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NIH IRTA Post-Bacc

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by pancakeman86, Dec 9, 2008.

  1. pancakeman86

    7+ Year Member

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    Hello everyone..

    I was just offered a post-bacc fellowship with the NIH. I am sure many of you know of this program. I would be in the neurological disorder institute doing some molecular imaging stuff. My questions are for people that have done the NIH program or know something about it...

    can you shed some light on the your experience, did you enjoy it ?
    How did your research go ?
    Where you able to publish, what do you think the chances of publish anything while being there are ?
    tips for surviving on a NIH stipend ?
    Housing options?
    Do you feel like it boosted you chances of being accepted in medical school ?

    anything else you want to add.

    I am extremely looking forward to this program I would start March 2009. I have been wanting to do research for a long time, but failed to do much while being an undergrad (well anythng medicine related, I was an Electrical Engineering major) I was hoping to apply to med school next summer, but may put it for for an extra year with the NIH. Any input is much appreciated thanks!
     
    #1 pancakeman86, Dec 9, 2008
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2008
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  3. dk33

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    congrats. the NIH is wonderful and Bethesda is a blast.
    Loved it. I wish I was still there for a multitude of reasons. More later but I am busy at work. My boss was great, I loved my lab, I had a tough commute (lived closer to Baltimore than DC) but was worth every second of the drive.
    ultimately great. some days were frustrating. the project I discussed with my PI at my interview ended up not being what I did at all. Very very far from it. I kindof had two projects-one major one, and then one side one that ended up becoming more major towards the end. it was great. Any specific questions, id be glad to answer. I worked in a nephrology lab and barely used a microscope during my tenure there so....

    yes. One paper and one on the way.
    really depends on your PI more than anything. some arent as big of writers as others. My lab was like turning over a paper about every 2 or 3 weeks at least. IDK if that is the norm or not.
    dont live in Bethesda first and foremost (I didnt live in Bethesda for other reasons, more family considerations, but I hear its like mega expensive. I live in NYC so its not much better but I guess just a tip)

    Uh parents. Sorry. 21K isnt something one can live on with a husband and kid in tow.

    subscribe to the Yahoo club called "clubPCR"
    tehre are ads onthere like every other day - ppl looking for roomates, people leaving the NIH with apartments up for grabs, etc. If youre single, I would think your best bet would be rooming with s/o else @ the NIH, makes commuting much easier, and could be alot of fun. But I was different, I was married and we didnt live nearby.

    unfortunately no. thought it would. but hi here I am this is my second time applying, which is why I am working at a lab back in NY (my husband got a good job in the city so we had to move back). I guess im the wrong person to ask. could be my app is just that crappy to begin with. This is me: http://www.mdapplicants.com/viewprofile.php?myid=16390
    decide for yourself
    more later, Im at work now and rly busy but Id be glad to answer any questions you have.
    I am extremely looking forward to this program I would start March 2009. I have been wanting to do research for a long time, but failed to do much while being an undergrad (well anythng medicine related, I was an Electrical Engineering major) I was hoping to apply to med school next summer, but may put it for for an extra year with the NIH. Any input is much appreciated thanks![/quote]
     
  4. BarefootinDC

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    Congrats on your acceptance into the program! I am currently at the NIH and loving [almost] every second of it! I've only been here for a few months, but the research environment is like none I've ever seen (and I've seen quite a few impressive research facilities).

    I think, ideally, you should be able to publish at least once while you're here. Of course, that depends on how smoothly your research goes, and that's about as variable as the research projects out there. Whether or not it's helping me for med school (as I'm applying now), I'd say it seems to be, but I don't have a super low gpa or mcat score either, so it's hard to separate what's due to what. I know of a TON of kids at really fabulous medical schools that also participated in the program, but that is not to say that it is the program that got them in- unlike an SMP program, a lot of kids don't do it to boost numbers, but for the experience. Plus, unless you're really pulling strings, getting into the program is really difficult, so I think if you can get into this, your chances of med school look pretty good :) What's for sure is they will ask you about your research in medical school interviews, so be prepared to talk about it, a LOT (and if you're not applying to MD/PhD programs, know why).

