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Interview Advice From Those Who Have Gone Before You...

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by kristi1696, Jul 20, 2002.

  1. kristi1696

    kristi1696 Junior Member
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    I'm feeling generous this evening, so I thought that I would begin a thread for matriculating MD/PhD students to pass down some MD/PhD interview advice. I'm sure that once med school begins many of us will be too busy to visit here often... ;)

    Here's some helpful hints that I can think of...

    1. BE PREPARED TO EXPLAIN WHY YOU WANT THE DUAL DEGREE!!
    You will be asked this question so many times that it will
    begin to haunt you in your sleep. Think of different ways
    to answer it so that you don't begin to sound like a robot.

    The key to this question is that THE COMBINED DEGREE
    IS GREATER THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS


    If you have a stronger research background, be prepared
    to address the question, "Soo, it looks like you're mostly
    interested in research; why do you want an MD?"

    A good answer is "I think that an MD will give me an
    insight into clinically-relevant research that I wouldn't
    get if I pursued the PhD alone"

    If you have a stronger clinical background, be prepared to
    answer the opposite question. They may also ask you
    why you don't just do a research fellowship after med
    school.

    A good thing to point out if asked this question is the
    greater depth of research experience/savvy you will
    gain by also doing the PhD.


    2. KNOW YOUR RESEARCH!!

    Understand what you have done. Interviewers will range
    from not wanting to know a single thing about your
    research to asking you to go up to the board and diagram
    it out in painstaking detail. Be prepared for everything. I
    was a total nerd and brought along some laminated visuals
    from a poster I had done; a lot of interviewers liked that.

    Be familiar with the literature. Some (though most likely
    few) interviewers may ask questions to see how current
    you are with the literature that surrounds your project.
    Still, a grasp of the literature demonstrates an enthusiam
    towards your research and suggests that you played a
    role in the development and direction of the research,
    rather than having just been told what to do.

    Know what the next step is. Many interviewers will
    ask this question to get a feel for your problem-solving
    skills as well as how well you understand the
    experimental techniques that relate to your project.


    3. KNOW WHO YOU ARE INTERVIEWING WITH!!

    Be familiar with your interview schedule, and note
    whether you will always be with the MD/PhD applicants
    or will be thrown into the MD-only pool as well. Make
    sure to have a watch, a map and a game-plan for how
    you will get to point A, B, C.....

    The most important people to impress are those who sit
    on the MD/PhD selection committee!
    These will
    probably be your toughest interviews, particularly
    because it's very hard to know what to expect. ALL will
    ask you why you want the combined degree, you can
    count on that. Some may pick over your
    application/essays, so be prepared for that too. Some may
    want to talk about your research, and others will want to
    talk about theirs. In short, be prepared for anything, be
    on-time, and be awake (you will soon learn how difficult
    this is).

    Know whether this is someone who interviews MD
    students only.
    If it is, be prepared to answer the more
    typical interview questions (and to have your application
    scrutinized as well). Some may know that you are
    applying to MD/PhD, others won't (i.e. U-Mich). My
    advice, don't mention this up-front as it can sound
    snotty. If you mention research when asked what your
    interests are, most will then mention the MD/PhD or at
    least the research opportunities available for doctors.
    Then you can say, "Actually, I AM applying for that!".
    Don't ask me why, but it really seems to work this way.

    If the person is a researcher only, be laid-back and
    lab-like.
    The full "ON" med-school interview
    personality often creeps these people out. These will
    probably be your easiest interviews, so cherish them.
    This is a time to relax (relatively speaking) and maybe
    even enjoy yourself. Let them dictate the interview.
    The biggest way you can go wrong here is to force
    too much about you and your research into the
    conversation when they really just want to talk about
    theirs. You don't have to go nuts studying up on their
    research beforehand, but a general idea and a knowledge
    of the background never hurts. This is particularly true if
    this is someone that you requested to meet with. Be
    prepared to describe why you wanted to meet with
    them, and be prepared to answer THE question!


    4. PREPARE SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THEIR PROGRAM

    Believe it or not, some schools think of interviews as
    a "recruitment" event rather than the nerve-wrecking
    experiences they actually are. As a result, most
    interviewers will be interested in selling their program
    to you and will want to answer any questions you might
    have. Have some, even if you already know the answers.


