Jul 27, 2016

I was wondering if anyone here has experience going from an engineering bachelor's degree (specifically chemical) to an MD/PhD program. When I first entered college I had the complete intention of going to med school but as I got deeper into my engineering courses I found that I enjoyed research. However, this summer, I have felt like I was missing the direct interaction with patients and tangibly helping people. I also found out about MD/PhD programs, which seem like the best of both worlds in terms of getting to interact with patients and help people deeply on a small scale in addition to doing research and helping out a lot of people on a large scale. I'm currently a chemical engineering undergrad going into junior year with about a semester of undergrad biomedical engineering research experience at my university (which I will be continuing) along with a summer of a research-based internship at a biotech company in a city nearby. The CEO's wife is a faculty member at the university's medical school and she said she can include my name on a publication for some extra work I am helping her out with. However, since I didn't know about these programs and thought I would go directly to grad school/industry, I haven't gotten any clinical or volunteering experience in my college career. Additionally, my GPA isn't the greatest; I'm currently sitting at a 3.39 due to getting mostly Bs overall and a rough semester last semester (went through a break up among other personal stuff). Does anyone here have experience with getting into these programs, especially with a less than stellar GPA? Is it too late for me to catch up as an incoming junior? I know that typically they don't recognize course difficulty/load, so what would be the best plan of action? My engineering classes will only be getting more difficult and packed, so I'm not sure how I will even have a chance to "fluff" my GPA if I don't even have the time in a semester to take a "blow-off" class in addition to studying for the MCAT, doing research, and attempting to get volunteering hours. Thanks!


2+ Year Member
May 2, 2016
You're going to need a couple of things, most of which you have already acknowledged.

1. You have to kill it in your junior year classes. Get that GPA up bud. Consider gap year to get more classes in, maybe? I understand that they only get harder, but there is some consideration for the difficulty of major.

2. You really need to stay plugged into research...show that you really want that. A courtesy publication and a couple semesters of on-the-side type work aren't going to be very convincing to a committee deciding if they want to bet $600,000+ on your commitment to research.

3. Volunteering is a lower priority for MDPhD but don't blow it off in case you decide to go straight MD.

4. Slay the MCAT

5. Search this forum for advice from engineers on this topic. There are a lot of them here.

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2+ Year Member
Jan 4, 2016
Tethys, Saturn
MD/PhD Student
Hey there I was a ChemE back in UG. Didn't think medicine was for me till late in the game, worked in industry for a while, came back to school. Couple things to say:

1. You are most likely going to have to take a gap year to bolster your research experience to counter the GPA. I know junior yr is when s*** gets real w/ the major but you're gonna have to kill it as @jesie said. Work w/ friends in your major and use whatever tutoring resources that you have available at your institution. Aim to get to at least 3.5 by the time you finish your degree.

2. You will need passive and active clinical exposure. This means shadowing (~50-75 hrs), volunteering (~70-100 hrs) - try to shadow a good variety of specialties and even some physician scientists if you can.

3. The curtesy publication won't really hold too much wait so don't bank on it being anything more than a line item on your CV. You need a decent amount of sustained research experience where you contributed a significant portion to the progression of the project. This doesn't always (almost never those) result in a publication but you have to be able to speak intelligently on what you gained from the work. I say this all because the PhD (unlike the MD) is an inherently nebulous degree that requires perseverance and self-motivation to get through. The more research experience you have, the more effectively you'll be able to deal with the setback that you will encounter.

4. You have to do well on the MCAT (e.g. 95th+ percentile). Take as much time as necessary to prepare for it.

5. Be reasonable w/ your school list. Some of the top MSTPs may be reaches, but there are decent MD/PhDs (MSTP and non-MSTPs) that you'd be competitive for once you've bolstered your application package. Also remember that you can get involved in research at various parts in your medical training (even if you don't do the dual degree pathway) if your end goal is to become a physician-scientist.

I may be forgetting something but you can PM if you have questions.