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Publications? How to find a good research opportunity?

knope321

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    I will be attending med school next fall straight from undergrad. I've been working at the same lab for 4 years in undergrad (part time in the semester around 5-12 hours a week and 2 full summers) but I didn't get published. For basically 3.5 years, I got on kinda crappy research projects that there was no intention of publishing. Part of the reason I didn't publish the last year is my fault- I was taking way too many hours and the directions in the project were always changing. I couldn't dedicate a full 3 weeks or month to it like I needed to, so I couldn't get it done and basically got kicked off.

    In med school I know I won't have much time to just mess around in the lab. I'm coming in with 0 publications so I really need to get on high yield projects that get me published. I know science doesn't always work out, but it seems like everyone around me has published something. What kinds of opportunities should I look for? What should I be wary of?

    Any help is much appreciated!
     

    HatTricks01

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      I suppose it depends on what med school you're matriculating at, but I can assure you that a large majority of students are coming in with zero publications. Students generally do clinical research as opposed to bench work since bench work takes forever to yield results (if you're even lucky enough to yield publishable results at all).

      In any case, ask around. Advisors, upperclassmen, etc on how you can get involved in research. Find faculty at your school whose work you're interested in and set up meetings. Search them on pubmed to see how frequently they publish if you're worried about getting stuck on projects that go nowhere.
       
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      Anti-PD1

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        Ditto above,

        Found my current mentor via PubMed. Find someone who is productive and supports med students. Do every part of the project you're capable of. Learn statistics on the way. Profit.
         
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        basophilic

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          Look for drier labs; if you have a specialty in mind, you might find some sort of project on bioimaging of the relevant tissues. Dry projects generally have less chances of messing up than on wet ones. Even if you want to stick to wet labs, try to write down protocols in complete detail such that even a 2nd grader can understand, verify it with the PI, and only then carry it out. This really does help in minimizing errors.
          Also, high-impact projects generally require a very large volume of bench work. A lower but decent impact project is more manageable and has higher chance of being first-author.
           
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          Goro

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            Your best time to do research will be summer between 1st and 2nd year. You should have a chance to do a research elective as well. A few med schools (like Yale) require a research project! If you're really good at time mgt, you can find time to do things in the lab.

            Other venues would be data mining, case reports and clinical research.


            I will be attending med school next fall straight from undergrad. I've been working at the same lab for 4 years in undergrad (part time in the semester around 5-12 hours a week and 2 full summers) but I didn't get published. For basically 3.5 years, I got on kinda crappy research projects that there was no intention of publishing. Part of the reason I didn't publish the last year is my fault- I was taking way too many hours and the directions in the project were always changing. I couldn't dedicate a full 3 weeks or month to it like I needed to, so I couldn't get it done and basically got kicked off.

            In med school I know I won't have much time to just mess around in the lab. I'm coming in with 0 publications so I really need to get on high yield projects that get me published. I know science doesn't always work out, but it seems like everyone around me has published something. What kinds of opportunities should I look for? What should I be wary of?

            Any help is much appreciated!
             
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            knope321

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              Ditto above,

              Found my current mentor via PubMed. Find someone who is productive and supports med students. Do every part of the project you're capable of. Learn statistics on the way. Profit.

              Would you recommend learning statistical programs as well (SAS, R, etc)? I've taken basic stats and have run simple t-tests in basic science research, but I haven't done more than that. Thank you so much!
               
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              knope321

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              Feb 18, 2017
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                Look for drier labs; if you have a specialty in mind, you might find some sort of project on bioimaging of the relevant tissues. Dry projects generally have less chances of messing up than on wet ones. Even if you want to stick to wet labs, try to write down protocols in complete detail such that even a 2nd grader can understand, verify it with the PI, and only then carry it out. This really does help in minimizing errors.
                Also, high-impact projects generally require a very large volume of bench work. A lower but decent impact project is more manageable and has higher chance of being first-author.