    5. CONTEMPLATE YOUR FUTURE

    This is a no-brainer. Try to have an idea about what fields
    of medicine and research you might be interested in, and
    how you could merge them. DO NOT make it sound like
    you already have everything figured out!!
    Apparently
    many MD/PhD students' interests change. Most
    interviewers don't mind getting the response, "I'm not
    exactly sure, but right now I'm interested in..."; in fact,
    many interviewers prefer this answer.



    Alright kids, that's all that I can think off for right now, and my brain is beginning to shut down just like it did when I was on the interview circuit!!

    I certainly hope that this helps. I would be more than happy to answer any questions that you have until, oh say, the beginning of August.

    I hope that some of the other beginning students add to this list and even let you know if they disagree with any of it.

    Good luck to you all!!

    Congrats to my fellow matriculating students who never have to worry about this stuff again!! :)
     
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  3. Original

    Original Ogori-Magongo Warrior
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    Great advice! I can't think of anything to add.
     
  4. exigente chica

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    Thanx for the advice, good luck in med school!
     
  5. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith
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    Excellent advice. Very specific points that an applicant can take with him/her. Good job. :D
     
  6. kristi1696

    kristi1696 Junior Member
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    Thanks guys. It was easy though...I just had to remember all the ways that I screwed up! ;)
     
  7. jot

    jot

    wow thats good stuff - thanks a lot. sure you guys don't have anything else to add (lik extensive "answers"?:D ). i can second the don't have your future set in stone - a friend was dead set on a particular type of immuno research and most interviewers were a bit peeved at that (though just enough admired it to get him into 1 school). thanks again - keep on adding more!.
    -jot
     
  8. CaNEM

    CaNEM Senior Member
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    Thanks for writing us all this advice, Kristi! I'll keep all of it in mind while interviewing this fall.
     
  9. Original

    Original Ogori-Magongo Warrior
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    I guess one thing I can add is that it's never too late to learn something about your research. You don't have to know all the answers but it's impressive if you get the answers to some of the occasional "quiz-type" questions. I was doing research on GABA transporters for 1.5 yrs but only just looked at its protein structure (morphology, # of membrane-spanning regions etc, etc) the day before my first interview. Well it turned out to be one of the 3 questions I was asked by a key interviewer before he proceeded to talk about his work. After I answered the 3rd Q correctly, he asked me how the hell I knew so much about the stuff. I didn't tell him that I only looked up the 3rd fact the day before (keep that on the DL;)), instead I just smiled and gave him the impression that I'm so phuking smart:D .

    MOST of your interviewers will put your own fate in your hands by just asking you to "talk" about your research. Then they'll occasionally ask for some clarification or further expansion on what YOU are saying. However, there might also be the occasional quiz-style interviewer. One can't really be prepared for these due to the huge uncertainty. Just know enough and be happy to say "I don't know" if necessary.

    Almost all interviewers will just ask you to talk and then they'll proceed to talk about their own research. Pay CLOSE attention. LISTEN and SHOW EXCITEMENT! even if you are hungry, bored, and ready to scream and run out of the office, just endure it and ask "smart" questions to show that you are following. Alot of schools will pair you up with interviewers whose research areas match yours; so at these places you wouldn't need to "fake" interest:D . However, chances are that while on the trail you will get at least one interviewer whose work you couldn't care less about. At places where you are paired with a similar-interest researcher and given his/her name ahead of time, you should go and pull up his/her recent research articles and read them before your interview. That way the interview is more fun and you'll be more prepared than if you hadn't looked up the stuff.

    I hope I didn't duplicate any of what Kristi1696 said earlier. I might post more stuff later if I remember any more.
     
  10. Bikini Princess

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    They ask you quiz-type questions? :eek: I think I'm going to run home crying if they do.

    Thanks for the interview advice - it's good to have a perspective different from the MD-only interview stuff.
     
  11. kristi1696

    kristi1696 Junior Member
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    Original...thanks for posting your thoughts...you certainly picked up on something that I missed!! :)

    Yeah, at first being asked to just "talk" about your research is pretty tough, but after a while you get a feel for what points interviewers are generally interested in and can focus on those.


    Bikini Princess...don't worry, the quizzing isn't really that bad. They don't expect you to know everything, after all.

