bootsandspooky

2+ Year Member
Aug 8, 2015
220
430
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
Hi guys!

So recently I've been wondering about MD/PhD programs and the amount of research experience involved in getting into them.

Background: I just started working in a lab in June 2015 and I will be graduating May 2016. Currently I am planning on applying MD-only, BUT I am here asking the following question(s) because I want to be able to prepare myself in case I decide soon that I want to pursue the MD/PhD route. I've become very interested in research recently and want to keep as many doors open as possible.

So, here is my question: since I will only have about 1 year of undergraduate research experience by the time I graduate, what are some good ways to gain additional quality research experience after graduation? (BTW, I expect that I would be delaying my application by at least a year in order to accommodate this further research).

Here are the ideas I've had / things I've read about so far - which do you think would be most useful when applying MD/PhD?
1) continue working at same undergraduate lab (though I don't know if I could continue to volunteer there, and not sure if they would have the funding to pay me?)
2) bioengineering masters program (my background is BME)
3) NIH postbacc program
4) clinical research coordinator

I think being able to continue at my current lab would be most ideal (and I could also do this through the bioengineering program at my school), but please feel free to suggest what you think is best and if there are any other good options out there that I don't know about.

Thanks so much! Feel free to ask me any questions!
 

itsthat1guy

Not that other guy
Oct 25, 2012
477
321
Status
Pre-Medical
Hi OP, I was in the exact situation as you last year, and decided to go to the NIH for 2 years. I considered a Master's, but you will be taking classes as well as working in the lab, as opposed to doing full-time research with the postbac route; since you want to improve your research credentials I think this is a better option (not to mention you get paid to do the latter vs. paying to do the former).

As far as clinical research goes, MD/PhDs do basic science research by and large, so I think this wouldn't do much for your application. I suppose staying at your current lab would be just as good or even better than the NIH (considering you're already established there) but I am obviously biased towards the postbacc program. You should also consider all the other opportunities the NIH has to offer, e.g. talks, the NIH Academy, lots of support for the application process, etc. Feel free to PM if you want to know more about the postbacc program.

All things considered, I vote NIH!
 
  • Like
Reactions: bootsandspooky

Datypicalpremed

Feed me Seymour!
5+ Year Member
May 7, 2013
84
85
Lurking on the forums...
Well, if you JUST started doing research in June, give it some time first to see if this is really something you want to do. It takes time (and probably a couple of failed projects) to see some of the darker sides of the profession.

Other than that, general advice is that 2 years in the same lab is better than 2 years in multiple labs. Additional factors include how well you are doing in your undergraduate lab (ie don't leave if you can get a publication by staying), whether or not your PI is willing to let you work/volunteer another year (hard to tell at this point) and how well known your PI is (important for LORs). I'm sure I forgot some other stuff, but others can probably chime in....
 
OP
bootsandspooky

bootsandspooky

2+ Year Member
Aug 8, 2015
220
430
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
Hi @itsthat1guy, thank you for your response! I am definitely leaning more towards NIH than masters, because you're completely right: there is not only the added stress of classes, but also the added stress of debt :( NIH sounds like a really fantastic opportunity, and yes, I did notice that they offer a lot of support for applying to professional school, so that would be really nice. The main downside of NIH for me would be relocation, because I have to consider both myself and my partner when moving.

And @Datypicalpremed, thank you as well for your response! I do understand that I need to figure out first if I really want to pursue research, I just wanted to ask here because I would like to be prepared whenever I decide for or against pursuing the PhD. Just curious: when you are talking about how "well-known" my PI is, are you saying that the admissions committees will hold her letter in higher regard if she is more well-known?

Assuming that my current lab work goes well and I decide to pursue the PhD, I plan on talking to my PI around the beginning of the spring semester to see if we could work out a way for me to continue working there. If that's not an option, then I think I would then start the NIH application process. I also plan on looking at universities around me to see if they have decent-sounding research opportunities for my gap year(s).

Thank you both again for your replies! Do you have any other recommendations on ways to be prepared for the MD/PhD application process in case that is the way I decide to go?
 

Datypicalpremed

Feed me Seymour!
5+ Year Member
May 7, 2013
84
85
Lurking on the forums...
Well, for any career (not just academia), getting a LOR from someone respected in the field would get more attention than one from someone no ones heard of (not referring to your PI!). It's just the way the world works. Of course, it's more important that your LORs are excellent, but you get the point.