    I used craigslist to find my housing and I live in the heart of DC. It's SUPER expensive living in DC by the way. I do know of people who can live off the stipend, but it's not uncommon for post-baccs to also work 2nd jobs on the side, especially when they need to pay for secondaries and the costs of interviews.

    Congrats again and feel free to send a message if you have any more specific questions!
     
  5. pazan

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    I'll answer these 2 since I think the previous posters did a good job of answering the others. I've had no problem living on my stipend... my parents pay for my cell phone bill and nothing else (family plans >>>> single plans); though I think I could survive if I had to pay it. You should be able to find housing for $600 or $700 per month including utilities, if you take the time to look. Otherwise, I can get by on about $50/week for food and the rest for "various expenses." We make about $2100/month (before taxes), which is ample for an un-married post-bacc with a taste for happy hours.

    I think this experience has definitely boosted my chances for med school... though I'm applying to mixed MD/PhD and MD-only programs. At my MD/PhD interviews, I felt like the interviewers were impressed with what I was doing (I'm working with an emerging technology) and a few told me about their own experiences at the NIH and how lucky I was to be working here. Obviously, being at the NIH is only one piece of the puzzle; it's not going to get you in on its own, but it can only help you. Assuming you have a 3.5+ and a 33+, this will be icing on the cake.
     
  6. Bibbed

    Bibbed Just call it.
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    I chill out all day reading internet forums (like this one) and watching TV episodes online. Don't really have a project, and I probably do < 2 hours of work each week. Sweet job.

    I applied last year and got no interviews. The only thing different with my app this year is IRTA, and I've already had 5, so I'd say it's definitely helped. I work w/ NCI, btw.
     
  7. pancakeman86

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    Thanks for all your replies. Looks like everyone there had a blast. Right now I am trying to get all their paperwork in. You guys probably went through all this stuff.

    As far as housing goes I was hoping to live in DC near the red line metro. I was hoping socially DC would be much more fun, seeing I am gonna be there for 1-2 years I don't want to be in the boring suburbs, maybe I am wrong ? I don't have kids so I am not worried about those kind of expenses, but my parents are near retirement so I don't want to bother them with more financial burdens, they have paid for enough.

    I am from the outskirts of NYC so I understand how expensive things can be. I have looked on craig's list but unfortunately their all blasted with inauguration rentals and not that many apartments so I may have to wait a bit.

    Anyone know how long it takes from them to give you a turn around on your paperwork. I got the email saying you will be paid this much...bla bla bla. I signed all their forms, made copies of passport, birth certificate, transcript etc...and about to send it in.

    Any idea what this statement of research goals is ? Only thing I have left before I send my package back. I don't really know what I am suppose to write.

    Finally, keep my posted if anyone is still there. Can always use friends at a new place :)
     
    #6 pancakeman86, Dec 10, 2008
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2008
  8. BarefootinDC

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    Weird... I never had to write anything like that. I did the huge bulk of my paperwork after I arrived in DC, less than a month before I actually started, so I would say the turn-around is pretty quick. You can start working and everything even before your fingerprints/background check go through.
     
  9. puddinheadPSU

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    Hi! I'm currently working as a CRTA at the NIH and I think you're making a great decision by joining the program. So far I have learned so much and have had a great experience. If you want to live on the red line, I live across the street from the White Flint stop and it's a lot more affordable than bethesda, yet still close to DC nightlife- I can get just about anywhere in <30 min. Rent + utilities usually costs me about 1200 just to put it into perspective.

    About your paperwork- the packet w/the research goals I filled out once I was here and completed it with the mentor that I was assigned to in my lab. I think you can send everything else in and complete that once you start. Congratulations- I hope you enjoy your time at the NIH! :)
     
  10. pancakeman86

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    Hmm...maybe I will call them and ask if I can do that later. Like I said I have no idea what to write, its not like I have been assigned to a project yet, so I don't know what my goals are right ??? :confused:
     
  11. dk33

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    Try that yahoo group club PCR I just deleted the email they sent out yesterday otherwise I wouldve copied and pasted it here, but I think somoene was looking for a roomate...
    REALLY long. youre going to need a background check as well once you start workign there. youre working for the federal govt so youll deal with alot of bureaucratic BS and you have to go get fingerprinted I think, and lots of stuff like that. does take a while but dont worry about it. you can start working while they are still processing alot of it.

    dont worry so much about it. I would contact your PI and ask him. It usualyl is a paragraph just simply explaining what they want you to be doing and was pretty vague in my case. What I ended up doing was quite different than what I wrote in that statement.
     
