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I know what I want to research, but not which degree I should pursue

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Baconbone

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I am currently a sophomore studying biochemical engineering. I have some time to decide which graduate program I want to apply for, but I would like be able to decide soon whether I should apply for a PhD or an MD PhD. I hope this post is in the right place.

The main reason I am considering graduate school for biomedical engineering is not because I want to do research in general, but more rather because I have a specific goal of what I want to research. I'll try to make this a short explanation; I have been facing medical problems all my life, and I have decided that I want to research a cure to one of the diseases I, along with millions of other people, have. The disease I want to engineer a fix to is acid reflux or GERD. I understand that it will be a very long time before I can start my own research topic, but I plan on eventually bioengineering a valve or implementing stem cells in a way that would strengthen the esophageal valve that is dysfunctional in GERD patients.

The reason that I am confused is that I know graduate school is not aimed towards entire conditions the same way medical school is. Either way, it fits under the category of research since it is studying something that is not currently around, but I would like some advice on whether I could get a PhD to study this or if I truly need medical school to understand enough about the human body. If I decide on just applying for a PhD program, I can continue on my current path to get my accelerated masters at my current school and then apply to a PhD program from there. If I decide on applying for an MD PhD program, then I will probably need to take an extra year to get all of the requirements of my degree and premed and probably would not plan on getting a masters in between.

This last question is a stretch, but I might as well ask it anyway. While I am still continuing my education and for some amount of time after I am done studying towards degrees, I will be working under someone else, doing their research topics instead of mine. What would I have to do to get a team together and get funding for a giant project such as this? I understand that there is not a simple answer for this, but I would like to hear anything that people have to say about it.
 

uniqenam

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Have you ever worked in a lab/actually done research? Most of your questions seem like things you would quickly pick up or understand by osmosis from a lab environment.
 

uniqenam

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nice jab at this poor (lazy?) undergrad, uniquenam

I didn't mean it to come off as condescending, but it doesn't sound like OP has much experience. It's hard to understand the nature/inner workings of research from a couple forum posts, I think it's much better to spend just a few weeks/months volunteering in a lab; just that much experience can really give you a good understanding of how research/science works IMO. I don't think the person is lazy or poor, just probably uninformed; joining a lab for a bit can really help give you direction, as you won't realize whether MD/PhD, MD, or PhD is right for you until you do so.
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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I didn't mean it to come off as condescending, but it doesn't sound like OP has much experience. It's hard to understand the nature/inner workings of research from a couple forum posts, I think it's much better to spend just a few weeks/months volunteering in a lab; just that much experience can really give you a good understanding of how research/science works IMO. I don't think the person is lazy or poor, just probably uninformed; joining a lab for a bit can really help give you direction, as you won't realize whether MD/PhD, MD, or PhD is right for you until you do so.
Agree.

OP, just saying "GERD research" is very broad. Do you want to work at the molecular level? A PhD in biochem or pharm could be the right answer. Do you want to do drug discovery? Maybe a PhD in pharmaceutical or medicinal chem is the way to go then. Do you want to do drug testing? Maybe a PhD in pharmacology or a PharmD is the most appropriate. Do you want to design devices? Continuing on to get a PhD in bioengineering might be the best path. Do you want to do animal testing? Maybe a PhD in physiology with or without an MD/DO or even a DVM, would be helpful. Do you want to do clinical trials? In that case, an MD/DO is essential, either with or without a PhD.

If you don't have any idea, and it's not surprising that you wouldn't as a college sophomore, then again, the best thing for you to do is to get into some labs and try out some different types of research. As far as the clinical research bit goes though, I would warn you that getting an MD/DO is not a good idea if you don't like working with patients. Yes, you can eventually do research full time, but 5+ years of full time patient care in med school and residency won't be enjoyable if you don't like practicing medicine. So if you're considering med school at all, I would suggest doing some clinical volunteering/shadowing/work experience as well.
 
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