NIH Summer Intership Program or the Post-Bac IRTA Program?

reese07

10+ Year Member
Feb 4, 2007
516
18
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Pre-Medical
I'm a senior with only have 1.5 years of molec/cell research done and I have not done anything significant for my PI to give me an honest great recommendation of my contributions to the research other than doing what everyone else did (I started research just because but ended realizing that I enjoy it just this semester). I recently decided to do an MD/PhD but I know I need a stronger research background but I'm scared I'll end up wasting alot of my years with a gap years. So, would it be good enough to do a summer internship at the NIH this summer and then apply in late June or August of the same summer? Or would the year long IRTA post bacc program and it's benefits be great enough to offset the amount of time I take before applying to MD/PhD programs? It depresses me that I will be 24 years old and just then applying to medical school :(
 

mystifire

10+ Year Member
Jan 27, 2007
135
26
Status
Medical Student
For MSTP qualifications, research is not a threshold quantitative trait where you need to have it for a certain amount of time and you are good. It's quality over quantity, although some programs do have bare minimums. Nonetheless.. some people can achieve that quality in 1.5 years and get accepted to MSTP. But it is case by case.

You have been doing research in one lab for a while now (1.5 years is significant; should you apply to MSTP you will almost need to have a LOR from that PI) and now know that you like it. But how do you know you want to do MSTP, let alone a PhD for that matter? You need to draw on your research experience to answer that questions along with a plethora of specific questions on your research in your interviews in order to prove yourself.

If your experience so far has not been enough and you need to move on to get quality research in a new lab then you need to stay there for a while... a year at least... to make a real impact and actually get something out of it. I think the year-long IRTA option is best by far. SIP is not long enough or intensive enough to get you what you need for your interviews, although you could get a good LOR from it. (PS good luck finding a PI who only wants you for a year.... most only take 2 year commitments).

Also, this anxiety over gap years is ridiculous. Tons of people entering med school nowadays are 24/25. Some need that extra time to do fun things they want to do before committing to med or professional school or to gain qualifications like research. You do not need more than 1/2 years of quality research to get into MSTP. The advantage of doing them after college is you can make it your number 1 priority and not have to balance time with coursework. You will get MUCH more out of your time devoted to research this way. Apply when you are ready, not as early as possible and then risk messing up the process and wasting money. If you are serious about doing MSTP, residency, and the works you should know you will be in school a LOONG time.. 1 or 2 extra years isn't much longer in the long run. This is supposed to be the one thing you want to do, right? Then do it right.
 

bd4727

10+ Year Member
Jul 17, 2008
361
26
USA
Status
Attending Physician
1.5 years of research is certainly adequate t for acceptance, depending on the quality of that time. You need to evaluate if you will have good LORs, and that you actually spent time doing valuable research (not just running other people's stuff) so that you could get a proper impression of the research life.

Do not think that you have to put in some fixed number of years of research. It is quality not quantity (although the quantity needs to be about 1yr minimum in my experience).
 
Nov 29, 2010
22
0
Michigan
Status
MD/PhD Student
Wait, if you're a senior, then shouldn't you have already applied if you don't want to take a gap year? If you apply for the June 2011 cycle you'll have a year to spare for research anyway (unless I'm misunderstanding something).

I'm planning on reapplying in June (not late this time D: ) if I don't get into a MSTP this year. I'm trying to get a one year post-bac at the NIH too, so that I can get some experience directly related to the field I'm interested in going into.
 
Nov 4, 2010
17
0
Status
Pre-Medical
I finished undergrad in May of this year, and started a postbac at NIH on the first day of June. However, since I only wanted to take one year in between undergrad and med school, I submitted my AMCAS in mid-June. So... I faced a similar dilemma because when I was submitting my AMCAS, I felt like I had virtually none of the postbac research under my belt, even though I will have finished almost a year by the time this application cycle is over.

My solution for this was to: 1) study up on my research really intensely as soon as I got to my lab so I could sound knowledgeable on the AMCAS app, 2) make sure to emphasize the progress I had made on my projects when I filled out secondaries in August/Septemeber, and 3) I asked my PI to write a recommendation for me a few weeks ago (rather than earlier when I hadn't accomplished much) so I could send it as an update to schools.

This seemed to work all right. I have one MD/PhD acceptance so far, and I've got 5 interviews. So, if you're worried about wasting a year in a postbac program that will go unnoticed or having to complete an entire postbac year before applying, I'd say you shouldn't be too concerned. My impression has been that as long as you communicate clearly to the schools that you are doing a year of research and keep them posted on your progress, they don't need to see a whole year before you apply. Feel free to PM me about my experience in the NIH postbac program if you're interested.
 

Sinclaire

7+ Year Member
Feb 17, 2010
55
5
Status
Medical Student
I finished undergrad in May of this year, and started a postbac at NIH on the first day of June. However, since I only wanted to take one year in between undergrad and med school, I submitted my AMCAS in mid-June. So... I faced a similar dilemma because when I was submitting my AMCAS, I felt like I had virtually none of the postbac research under my belt, even though I will have finished almost a year by the time this application cycle is over.

My solution for this was to: 1) study up on my research really intensely as soon as I got to my lab so I could sound knowledgeable on the AMCAS app, 2) make sure to emphasize the progress I had made on my projects when I filled out secondaries in August/Septemeber, and 3) I asked my PI to write a recommendation for me a few weeks ago (rather than earlier when I hadn't accomplished much) so I could send it as an update to schools.

This seemed to work all right. I have one MD/PhD acceptance so far, and I've got 5 interviews. So, if you're worried about wasting a year in a postbac program that will go unnoticed or having to complete an entire postbac year before applying, I'd say you shouldn't be too concerned. My impression has been that as long as you communicate clearly to the schools that you are doing a year of research and keep them posted on your progress, they don't need to see a whole year before you apply. Feel free to PM me about my experience in the NIH postbac program if you're interested.

I am in a similar boat now as you were here. I graduated in August, but now am applying to both NIH Academy and IRTA postbacs. i was trying to figure out how to best send information about my NIH stuff during the gap year if I get in and you basically summed up a good plan.

By the way, do you know any PIs who tend to participate in NIH academy? I asked the director about how to look for some, but she basically told me that they just ask around each year for available PIs.
 

bd4727

10+ Year Member
Jul 17, 2008
361
26
USA
Status
Attending Physician
I am in a similar boat now as you were here. I graduated in August, but now am applying to both NIH Academy and IRTA postbacs. i was trying to figure out how to best send information about my NIH stuff during the gap year if I get in and you basically summed up a good plan.

By the way, do you know any PIs who tend to participate in NIH academy? I asked the director about how to look for some, but she basically told me that they just ask around each year for available PIs.
NIH Academy works independently from the IRTA program. Unless things have changed from when I was in it, they solict PI's ahead of time who will take students for the coming year. Then they accept a group of students, and those students have to choose from the PIs that they have already pre-selected for the year. They seemed to get a broad range of PIs.
 

satellite8

10+ Year Member
Jan 31, 2008
72
2
Status
Medical Student
Does anyone know when notifications for the NIH Academy (acceptances/rejections) go out?
 
Oct 23, 2011
4
0
Status
Pre-Medical
Hello all. I have been looking for NIH postbac position since April 2011 but haven't been lUck to find one. If you know of any openings let me know. My email is [email protected]
Thanks
 

SBR249

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Mar 23, 2009
777
177
Status
MD/PhD Student
There was actually a posting for a postbac position the other day on the NIH IRTA/CRTA listserv. I've forwarded it to you.