  12. pancakeman86

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    Thanks for your reply. I did what most recommended I sent in whatever paperwork I was able to finish and asked about the research goals statement (or if I can put it off for now). Haven't heard back from them yet.

    Anyone do anything outside of research such as community service volunteering. At home I do ems, red cross, etc... Red Cross will easily transfer over to MD/DC chapter so that won't be a big deal. Just wanted to see what other opportunities are out there for community service (shadowing, hospital volunteering, anything worthwhile). I still need to rack up as many community service items as I can.
     
  13. Bibbed

    Bibbed Just call it.
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    Suburban Hospital is literally RIGHT next to the NIH campus. If you're thinking about some volunteering, I'd recommend calling them now because I do think they have a bit of a waitlist for volunteers. Usually a few months or something.
     
  14. SB100

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    I worked with a couple IRTAs this past summer when I was there as an intern in NIDDK. I can't say much about housing/living expenses, but both of them told me that their experiences were very enjoyable and that the director of our unit made a big effort to ensure that something got published before they left.
     
  15. xcrunner01

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    Congrats on the position! I was just offered a position as well, and I'm really excited about it- I've heard nothing but great things.

    As far as housing, a few people have recommended Bethesda. It is expensive, but I've heard that it's a really fun city to live in and it's nice to be close to the NIH and not have such a long commute.

    I have another question, though: I currently volunteer as a Spanish translator at a health clinic, and I LOVE it. I've volunteered at hospitals previously, and I love what I'm doing so much more than the typical hospital volunteering position. Does anyone know of a clinic in the Bethesda/DC area that has these translating services, and if so, do they accept volunteers?

    Thanks for the info!!!
     
  16. Bibbed

    Bibbed Just call it.
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    I, personally, don't know of any specific hospitals/clinics, but this is a suburb of DC. The hispanic population is huge here, so I would venture a guess that it won't be hard to find a place that needs translators. I'd call any of the surrounding hospitals and ask.
     
  17. pancakeman86

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    Congrats to you as well. I am also very excited to go there. I hope to live in DC and commute on the red line. Hopefully it wont be too bad. Just got a few questions for you.

    How did you application process go, did you contact PI's or did you just put your stuff up on the IRTA website ?

    What institute will you be at ? Do you know what your working on ?
    Hows your paperwork going ? Did you get anything in the mail or just the forms in the email ?

    When is your tentative start date ?

    For me I just got the provision and agreement papers by email and some salary info. I was wondering if there is any more stuff or if anything official is provided in the mail or if we have to wait till we get there. It was a pain trying to get a PI everyone was busy, sent out tons of email and no one ever responded. Eventually I got some who liked me engineering and imaging processing with matlab experience so I am extremely happy and excited to go there. The stipend sucks, 25.5k is going to be though to go by, but I will manage somehow.

    Also, let me know if you have any housing info I am still looking around for roommates and places to live.
     
  18. xcrunner01

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    My application process wasn't too bad. Like you, I submitted the app and emailed TONS of PIs...maybe 20 or 30, I don't even know, but it was a lot. I had heard that emailing PIs directly really increases your chance of getting a position, so I essentially emailed every PI whose research I found interesting. I'm going to be working in an immunology lab in the NCI. I really haven't been told what my specific project will be, but when I had a phone interview with the lab chief, he told me about some of the projects in the lab were and that my project would likely be similar. He said he wouldn't know for sure what my exact project would be until a little closer to when I'm going to start, which isn't until June 2009, so I have a while.

    I was just offered the position this week, so I haven't gotten anything in the mail yet, but the secretary said that she was going to send me some forms in the mail to get started on. I have heard from many people that the forms take a while to be processed, but the secretary I talked to was really nice and said that only some of the forms need to be completed before starting and a lot of the forms can still be being processed when you start working.

    I'm in the process of asking around about housing as well. Definitely join the clubpcr email list on yahoo like someone else mentioned. I'll PM you when I get some more information about good places to live.

