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IRTA Program at NIH

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by randallB, Apr 29, 2004.

  1. randallB

    randallB fear the krab
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    Hi all,
    I'm currently taking 1-2 years off to do research prior to medical school. Considering an MD/PhD program (34R, 3.74)...but it seems like it's more a matter of them considering me based on the ridiculously high stats of accepted individuals. Anyway I've been applying for jobs and have one offer from CHOP (Children's Hospital) in Philly, an interview at UPenn Med, one at the Center for Blood Research at Harvard, and Children's Hospital in Boston. Hooray for gainful, poorly paid employment! In addition to regular jobs, I have received an interview for the IRTA (Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award) at NIH. Basically, I'm looking for advice as to how much the institution matters when deciding what research to do during that 1-2 years off. Has anyone else heard of the IRTA program? If so, does it look better than a regular tech job when applying? Don't get me wrong...I want to be in the position where I'll be the happiest before medical school, but it would be nice to know how each position could help/hurt my chances of admission to a program.

    Thanks a lot for your advice! Best of luck to everyone in their endeavors.
     
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  3. MumbleJumble

    MumbleJumble Member
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    First off, your stats are fine (better than mine and i got in somewhere), they will not hurt you at all in applying if you have a strong research background. I think that you should just go with your gut feeling after visiting all of these places. All of your options look like excellent places- more important than the name of the program though is your mentor. Having someone who will teach you instead of merely using you to do grunt work would give you a much more impressive letter of rec, and that would be much more helpful for your application than the name of any institution. Doing research at Harvard or Penn may enable you to meet faculty at those schools that could help you when applying to MSTPs later, however, NIH research is also looked at very highly. You really can't go wrong, so look for the place where you will be happy and find a good mentor.
    -steve
     
  4. coldchemist

    coldchemist Biowulf
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    I've been an IRTA for almost two years now. Almost every interviewer I encountered this past year seemed extremely impressed with this fact. NIH just has more name recognition than other places because most of the interviewers get NIH grants, and many of them have done post-doc IRTA research. In fact, I think almost all of my interviewers had either been to NIH for a seminar or had actually participated in NIH intramural research.

    In addition, most IRTA's are planning to go into medical school or MD/PhD programs, which means that most of the PI's have a lot of experience in mentoring students through the application process. Of course, you can find most of these qualities by getting a job at the big-name schools, too. I prefer NIH simply because it's an amazing experience. It will open your eyes to the reality of biomedical research in a way that academic campuses can't. You really get a lot of insight into the politics that accompany research, which will be important as a future investigator. Plus, I don't know of one single IRTA that failed to get into a good med school.
     
  5. duka

    duka Senior Member
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    I second this-- my interviewers were very impressed that I worked at NIH. I think I was given interviews/admission to several places that I wouldn't have recieved otherwise due to my experience here. there are also several threads in the allo forum about the IRTA program if you search-- I know i've commented on it before.

     
  6. pathdr2b

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    Well said, coldchemist! I don't know how this got past me, but I had NO idea you were at NIH too. I'm a CRTA (Cancer Resaerch Training Award) predoctoral fellow, and yes the name does carry a TON of weight for MD/PhD applicants! The last CRTA from my department got into Harvard!
     
  7. coldchemist

    coldchemist Biowulf
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    That's funny...I always assumed you knew! I'm a CRTA, too. I work for a rouge NCI lab in Building 50...we do structural work with EM and none of it relates to cancer.
     
  8. randallB

    randallB fear the krab
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    EM you say? My undergraduate research involved TEM-based quantification of photosensitive membrane turnover. How does the CRTA differ from the IRTA? The position I am interviewing for is at the National Institute of Aging in Neuroscience.
     
  9. ImmunoANT

    ImmunoANT Senior Member
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    Well, being a current pre-IRTA at NIH, I have to say something. I agree with coldchemist (btw, congrats on your acceptance :laugh: :thumbup: ). NIH is an amazing place, the wealth and depth of research is unmatched. Since you have other excellent offers at hand (ie. CHOP, PENN MED, Harvard), there are some pro's and con's you may want to know about NIH. The following is merely my personal opinions, if any pre-IRTA finds it not true, please correct me.

    Pro
    1. The wealth and depth of research: there are literally tens of seminars/talks going on everyday with speakers from all over the world, and topics ranging from basic molecular bio to cancer, HIV vaccines, bioinformatics, to biotech development. The resource here is vast: National Library of Medicine is right on campus, and lots of fancy facility cores. And let?s not forget the research festivals and retreats (good time?.)
    2. The organization of pre-IRTA: they organize various seminars (presented by pre-IRTAs) and workshops (like how to ace MCAT/GRE, med school application tips, or like Microsoft office, how to prepare good convincing poster, etc), and lots of fun social activities (although I haven't been to any of them lately - too lazy :p ). And yes, most of pre-IRTA here are either MD- or MSTP-oriented, so you can get plenty advices (or rumors/gossips) about med schools around here. And everyone (at least for people I know) does very well on med school/MSTP admission.
    3. Miscellaneous: although the pay is not much (~2000-1700$/month), you will be considered as federal employees, therefore be able to enjoy benefits like health and dental insurances, subsidized public transportation for commuters (up to 100$/month). Numerous graduate courses (NIH/FAES ) that are free (ummm... most PIs will pay for you, provided the classes are related to your research), and the grades count towards your AMCAS GPA. The classes are usually taught by a number of researchers in that field, so you'd often hear "yeah, my lab just made this discovery last week, you guys are the first one to know."

