the program. I believe they are also looking for people who have had sustained research experiance in order to show that they are truly interested in MD/PhD. The summer programs like this at many schools serve as a recruiting mechanism to some degree. But again just because you didn't get in doesn't mean you can't still do MSTP here. Also it sounds like maybe you are not preparing to apply for the 2008-2009 cycle, and if you are you should already have significant research experiance if you want to do MSTP. That brings up another possible reason for why you didn't get into the SUMR program - the program is meant for students who are applying the summer they do the program.

    I'm not an Iowa MSTP, but I am a U Iowa student applying for MD/PhD programs next year. Personally I found that the best way to get quality research experiance is by doing an honors project, especially if you don't start as a freshman in a lab (most lab jobs availble through JobNet are for a lab tech aka dish washer, but if you are in the lab for a while they would probably let you start doing real research). For BME you should be doing a senior project as well, which most likely would be a good research experiance. I would really recommend doing an honors project too, probably in BME. The chemistry minor is fine, but its not really going to do anything for you because with the pre-med chem classes already I think you only need one more class to get a minor at Iowa. You also won't likely have enough upper-level courses in chemistry to do research. It is better for your application if you are involved in research projects lasting longer than one year. However, in my opinion, you need to have been doing these projects already for a year when you apply. Summer projects are nice, especially if you are smart about the project you pick so that it truly can be completed in a summer, but to be a strong MSTP candidate you definately need more. Feel free to PM me if you have any other questions.
     
  29. ryouland

    ryouland Guest

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    I'm a sophomore so hopefully I still have time. I haven't been turned down yet, but I'm almost certain I will be. The lack of research will probably be the major deciding factor. I'm really only doing the chem minor because I enjoy chemistry, and in fact I may do a math minor for the same reason... weird, I know. Two questions:
    1) I'm sure I can look it up but if you know of the top of your head, what is an honors project and how do I do one?
    2) Would working in a lab that studies biomechanical response to car crashes count as research? It technically is a research lab that has a driving simulator and gets videos from volunteers that place a device in their cars. I may get involved in it, it sounds really interesting.
     
  30. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    Actually I would say the deciding factor is that you are a sophomore - like I said they are looking for people who are applying this summer for med school. I would reapply again for the summer you are applying to med school.

    1. from http://www.engineering.uiowa.edu/about/honors.html


    College of Engineering Honors Program

    Graduating with Honors is a prestigious distinction that will not only be recognized during commencement, but it will also be noted on your diploma and your permanent academic records.
    Related Links
    [​IMG]
    University Honors ProgramHow to Graduate with Honors in the College of Engineering

    (The following links are .pdf files. Get Adobe Acrobat Reader here)
    Requirements
    Printable version
    Part I of Application
    Part I needs to be filled out and turned into Rebecca Whitaker, Dean's Office, during the semester you are taking Honors Seminar. (Please type directly onto the form.)
    Part II of Application
    Part II needs to be filled out and turned into Rebecca Whitaker, Dean's Office, at least four weeks prior to your anticipated graduation date. (Please type directly onto the form.)
    Honors Project Guidelines
    In accordance with The University of Iowa's Honors Program, we'll be implementing the same format for your Honors Project. (Same cover page guidelines and same margin guidelines.) We will also be submitting a copy of your Honors Project to The University of Iowa Honors Program for binding and storage.
    Requirements
    1. Completion of all requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree with a minimum UI cumulative grade-point average of 3.33.
    2. Exceptional accomplishment as demonstrated by completion of an approved project under the supervision of a faculty member. (Examples include: research; directed independent study; development of a computer-assisted tutorial for a course; creation of a demonstration experiment or a new experiment for an engineering course; or other departmentally approved enrichment or extracurricular activity.)
    3. Completion of a written report and an oral presentation on the finished honors project.
    4. Satisfactory completion of at least one semester of the Honors Seminar course, 57:001, 1 sh.
    5. Verification by the honors certification committee that the honors requirements have been fulfilled. The honors departmental adviser and the student’s faculty mentor will comprise the certification committee. Both committee members must certify the achievement of honors status.
    6. Submission of Part II of the application at least four weeks prior to the date of college graduation.
    7. Hours earned from enrollment in independent study for the honors project cannot count toward the 128 sh required for a B.S.E. degree.
    College of Engineering Honors Program Seminar

    The College of Engineering Honors Program Seminar (057:001) is one of the requirements for undergraduate engineering students who seek recognition as an Honor Student.
    Generally, students register for the seminar in their junior year, but some wait until later. The seminar is a one-credit hour, weekly meeting of the College's Honor Students. The students discuss current events that involve engineering issues, increase their awareness of the College's resources and research areas, participate in a group project that investigates a common interest area of the students, attend other significant University and all-College professional events, and present their Honors Projects in a special seminar.
    An example of the group project is the investigation of airport security conducted by the Fall 2002 seminar students. Each student explored a different aspect of airport security: threat & security alternatives, current procedures & plans for improvement, assessment of needs, government regulations & programs, and customer service. The Director of the Eastern Iowa Airport gave an invited lecture to the class. The class prepared a brief report of their findings.
    Departmental Honors Advisors