    Congrats again and good luck to everyone else applying! Anyone can PM me if you have specific questions about the application process.

     
  19. TooMuchResearch

    TooMuchResearch i'm goin' to Kathmandu...
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    I go to a small university so I am able to plan and run my own project. We don't have grad students, and I work in the lab alone...it's pretty much my personal lab space. Do post-baccs participating in the IRTA program typically work in labs with other post-baccs working under a post-doc who is working under a PI? Are post-baccs actually involved in the research, or do they just mix things in tubes all day without thinking? A decent way to answer this question could include what author you were on any pubs that came out of your NIH work.
     
  20. JLC

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    It depends on your experience. I never did a post bach with NIH, but did do an internship and have had a postbach research experience.

    If you've had experience(1-2 years) you'll probably work with a post-doc or a senior researcher. 3-4 years and you probably may have an independent project closely advised by a postdoc or senior researcher
     
  21. beachblonde

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    I've never seen a lab at NIH with more than one IRTA (post-bac) student in it. My lab had one IRTA, two to three post-docs, 3-5 support staff, and of course the PI. IRTA students shouldn't be doing lab tech things, there are people NIH hires specifically for those purposes. Typically with the guidance of both a post-doc and the PI the IRTA will either spearhead their own project or be an integral member of a larger project.

    Some of this will vary lab to lab, with some labs allowing more autonomy than others. This is why it's essential to set expectations ahead of time with your PI.

    My NIH pubs have me being second author, with first being the post-doc. It would be hard to find a lab that's going to let you put your name ahead of the post-doc, unless the project was truly yours and yours alone.
     
  22. diosa428

    diosa428 SDN Angel
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    Yeah experience definitely varies by lab. My lab has 8 IRTAs who all participate in collecting data, but don't really get into analyzing it until their second year, and even then most of the analyzing/writing papers is done by the post-docs.
     
  23. pancakeman86

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    Thanks for everyone's reply so far. They have been very helpful. For people that are/went to the NIH, I was interested in taking some classes on the side will I was there. I have a weak bio background (since I am EE) and wanted to take some upper level bio, particular biochem, molecular bio, and maybe some neurophysiology class since I will be working in the neuroscience section.

    Anyway how much spare time did you guys have while working, was taking classes on the side and mcat studying possible or were you always busy. I heard that the NIH has some FAES program that offers college level classes, will this count for anything ? I mean for AMCAS, will they count these classes or are they gonna be looked as community college classes. I was thinking of taking classes at the university of maryland ($500/credit), but they are too expensive, especially on a post-bacc stipend.
     
  24. beachblonde

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    You have 8 IRTAs? Holy crap, how big is your lab?

    Do you work in one of those pod labs where there's really like 4 groups working as one "unit"?
     
  25. Bibbed

    Bibbed Just call it.
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    A LOT of spare time. My first "semester" @ NIH I took a class at night, which NIH paid for (they pay for 1 class per semester). I could have easily squeezed in a second if I wanted to. That class was actually @ Maryland as well (it was part of their SitE program). NIH had no problem paying for it, so it doesn't have to be an FAES course.

    My lab has 2 IRTAs in it presently, but we had 3 for about a year. Not many of the other labs I know have less than 2 (so it's kind of weird the one person was the lone IRTA). And I'm not in a pod lab.

    And like others have said you can make the experience what you want by telling your PI in the beginning what you expect from the program. Just remember, you're getting paid the same as every other IRTA (pretty much, small difference for certain GPAs). If you want to really dive into research and head up your own project, go for it. Personally, I want to practice medicine, research is only a means to an end for me. I do what people ask of me as best as I can and just chill the rest of the time. I'm pretty much a lab tech. I don't really analyze anything, make any conclusions, or decide what to do next, and I'm fine with that. The experience looks good and I can still discuss what my lab does in plenty of detail. Just decide what you want out of the program. In my lab and some adjoining labs, there are IRTAs who are completely immersed in their research, they live and breathe it, but I've also met plenty of IRTAs who do the same thing I do.
     
  26. BarefootinDC

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    I don't think it's weird for anyone to be a lone post-bacc. Some labs don't have any- I am my lab's first and only post-bacc and my PI is a division head who has had tenure for 10+ years (and I know of many others in similar situations). I think it's more dependent on who wants/has the time to be a mentor.
     
