No research experience. How big of a disadvantage is this (incoming M1)?

CharlieBillings

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Jan 11, 2015
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My MD school does have significant research funding. However, I have literally zero experience and I'm wondering how unattractive this will make me to researching professors when I look for a position in their lab. I have read scientific papers, and made efforts to understand them in undergrad as part of my major. Overall I am not confident in my understanding of how research is conducted, and how papers are written and edited (and least in the sense of jumping into a research lab at a medical school).

Is there anything I can do to improve myself? I feel like this is a catch-22 scenario where you need research experience in order to be qualified to get research experience.

If it matters: currently not interested in any ultra competitive specialty like derm/ortho/plastics/etc, but am interested in what I believe are mid-competitive specialties like DR/EM.
 
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eteshoe

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It won't really be detrimental. Everyone starts somewhere and most PIs who would take on med students typically expect hard work but understand if you're inexperienced. This expectation would be very different if you were an MD/PhD or just PhD student.
 

meurotic

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It's easy. Nod your head yes to everything that's asked of you, try to ask engaging questions, and stay out of the PI's way as much as possible. Other med students or residents working in the same lab or team will fill you in on anything you're not sure about. Just don't bother the PI.
 

aSagacious

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The overwhelming majority of med students participate in "chart review" projects. That is, they come up with a bunch of outcomes of interest and potentially-related clinical variables, then dig through patients' charts to gather those data. Then, you'll usually outsource data analysis to a collaborating statistician (or post-doc, etc).

Another popular choice is writing up a case report, though these are 1) difficult to get published and 2) arguably the least valued type of publication. This typically entails describing the patient's presentation, clinical course, and then writing a brief review on a related (and usually esoteric) topic.

As you might imagine, undergrads would probably not have participated in projects like these, so their prior research experience does not make them significantly more useful to a PI. Of course there are students with extensive research experience who carry on more substantial projects during med school, but they are a small minority.

Lastly, in my experience, most MD's are actually terrible researchers so be prepared to be the proactive member of the team. In fact, I would recommend choosing a PI who collaborates with PhDs and/or grad students, as you'll then have team members whose livelihoods depend upon research productivity.
 

sammiesings

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Aug 21, 2014
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I think its more that having research experience is a bonus and makes you more attractive to a PI but not having any is kind of on par with the average student.

Even if you have research experience, its really only an advantage if you have experience creating protocols and writing, otherwise, most people with "research experience" are just as useful as those without any.

Don't worry about it- everyone's gotta start somewhere! Go in, learn as much as you can and work hard!!
 

zurc2014

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Sep 25, 2014
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My MD school does have significant research funding. However, I have literally zero experience and I'm wondering how unattractive this will make me to researching professors when I look for a position in their lab. I have read scientific papers, and made efforts to understand them in undergrad as part of my major. Overall I am not confident in my understanding of how research is conducted, and how papers are written and edited (and least in the sense of jumping into a research lab at a medical school).

Is there anything I can do to improve myself? I feel like this is a catch-22 scenario where you need research experience in order to be qualified to get research experience.

If it matters: currently not interested in any ultra competitive specialty like derm/ortho/plastics/etc, but am interested in what I believe are mid-competitive specialties like DR/EM.
You're in medical school...you will have no problems getting in a lab.
 

Vain Brother

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May 4, 2013
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it's not a disadvantage at all. in fact, don't even think about it. spend your first two years getting good grades
 

xClashx

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Nov 23, 2013
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I had none but i was willing to work for it. I went to a prof who was cranking out papers. Spent first year winter break, summer break and second year winter break in lab. Ended up with 2 publications and a scholarship. It was a time commitment because it was all bench work. You get what you put in, and so it really depends on what you want to do.
 
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CharlieBillings

CharlieBillings

2+ Year Member
Jan 11, 2015
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Medical Student
it's not a disadvantage at all. in fact, don't even think about it. spend your first two years getting good grades
Well I've heard that I'll have less time in M3/M4 so it's better to do research in M1/M1-summer/M2... But definitely will start off with only studying to get my bearings.