    Biomedical Engineering -- Dr. Ed Dove
    Chemical Engineering -- Dr. Audrey Butler
    Civil Engineering -- Dr. Michelle Scherer
    Electrical Engineering -- Dr. John Robinson
    Industrial Engineering -- Dr. Linda Boyle
    Mechanical Engineering -- Dr. H.S. Udaykumar

    2. Yes it does count as research - however have you thought about whether you would like to do a PhD in BME or are you interested in another field, such as chemistry? If you aren't wanting to do an engineering PhD I would recommend trying to get more wet lab (traditional) experiance. The same MSTP I refeered to in an earlier post had some difficulty with his application because his research experiance was in computer protein modeling. He told me that some people said he had not experianced the "highs and lows of bench work" and thus wasn't truly prepared for MD/PhD. However, he did get in on his first try so this isn't true everywhere.
     
  31. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    removed post - posted twice on accident
     
  32. ryouland

    ryouland Guest

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    Thank you for your help, I'm definitely going to talk to my advisor about doing an honors project. It sounds like a great thing, hopefully I'll have the time. Could I do "wet lab" research with the honors research? How did you go about it and how much time did you have to put into it? Thanks again for the help!
     
  33. OncDoc19

    OncDoc19 MS4 7+ Year Member

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    You should definately look into the honors project. If you want to do MD/PhD you will have to make the time for research. One thing I've discovered is that with the right motivation you can find time for just about anything. As far as doing wet lab research for an honors project, that would depend on what types of research the professors in BME are doing (your honor thesis project is done for your major and not any minors). More than likely you would have to do your honors project with a BME professor. I would find out though if its possible to do something in biochemical engineering that would be BME-related for the project. It seems to me that it might be more possible to find wet lab research in BioChemE than in BME, but I don't know for sure. I have devoted about 15-20 hours a week to the project for a year and a half. This semester though I am averaging 20 with up to 30, but that's because I did a little less last semester in order to have time to study for the MCATs. This is certainly doable, especially if you don't have another job on top of it. You should also ask about the possiblity of doing your honors project in another department (non-engineering)as well, like exercise science. Finding a wet lab project might be easier there.

    Also a semi-off topic piece of advice - plan early!!! For example, many people do their honors thesis project their senior year, but if you are applying for med school your senior year then you won't be able to put this project on your primary application nor will you be far enough into it to talk about it on your secondaries. So you need to figure out if the project can be done junior year, or maybe you will need to take 5 years in order to have enough research experiance by the time you apply. Yes, no one wants another year, but think of it this way - if you didn't take the extra year and applied without enough research you may not get in and then you have to take another year anyway.
    Also on the subject of planning ahead - do yourself a big favor and go down to Iowa Book and buy yourself a copy of the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) put out by the AAMC (or find an older pre-med to borrow it from). Take a look through the book and start thinking about where you would like to apply (what schools look interesting). Or if you have no idea yet, take a look at this page.
    http://www.med.yale.edu/mdphd/other/state.html
    It lists all US medical schools with MD/PhD and MSTP programs. That should give you a rough idea of the schools you might eventually be applying through. Then look throught the MSAR at the average GPA and MCAT scores for these schools so you can see what you are aiming for. More importantly though, look at the minimum requirements for application. Over the past several years schools have increased their minimum requirements. Many schools now require such classes as biochemistry, advanced mathematics (no problem for engineers) and even a certain number of semester hours of english, social sciences and humanities (I have seen up to 24 semester hours of social sciences and humanities required by a school). The amount varies by school, and are usually higher at the top schools. Also be advised that many places do not accept AP/CLEP credit for these requirements.
    So since next week is spring break, I suggest you get a copy of the MSAR, and start a spread sheet of the requirements for each school you are interested in. Then figure out what course work you have left for your major/minors and when you plan to take those. Then decide where you can put any extra classes you need in order to meet the med school requirements while still allowing yourself time to do research, study for the MCAT, and fill our your application/secondaries/interviews. Its really not that far-fetched to be planning from next fall through the end of your senior year. You can use ISIS to see when semesters and at what times courses you need to take were offered in past years (this usually doesn't change from year to year). Non-science courses can be tricker because the topics and teachers tend to change yearly. So I'm sure I sound like either a HUGE nerd or a gunner at this point (maybe both), but seriously it doesn't hurt to plan ahead! Well that my two-cents for the evening.

    On a side note - I started this thread to gather advice, so how did I end up dispensing it? (just joking - I'm happy to!)
     

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