  27. pancakeman86

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    I kind of want a mix of both. I don't want to be sitting around shifting test tubes around all day. But, my stuff is imaging and I was hired assuming that I can write some matlab routines. Its very engineering related, So hopefully I will be somewhat involved.

    But yea I would like to a take a class as well, especially a bio class, cause like i said I don't have a solid bio background which I need to improve if I am going to be accepted to med school. In the future I was hoping to be a mix of both, doing research and practicing together.
     
  28. pancakeman86

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    Several labs and PI's I contacted said they wouldn't even deal with post-baccs. Maybe they have bad experience or rather just hire post-docs. The lab I got chosen for dosen't really have too many post-bacs. I think there is one there right now but he is leaving soon.
     
  29. solar3000

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    this prob has been answered already but, I am barely starting to take pre med courses. Do you have to have all pre med courses completed before you apply?
     
  30. batch5000

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    If I apply by Feb 1st, will I be late in the game?
     
  31. BarefootinDC

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    All they recommend is you have your application in ~6 months prior to when you want to start, but I don't even think it matters. My lab gave me an offer without even knowing if my application was in the database. When you apply, what basically happens is your application gets dumped with everyone else who applied, and if a PI wants a post-bacc, they can search specific fields of interest to find an applicant. As such, it's completely variable when labs will give out offers- I got one in March, another in June, and I knew labs looking for post-baccs in the middle of the summer.

    In short, I don't think you will be at any disadvantage if you apply in February :)
     
  32. diosa428

    diosa428 SDN Angel
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    Nope, just one lab. We're huge though - 8 IRTAs, 4 post-docs, 5 clinicians, 1 doc who does all the clinical stuff with the patients, our PI.. and me (med student).
     
  33. batch5000

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    If you think that is a huge lab, you should check out Susan Lindquist at MIT. She has over 20 post-docs in her lab. She has an administrator with a PhD to write all of the grants! That must be a well funded lab.
     
  34. pancakeman86

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    Just like to add that DO NOT rely on the online application. That system from what I understand is just some sort of formality. Most of the people that have gotten positions, including me, spent a lot of time contacting PI, emailing them, and sending your CV to as many people as you can. Many of the PI's I contacted said that they didn't know how to really use the online system, and they have enough resumes to go through sitting on their desk.

    So, yea there really is no time limit when you want to apply. But contact the labs your interested in advance and let them know your stuff is online and email them your resume. It seems like no one really pays attention to that site.

    Also, I like to to know if anyone else took classes while being a post-bacc. I know bibbed said that they had a lot of down time, how about anyone else. Is it common for post-bacc to take classes ? Do most of you guys have spare time ?
     
  35. BarefootinDC

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    That's what I thought at first too... until I started getting offers from great labs whom I had not contacted, so don't write it off, as some great labs not only know how to use the online system, but use it frequently.

    To answer your question, I am now taking two classes through the FAES- one of them for credit (ie a grade) and the other as an audited class. Every post-bacc that works on my building floor is taking at least one class, whether it be for credit or not, and I think it really shows that you are trying to make the most of your time a the NIH (where else can you not only get paid to do research, but have your lab pay for your classes?).

    Most classes only meet once a week for a couple hours at night, so even though they may be considered "graduate level" courses, they are not super time-intensive. You will always have at least some downtime in lab, as experiments are never instantaneous, and I found free time even in between working, secondaries, and two classes. Hope that helps!
     
  36. pancakeman86

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    Do you know how the FAES classes are viewed by AMCAS. I mean do they get calculated into your uGPA. Like if I take microbio or biochem will they count as BMCP ?
    And are they considered on the level of regular college classes ? Or do med schools view them similar to community college/private/independent classes ? Do they take them academically seriously ?
     
    #35 pancakeman86, Dec 13, 2008
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2008
  37. pancakeman86

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    also do they do summer classes ? I only see spring and fall on their course catalogs.
     
  38. 237999

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    I am interested in applying to NIH IRTA next year and was curious as to how to find the list of PI's to email?
     
  39. SB100

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    Just think about what research areas interest you, find the corresponding Institutes and Centers (ICs) and look through their laboratory directories.
     