                Thank you! Would you suggest looking at pathology departments to find "drier" lab work or try to work at clinics?
                 
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                basophilic

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                  Thank you! Would you suggest looking at pathology departments to find "drier" lab work or try to work at clinics?

                  I was thinking of more basic science labs (which from what I hear on here might help more for competitive specialties than would clinical research). I'd expect path labs to be very wet since they're probably pretty heavy on staining, cell bio, biochemical assays, etc. I was thinking more radiology-based labs that do studies of MRI or CT imaging of certain tissues; even labs involving spectroscopy (especially infrared and Raman) of biological tissues or chemical simulations of proteins or even labs related to bioinformatics - I'd expect these to be relatively dry. The reason why I personally like drier labs like these is there's less chance of messing up and you can usually acquire a large amount of data in a short time (key to finding publishable results) when you're taking an MRI or CT scan or infrared image or Raman spectrum of tissue. I've had experience in labs with heavy benchwork as well, and I find it tedious, time-consuming (many cell cultures last days to weeks), and there's a high chance of it not working out (either due to your or colleague's mistakes or due to just cells being unpredictable). This is my experience though; don't let it influence the field of research you'd want to commit to, but keep these practical aspects in mind when you do choose a lab.
                   

                  Anti-PD1

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                    Would you recommend learning statistical programs as well (SAS, R, etc)? I've taken basic stats and have run simple t-tests in basic science research, but I haven't done more than that. Thank you so much!

                    Yes, I like SPSS, they all have strengths and weaknesses. The best way to learn stats is to do it with an actual data set.
                     

                    GonefromTX

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                      I will be attending med school next fall straight from undergrad. I've been working at the same lab for 4 years in undergrad (part time in the semester around 5-12 hours a week and 2 full summers) but I didn't get published. For basically 3.5 years, I got on kinda crappy research projects that there was no intention of publishing. Part of the reason I didn't publish the last year is my fault- I was taking way too many hours and the directions in the project were always changing. I couldn't dedicate a full 3 weeks or month to it like I needed to, so I couldn't get it done and basically got kicked off.

                      In med school I know I won't have much time to just mess around in the lab. I'm coming in with 0 publications so I really need to get on high yield projects that get me published. I know science doesn't always work out, but it seems like everyone around me has published something. What kinds of opportunities should I look for? What should I be wary of?

                      Any help is much appreciated!

                      It seems like clinical research might be what you need. As u have experienced, luck is an important factor in science research. Many of my friends have done a full year's bench without any paper to show for it. In clinical you pretty much always get published if you work with the right people. I talked to the right people and was able to get 4 papers done (accepted for publication) within 3 months. In my limited experience, MD fellows doing full-time research are the best. They don't have any patients and have the time to answer your questions.
                       

                      FutureDoc1088

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                        Would you recommend learning statistical programs as well (SAS, R, etc)? I've taken basic stats and have run simple t-tests in basic science research, but I haven't done more than that. Thank you so much!

                        I agree that doing clinical projects is the easiest way to get published. When setting out to do it, do a literature search first to determine how other studies look at certain variables so you can cite other articles in your methods for how you measured certain things. Doing this ahead of time will save you time and make it a stronger article. It will also impress your mentor when you show them the list of references with articles to back up certain variables (obviously not for easy things like age, sex, etc).

                        SPSS is my recommendation for learning stats. See the YouTube channel below to learn how to use it. During my research fellowship this guy saved me. Make it known to friends that you're willing and able to run stats and that could also get you a few softball pubs (some people say quality over quantity, but quantity matters too in my opinion). You can usually get spss at a discount through your university (mine allowed me to use it on the intranet for free).

                        Also, research is always there for you but you only get one shot st step 1 (if you get 2 shots, that's also not good...).

                        Good luck!