    Con
    I can only think of one at this moment which I told everyone who's considering pre-IRTA at NIH. It's imperative that you find a good PI, not only someone who will train you to do good science (instead of abusing you for cheap labor, having you work as a tech), but more importantly, someone who understands your situation (that when interview season comes, you will need to take many days off work) and will write you a killer letter of recommendation. There are a lot of PIs like that at NIH, but I also heard someone who's got into a lab, worked her tail off, but her PI refused to write any rec letter for her (her results basically disproved her PI's hypothesis, and somehow that pissed him off :thumbdown: ), too much drama there. At that point, we all encouraged her to switch to another lab. For you, I think most likely you've got offers from several labs at NIH. I'll advise you to set up an interview with labs you are interested in working at. If an interview is not feasible, at least make some phone calls, talk to people who work in the lab. And before you commit, make sure that the PI has a project (doesn't have to be definite but a general idea) for you so there's no way you'll end up becoming a tech. Besides, having your project will be really beneficial during application and interviews.

    YES, NIH is a big name. and YES everyone who interviewed me could readily relate to NIH but that doesn't mean other institutes are any inferior. The bottom line is to find a place that fits you the best, to get the optimal training, and to demonstrate your potential for MSTP.

    To answer your question, YES, a post-bacc definitely looks better than a tech. Don't worry about your stats (they are good) but unfortunately you are right: some MSTPs (say, the one in San Francisco on Parnassus Ave, hiss...... +pissed+) do look heavily on your GPA/MCAT. I'll say try them anyway, but don't get discouraged.


    To ColdChemist and Duka: pre-IRTA poster day is next week. Are you two going to do it? I am going for the free T-shirt :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:
     
  10. pathdr2b

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    Unfortunatly since my coinvestigator is at GW doing some work required for his residency I didn't make the deadline, but I'm looking forward to next year!!!! :thumbup:
     
  11. randallB

    randallB fear the krab
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    Hi again,
    In reply to the MCAT consideration and UCSFesque schools...I could easily give the "oh I didn't study as much as I could've and was stressed out" rationalization...I wasn't disappointed with the score, but felt that I could do better if I took it again since I'm not in school now. I know it seems a bit neurotic, but if I could improve 2-3 pts, would it be worth it? Thanks again for all of your help.
     
  12. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    You've already got a 34... It's going to be hard to raise that, and once you get above that you're really splitting hairs. I wouldn't worry about that part of your application.
     
  13. randallB

    randallB fear the krab
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    Thanks everyone...your input is very helpful!
     
  14. coldchemist

    coldchemist Biowulf
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    Hey Ant--

    I didn't hear about it until after the registration. This'll make the third one in a row that I've missed out on. You should post the title of your poster so that the rest of us can stop by and point out the flaws in your research. :D

    Seriously, I'd like to check it out. Alternatively, you could just give the section and number that your poster will be in.

    CC
     
  15. ImmunoANT

    ImmunoANT Senior Member
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    Yeah, everyone is welcome to come to my poster and point out the flaws... :smuggrin: :smuggrin: :smuggrin: I've got this perplexing phenotype from my T cells, and can't quite make sense out of it. So if anyone of you is good at T cells and PI3K signalling, please do come by.
    I can't remember the title I submitted but it should be something like T cell-targeted SHIP knockout rendering T cells unresponsive to in vitro situmlations. And look for poster that has my avatar. My poster will be simply printouts of powerpoint slide (am too lazy to make a big poster) :laugh:

    see you there. :D
     
  16. duka

    duka Senior Member
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    Nope, I'm not presenting, but I might go-- ever since I figured out where I'm going next year, the motivation to do stuff like that is lacking...
     
  17. coldchemist

    coldchemist Biowulf
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    Hey Ant. Stopped by your poster today. Confused the heck out of me. Probably because THERE WASN'T ANYBODY THERE TO EXPLAIN IT! Oh well. :oops:
     
  18. ImmunoANT

    ImmunoANT Senior Member
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    uh..... :laugh: :laugh: ran into some friends and we decided to take a 2-hr break for lunch. :smuggrin: that's what? 2/3 of the whole poster session? well, got the t-shirt, which has a chromosome on it (how predictable...)

    Anyway, here's the summary, SHIP is a negative modulator. SHIP-deficient B cells, macrophages, osteoclasts, and mast cells have been shown to be hyper-activated. That makes sense. But when I looked at SHIP-deficient T cells, surprisingly, they are "hypo-responsive" to in vitro (and some in vivo) stimulations. There's some minor alterations in signaling like Ca2+, ERK, actin polymerization (so Vav/WASP, etc) and IkB (ie NFkB, but didn't show on that poster, am checking NFAT now), but they kind of contradict other people's hypothesis.... :confused:
    It wasn't you that you felt confused, I didn't even include an abstract or conclusion, mainly because I just printed out my old presentation for this poster and was too lazy to formulate any thought on Tuesday night...
    ... :sleep: gosh, am so lame.........
     

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