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Pre-MSTP Post-Bac research options?

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deleted826437


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Hi all,

I am trying to do some research into post-bac programs to do during my gap year leading up to an MSTP application. I know about the NIH IRTA post-bac option but I was wondering if anyone on here knew of any other opportunities. I like the idea of a post-bac over lab tech or research staff because of the mentorship aspect and possibility of continuing taking classes. I am not from an underrepresented group, so that would eliminate a majority of the non-IRTA programs that I have found (PREP).

If you have done the IRTA program, how was your experience? Was it worthwhile?

Thanks for the input!
 
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deleted965487

I applied to four post-bacc programs

Loyola MAMS
BU MAMS
Brown MAMS
Drexel MAMS

These are high risk high reward, but I would recommend if your scGPA is on the average to low side for MD schools. I don’t have any knowledge of NIH IRTA but I would assume it’s getting kind of late to apply since it is January.
 
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deleted826437

@Letsberealhere

Thanks for the reply, I'll definitely look into those! I won't actually be graduating until August, and I have heard that IRTA programs shouldn't be applied to until 6-3 months out. I think I should be okay in that case.
 
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deleted965487

Many times these programs are done on a rolling basis. For BU MAMS the deadline for applying is like June but I was already accepted. BU MAMS has an 85% matriculation rate to medical school and Loyola MAMS has 95% if you get above a 3.5 GPA in the program

For these things you HAVE to apply early and often. Apply in June and you have a VERY little chance of getting in

Also do not apply to just one program, that’s so dangerous


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ClimbsRox

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I don't think OP is looking for standard post-bac programs.

I am not an IRTA (different program), but for all intents and purposes I am. The quality of your IRTA will depend on your lab. I have had a great experience, but others have not. The people I find that have poor experiences tend to be in clinical and behavioral, not basic or translational, labs. I recommend putting an application in sooner rather than later. IIRC you put a general application into the system and then contact PIs you are interested in working with. Most people I know contacted 10-20 before finding a lab that had an opening. If you tell me your research interests, I may be able to direct you to a lab to look at.
 
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getlucky

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I'd suggest looking into an ORISE internship. It's a yearly research participation program at various research institutes (for example I'm currently on an Army base) all over the country. They emphasize it to be a training program so mentoring is very important (my current PI is phenomenal). There's yearly funding to send you to conferences/meetings and for you to take classes for a Masters/Graduate Degree. You also get a stipend (which is more than enough to cover living expenses, etc). I'd never heard of it before but now that I'm in it I'm surprised I hadn't, it's really an incredible program.
 
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nehruhoodies

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NIH IRTA here, a few things:

1. There is definitely still time to apply, but do not wait longer than the next few weeks to submit. Some labs start their recruitment later as you mentioned, but some labs began in december for positions starting next summer. Applying early gives you the broadest range of potential lab matches.
2. As ClimbsRox alluded to, IRTA is variable. I'm in a clinical/behavioral oriented lab and have had a great experience, but some similar positions across the institutes can get bogged down in admin. If you're shooting to be in a lab with patient contact, be sure to ask about: admin responsibilities for IRTAs, day-to-day patient schedule, protected time for research.
3. FAES Graduate School is a pseudo school within NIH that you can take classes through. I know people who have taken a ton of classes to make up for missing requirements before applying. The classes are dirt cheap, and PIs are often willing to cover them for post-bacs.

Having just finished md/phd interviews, IRTA was definitely worthwhile. IRTAs are very overrepresented in the interviewee pool, so I think the program has a good reputation. The research resources are exceptional, there are good opportunities around the NIH Clinical Center for shadowing, and the classes have been great. One thing is that I definitely recommend doing two years, not one. If you do a one-year stint at NIH, you'll likely never really settle in to your position (between apps and interviews), and it'll be tough to get a good letter from a PI or good material for the "Significant Research Experiences" essay. If you stay two years, you'll probably be able to have your NIH experience be a solid cornerstone of your app.

Happy to advise more, lmk.
 
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Purple squid

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I second everything nehruoodies just said. I'm currently an IRTA and almost 50% of the people I have met on the interview trail have also been from the NIH. Like nehruoodies mentioned, I think the program has a reputation among MSTP committees. I am pretty sure you can use the FAES graduate school courses on AMCAS but I'm not entirely certain. If you do choose to apply, try contacting other postbaccs in the labs that you are interested in. I think they can give you the best info into whether it is worthwhile to join that lab or not. Also, if you are interested in neuroscience at all I may be able to point you to a few labs.

Good luck!
 
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PursuingHappy

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I've also met people on the interview trail who work at institutions, hospitals, and biotech companies, such as The Broad, Novartis, Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania, St. Jude's, etc. I'm not sure about the application process for these places, but they are worth looking into.
 
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tilapiaexpress

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I think the right PI can offer a lot of the same opportunities to do rigorous, self-directed research as being an NIH IRTA. Indeed, the person whose job I took wrote a first author plos pathogens paper in their time in the lab despite not being in a special post-bacc program. At our departmental retreat, I was able to present my own project and won an award for my work. Another technician in my department recently published a first author paper in PNAS. The challenge is that PIs want technicians who are going to stick around long enough to see a project to fruition if they are going to own it. Most people are looking for a quick one year or two year stint while they apply. The learning curve is probably a year just to get your head around a project and get it started and going. Most worthwhile projects will take at least another year or two before they're submission ready. And then where are you going to be? a year into your MD-PhD? at the NIH or as a technician, what you should really be looking for is an opportunity to develop skills to succeed as an independent scientist (and okay, add a few things to your AMCAS app). The NIH is not the only place you can have these opportunities. I am not saying the NIH is a bad thing or that these programs are not worthwhile or strong opportunities to grow as a scientist. My partner worked as an IRTA for two years prior to graduate school and was immensely successful. I just want to iterate that they are not the only way to work in a lab and have your own self-directed project. Sometimes the best opportunity for you will not necessarily be that route. A good technician-ship can be an incredibly rich experience that can provide as many great experiences as the NIH. I will leave with several papers, multiple poster opportunities at conferences that were far far away and most importantly I feel well prepared to enter the lab in graduate school and beyond.

Good luck with whatever decision you make. Remember to apply for jobs/NIH/Post-bacc programs early. Many labs will want to fill positions well before the end of spring to have someone ready to start in May or June, when their current trainees leave. I hope you find a place that makes you happy and gives you the preparations you want for the future!
 
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deleted826437

@ClimbsRox @getlucky @nehruhoodies @Purple squid @PursuingHappy @tilapiaexpress

Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. I think I will definitely apply for NIH and some lab tech positions at unis and research centers. Thank you for the suggestions. It seems like I will be putting myself into a bit of a difficult position with my August 2019 graduation, but hopefully being able to stick around for 2 years will help. Working on the IRTA app now and will submit and start emailing PI's this week. For something less structured like a tech job, how do you suggest locating and applying to those jobs? Do they post openings to be filled six months in advance?

Thanks again.
 
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