                        how2stats
                         
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                        mcloaf

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                          I agree that doing clinical projects is the easiest way to get published. When setting out to do it, do a literature search first to determine how other studies look at certain variables so you can cite other articles in your methods for how you measured certain things. Doing this ahead of time will save you time and make it a stronger article. It will also impress your mentor when you show them the list of references with articles to back up certain variables (obviously not for easy things like age, sex, etc).

                          SPSS is my recommendation for learning stats. See the YouTube channel below to learn how to use it. During my research fellowship this guy saved me. Make it known to friends that you're willing and able to run stats and that could also get you a few softball pubs (some people say quality over quantity, but quantity matters too in my opinion). You can usually get spss at a discount through your university (mine allowed me to use it on the intranet for free).

                          Also, research is always there for you but you only get one shot st step 1 (if you get 2 shots, that's also not good...).

                          Good luck!

                          how2stats
                          The idea of watching a couple YouTube videos and then marketing yourself as qualified to do statistics for other people's publications strikes me as a little shady.
                           
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                          FutureDoc1088

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                            The idea of watching a couple YouTube videos and then marketing yourself as qualified to do statistics for other people's publications strikes me as a little shady.

                            Obviously this is within reason. Whenever I did that I would show my results and data tables to the department statistician to make sure everything checks out. The YouTube videos are really for you to learn how to use the program. The theory behind the stats is best learned from a textbook. Sometimes people don't have access to statisticians and have to learn how to hustle for themselves. Even something as simple as a Chi squared or Fischer's exact test isn't easily done (to my knowledge) in Excel. So SPSS is a great option and YouTube can show you how to do it.
                             
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                            B_52

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                              The idea of watching a couple YouTube videos and then marketing yourself as qualified to do statistics for other people's publications strikes me as a little shady.
                              Stats once you get the hang of it is really straightforward and just comes down to being proficient with the software. It basically like saying you're proficient in excel. And lets face it I got A's in my undergrad stats and didn't have to really learn anything. I'd say that a person who earnestly says they can run stats probably can or can be taught very quickly
                               
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                              Amygdarya

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                                Stats once you get the hang of it is really straightforward and just comes down to being proficient with the software. It basically like saying you're proficient in excel. And lets face it I got A's in my undergrad stats and didn't have to really learn anything. I'd say that a person who earnestly says they can run stats probably can or can be taught very quickly
                                A classic example of Dunning-Kruger effect. In other words, you don't even know what you don't know.
                                 
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                                failedatlife

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                                  Also, research is always there for you but you only get one shot st step 1 (if you get 2 shots, that's also not good...).

                                  Good luck!

                                  how2stats

                                  This CANNOT be understated. Please LISTEN to this statement. Your Step 1 is like the body/physique. Research is merely like the lingerie (ala the icing on the cake). You don't want to be like me and be a freaking walrus trying to put a nice bra and panties on. A sexy 36D, slim, nice hips is what you want to be, even if that comes at the cost of hideous or (better yet) no lingerie (ala nice sexy Step 1 score with meh research).

                                  Residency applications are like flipping through Tinder. What is going to catch the PD's eye (in a good way). The sexy body (high Step) with mediocre lingerie (or better yet none!) or the hippo wearing some sexy Victoria Secrets bra and panties???? Think about it kid. Think about it long and hard (well not too hard).
                                   
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                                  mcloaf

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                                    Stats once you get the hang of it is really straightforward and just comes down to being proficient with the software. It basically like saying you're proficient in excel. And lets face it I got A's in my undergrad stats and didn't have to really learn anything. I'd say that a person who earnestly says they can run stats probably can or can be taught very quickly

                                    Using statistical software to get p values is easy; understanding the appropriate tests and their interpretation may not be. Unfortunately many students don't seem to know or apparently care about the difference.
                                     
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                                    CavsFan2016

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                                      This CANNOT be understated. Please LISTEN to this statement. Your Step 1 is like the body/physique. Research is merely like the lingerie (ala the icing on the cake). You don't want to be like me and be a freaking walrus trying to put a nice bra and panties on. A sexy 36D, slim, nice hips is what you want to be, even if that comes at the cost of hideous or (better yet) no lingerie (ala nice sexy Step 1 score with meh research).