  40. dk33

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    They count towards BCPM. I think whether they count as undergrad or graduate depends on the class, and varies from school to school. I was going to take an immunology course (ended up not working out, because the class was on the one day of the week where I usually stayed late for our weekly department "work in progress" meeting), and all of the NY schools I contacted told me it would count as postbac GPA since it was not an undergrad level course.
    I dont know about schools elsewhere, they looked at it like any other school.
     
  41. mmc48

    mmc48 Med School Flunky
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    Anyone know how the IRTA affects state residency? Anyone have problems with state schools after being in Bethesda for a year?
     
  42. silverlion

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    Hey...I didn't think anyone would ever even ask this question!

    Anyway...I am not sure about this either. I'll be applying to med schools and am at NIH as a Postbacc CRTA right now. I was in Washington State and am going for UW.

    I started working two months ago and had sent a lot of documents to the University of Washington to prove state residency. The lady at the office at UW sent me an email asking for employment proof and that is when I had to tell her that I was in Maryland for a while working as a postbacc.

    I however added that I am maintaining all legal ties with the state of washington (Still have a WA drivers license, Permanent address etc.) and the Postbacc position is a temporary position anyway...

    She replied by saying that in that case it shouldnt be a problem but I need to make sure that the position was temporary (which was a weird thing to hear...)

    I am guessing that if you are applying to schools and are worried about the issue of residency then you should call/ write to the school and find out because this could be at the schools discretion at times...
     
  43. pancakeman86

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    Hmm I am little late on this reply but hopefully you can still respond. So the FAES classes count as BCMP taking these classes would alter your AMCAS GPA correct ? AMCAS considers classes taken after graduation still into your overall and science GPA. But, if they are not at the undergraduate level (in your case immunology...was it a grad level class by any chance ?) they won't really change your GPA.

    Does graduate level course work at FAES get credited by graduate program ? (assuming you went Ph.d or MD/PhD route). And my only question/concern are the credibility of these courses ? Are the consider serious on an academic level ? I know many med admission boards frown upon community college/external course work. So how do they view these classes.

    My pre-med adviser at Rutgers recommended the Maryland science in the evening program to do extended coursework, mainly because she never heard of the FAES program so she questioned how medical schools view the integrity of these classes. She said they might just view the class as an "easy A". But obviously she wasn't too sure cause she never heard of FAES. I'm sure you guys who actually attend the NIH program would be able to answer this better.
     
  44. pancakeman86

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    Good point. I am still in the paperwork process so I don't really know. But the office manager I have been in contact with claimed there was no need to change residency to Maryland. But, just have to worry about how you would pay your taxes, since you be a MD employee and be charged MD tax and still have to pay your home-state income taxes. Anyone now how this works ?

    Others on this board claimed they didn't have to change their residency, I mean if you think about it there is no difference that this and going to school out of state for 4 years. I think if they made you change your residency a lot of people would opt not to to go the program.
     
  45. BMEkid09

    BMEkid09 BMEEEEE
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    Hey guys - i was offered a position at NCI starting in July/August 08. Im looking forward to it. Is anyone else going to be at NCI or another NIH lab starting then? Shoot me an email or PM, i'm looking for roomates and other fellows.
     
  46. Heimerfink

    Heimerfink Senior Member
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    Hi, I'm an MS2 now. I did the post bacc program in my year off between college and med school. I thought it was useful for:

    learning more about myself.
    living in a new city for the first time.
    knowing what a normal working person's life is like.
    doing research for the first time.
    flexible schedule.
    published as first author.

    Honestly, it's a pretty easy deal to set up. I thought it was especially good for me because a) I had never done research b) I had never volunteered.

    I was able to both of these in my year off and have a much stronger application to med school. If you're a research pro, it may not be the best use of your time.
     
  47. applicantfailur

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    wow interesting thread. had to stop by to bookmark it here, havent had a chance to read up on this program. just a quick question: how competitive is it to get in? and if u submit your application today, when could you expect to get accepted or rejected and start their program? thanks.
     
  48. slowbutsteady

    slowbutsteady slowbutsteady
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    The official IRTA fellowship is a two year commitment with about a $50,000 stipend. Perhaps yours was an informal internship?
     

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