    MD/PhD interviews are TOTALLY different than MD interviews. To be honest, I didn't find most of the advice for MD interviews very helpful. MD/PhD interviewing is definitely the way to go though; you really get treated differently. Some schools almost seem embarassed that they have to go through the interview process. Most programs are pretty laid-back & academic-like about the whole thing. Plus, a lot of the programs pay for your travel and all...overall, it's a good deal!!

    Well guys, wish me luck...I'm moving to Philly tomorrow!! :clap:
     
  12. Original

    Original Ogori-Magongo Warrior
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    Wow! congrats and good luck:). I'm sure you're excited. I'll be heading to Durham in a little over 48 hrs:clap:
     
  13. kristi1696

    kristi1696 Junior Member
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    Ahhhh, we then best of luck to you too!!

    I highly respect those of you who actually made it through Duke's secondary (and even more so those of you who actually got accepted...wow!). I took one look at that secondary with it's multitude of essays and said no way!... is laziness an attractive quality for an MD/PhD student?? ;)
     
  14. Original

    Original Ogori-Magongo Warrior
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    Thanks for the best wishes:). I didn't get an interview at Penn but on the day they were scheduled to transmit final decisions I called them just for fun to ask what my chances are :laugh:
    I agree that Duke's essay was hectic. But the deadliest one I saw was Univ of Chicago's. It gave me a migrane. I thought I was going to die:D
     
  15. MD4life

    MD4life Junior Member
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    Thanks for all that priceless advice,

    YOu guys are awesome!!! Next year I'll be passing out some of that also.

    Whats up Original
    another nigerian sending a shout out. Good luck at Duke

    Univ Sec School Enugu
    UCLA
     
  16. Original

    Original Ogori-Magongo Warrior
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    Naija man wetin dey? I no sabi say another hussler dey for this end:D. I'm in Durham. I got here yesterday and have been setting up my appartment and stuff. I'm trying to get organized before school starts. I've not really had time/access to the internet and stuff, but hopefully I'll still be around even after classes begin and stuff.

    cheers and good luck.
     
  17. MD4life

    MD4life Junior Member
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    actually na naija woman, I dey fine. I fo think say we bi more than two naija people here anyway. I did not apply to Duke because I thought, I may not want to live in a place as sweaty as Florida, how is the weather compared to naija. I am actually having second thoughts and may go to AMCAS and add it.

    SO what do you think, is it worth applying to?
     
  18. Original

    Original Ogori-Magongo Warrior
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    Definitely! The school is awesome; though the surrounding areas dey fiercely ghettofied and there's not much to do in Durham. I thought I'd come here and party a bit before school starts but I've been so busy with auto insurance/registration/DL, bank, groceries, etc, that I've not even had time to look around and relax. I've not even seen any of my classmates yet. I'll probably be better positioned to give you the low-down in a couple of weeks. But in anycase I think say you suppose apply here. Actually I hear say one naija guy wey go HS for naija then UCLA dey for MD/PhD (3rd yr) for here. Anyhoo holla.
     
  19. MD4life

    MD4life Junior Member
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    Well thanks for all the advice,
    I applied last night. it pain me to give AMCAS more money but na so life dey sabi.
    well we go see if I get interview, then maybe I go look for you. I no know this naija guy, but na good thing say we dey represent.
    enjoy Duke and settling in, I hear say a big naija community dey out there, and feel free to hala at me anytime.
     
  20. Original

    Original Ogori-Magongo Warrior
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    Cool! Se you be yankee citizen or international-student? Definitely look me up if your interview-trail passes through [email protected] Durham :) . Good luck
     
  21. exigente chica

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    Hey, if you need something to do in Duhram, pm me. I used to live there. I can tell you where to go, clubs, bars, etc. ok.
     
  22. Original

    Original Ogori-Magongo Warrior
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    Thanks. I'll pm you though I doubt I'll have much time once school starts. I wish otherwise but..:D
     
  23. MD4life

    MD4life Junior Member
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    I be yankee citizen, u know how it dey, them born me here then I go naija befor I become three years old, then come back for college, and you?
    Well thanks for the good luck wishes and enjoy Duke, I was glad I finally applied so we'll see.
    I finally mailed out 5 secondaries my first batch today, such a relief!! I no dey get enuf sleep anymore!!
    well later original:)
     

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