                                      Residency applications are like flipping through Tinder. What is going to catch the PD's eye (in a good way). The sexy body (high Step) with mediocre lingerie (or better yet none!) or the hippo wearing some sexy Victoria Secrets bra and panties???? Think about it kid. Think about it long and hard (well not too hard).

                                      This was informative yet slightly uncomfortable to read


                                      Sent from my iPhone using SDN mobile
                                       
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                                      FutureDoc1088

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                                        Using statistical software to get p values is easy; understanding the appropriate tests and their interpretation may not be. Unfortunately many students don't seem to know or apparently care about the difference.

                                        I completely agree with you, which is why having statisticians (or PhDs, MPHs) in your department assess your work is a good idea. If you know which test is needed in a given situation then I think running your own stats is okay. And I think learning how to use a program online is a reasonable option if you didn't spend a year getting your MPH.

                                        I will say that learning stats on YouTube seems a whole lot better than what many students do to learn medicine - look on Wikipedia, watch Online MedEd YouTube videos, and the various other shortcuts students take to "learn" medicine. Again, you need to know which test to run for your stats and how to interpret the results.
                                         

                                        mvenus929

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                                          FWIW, I'm a third year resident and still don't have any posters or publications (lots of ongoing projects, and I will have a poster in the next 1-2 months). I still landed a good residency, and am doing plenty fine in it. I'll let you know in December if I managed to land a fellowship.

                                          I agree with the posters above--you're far more likely to get something meaningful and publishable working in clinical research. Talk with some of the faculty and fellows at your school once you've acclimated to the stress of medical school. And do something between first and second year--the vast majority of schools have some sort of summer research program for rising second year students, and if you don't get a publication out of that, you can continue working on it through your remaining time in school, and it will allow you to establish connections for letters for residency applications.

                                          But focus on doing well in your coursework first.
                                           
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                                          B_52

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                                            Using statistical software to get p values is easy; understanding the appropriate tests and their interpretation may not be. Unfortunately many students don't seem to know or apparently care about the difference.
                                            This is true. I suppose in all of my research experience the PI has already decided what sort of statistical analysis they want tested and it has simply been my job to impliment it. The harder part would be knowing all of the appropriate times to use tests, and judging by how many papers out there use stats poorly or are caught handwaving it should probably be taught thouroughly to anyone who wants to stay involved in the academic side of medicine.
                                             

                                            NWwildcat2013

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                                              My attempts have been extremely hit or miss. Some people get lucky and find a supportive mentor who includes them on papers on their first try. Others aren't so lucky and strike out with "mentors" who use medical students, don't follow through with promises, or aren't productive enough to get you published.

                                              I have experienced both. I had a few bad situations from MS1-2, but towards the middle of MS3 I found someone who was really enthusiastic about delegating tasks to me allowing for authorship. It can be awkward if you find yourself stuck with a mentor who isn't productive or uses you, but you basically need to start putting feelers out for a better situation without burning bridges along the way. It can be tricky.
                                               
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                                              knope321

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                                                FWIW, I'm a third year resident and still don't have any posters or publications (lots of ongoing projects, and I will have a poster in the next 1-2 months). I still landed a good residency, and am doing plenty fine in it. I'll let you know in December if I managed to land a fellowship.

                                                I agree with the posters above--you're far more likely to get something meaningful and publishable working in clinical research. Talk with some of the faculty and fellows at your school once you've acclimated to the stress of medical school. And do something between first and second year--the vast majority of schools have some sort of summer research program for rising second year students, and if you don't get a publication out of that, you can continue working on it through your remaining time in school, and it will allow you to establish connections for letters for residency applications.

                                                But focus on doing well in your coursework first.

                                                This is actually really reassuring to read! Thank you for posting! Best of luck with fellowship applications!
                                                 
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