Jul 28, 2020
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Hi all,

I'm a recent Cornell grad, and am looking into applying to MD/PhD programs in 2-3 years. I graduated with a biology major and computer science minor (cGPA: 3.6). I've taken most of the premed requirements, including general bio and chemistry, orgo, biochem, genetics, and physics.

I did software engineering internships at Google during all three of my undergraduate summers, and will be starting work there as a software engineer in a couple weeks. I'm new to SDN, but was hoping to get some advice on how to increase my chances for acceptance into a program in the next couple years.

One of my main concerns is that I didn't get the chance to do research during my undergrad. I made several attempts to find research work under professors, but none were really successful. What are some ways to get involved in research after graduation? What are other things I should do in order to make my application more competitive?

Thanks in advance!
 

jjame

2+ Year Member
Jan 7, 2019
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Hey I went to Cornell and I'm pretty confused right now. Were the thoughts of an MD/PhD and doing CS competing in your head? What's your motivation for the MD/PhD/where is that coming from? How many labs did you contact? It can take several 10s of labs until someone takes you. Did you go to the OUB for help? Were your Google summers research-focused or was it different?

Also why is your status medical student?
 
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Jul 28, 2020
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MD/PhD is just one of the options I had been considering. I've also been considering first pursuing Master's programs, post-bacc programs (PREP, IRTA?), research at independent institutions, but am just unsure of which path would be best to identify areas of research interest / boost my application for PhD or MD/PhD programs in the future.

In the long term, I'm interested in applying computational methods to biomedical data in order to better diagnose and treat disease, and my ideal career would involve a combination of laboratory work and computational analysis. I've taken classes in these areas but due to heavier course loads and other time-consuming extracurriculars, I wasn't able to find a research lab in time. My experience (Google summers) has been predominantly in industry thus far.

As for my status, I think I just accidentally selected it when filling out my profile.
 
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jjame

2+ Year Member
Jan 7, 2019
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MD/PhD is just one of the options I had been considering. In the long term, I'm interested in applying computational methods to biomedical data in order to better diagnose and treat disease, and my ideal career would involve a combination of laboratory work and computational analysis. I've taken classes in these areas but due to heavier course loads and other time-consuming extracurriculars, I wasn't able to find a research lab in time. My experience (Google summers) has been predominantly in industry thus far.

As for my status, I think I just accidentally selected it when filling out my profile.

Alright. I think you have great plans, but those can be accomplished with a PhD in your desired field--there are great PhD-only programs at medical schools that will combine your bio and cs knowledge and put you in the spot you're mentioning, "a combination of laboratory work and computational analysis". You're already doing a great job of getting there, and maybe you could apply to those programs sooner than you think (although 2-3 years' work experience at Google is exceptional!).

The next thing that comes up is that given you can do this biomedical and computational work with just the PhD, why do you need the MD? What will the extra training give you? That's what programs are going to ask, because you're spending an additional 4 years of your life learning and learning to practice medicine just for the degree...and should you choose to actively practice as an MD and be able to treat patients (even for a small percentage of your time for your work), you'll also need residency, so now we're stacking on additional years of training.

Basically, you seem ready to take on a PhD that will provide you the exact career you're looking for. No extra training necessary. Hopefully you'll be able to get on some project or side project at Google that brings you closer to this dream.

How would an MD benefit you?
 
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Jul 28, 2020
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Thanks for your response and insights!

I think my interest in the dual degree comes from my desire to be able to apply research. From what I've seen (which is still limited), a lot of PhD research is more abstract and presented as valuable knowledge, but knowledge that's not always applicable in a clinical setting. A career as a physician scientist / medical scientist seems like a better fit to the impact that I'd like to make, where researchers are able to see and treat patients, with the knowledge they gained in their research. However, this is purely based on reading articles online and other people's experiences, and I realize that that perception might be rather idealistic.

Would it be a better idea to initially just pursue a comp bio PhD and delay the decision to include an MD to later on?
 

jjame

2+ Year Member
Jan 7, 2019
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Hmm it's not idealistic, it's just that you haven't been in a lab to see the fruits of PhD-only research being informed by patients and being applied, with proper assistance, to patients xD That's an experience you would probably be interested in before solidifying any plans. You could look up research labs affiliated with medical schools and other research institutions to see what biomedical research is like. A simple internet search would be a nice start--you could even start with our alma mater's med school, Weill Cornell, and check out its affiliated institutions like Rockefeller and Memorial Sloan Kettering. NIH is le big gender-neutral boi of biomedical research and there are tons of other institutions as well (Cold Spring Harbor UwU ily bb, The Salk Institute which totally didn't have a decades-long sexist funding scandal that made it to NYT recently, Scripps, Broad, basically all of Texas, HHMI's campus...the list goes on).

With experience, you'll get a better feel for whether you truly need both degrees or just the PhD. And with the experience you gain, listen to your heart as well.

Perhaps @Lucca @Fencer @Neuronix will be able to provide further insight here.
 
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Jul 28, 2020
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Thanks for sharing the additional advice and interesting read. I had contacted a research professor at CSH and had plans to do a project with him this summer, but that wasn't able to happen due to the virus. :(

My other concern is that I'll be working a full-time job (mostly to save up a bit of money for grad school). Would it be worth looking for volunteer positions in labs on the weekends, or would it be more beneficial to pursue full-time research positions after I quit? Do labs like those at Weill and CSH commonly hire students with just Bachelor degrees? Is it worth looking into post-bacc research programs like PREP?
 

jjame

2+ Year Member
Jan 7, 2019
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553
Thanks for sharing the additional advice and interesting read. I had contacted a research professor at CSH and had plans to do a project with him this summer, but that wasn't able to happen due to the virus. :(

My other concern is that I'll be working a full-time job (mostly to save up a bit of money for grad school). Would it be worth looking for volunteer positions in labs on the weekends, or would it be more beneficial to pursue full-time research positions after I quit? Do labs like those at Weill and CSH commonly hire students with just Bachelor degrees? Is it worth looking into post-bacc research programs like PREP?

Huh I don't know if just going in on weekends will be enough exposure...you really need to immerse yourself in the experience. There's also the MD portion of this which has its own shadowing, clinical volunteering, non-clinical volunteering, LoR, and testing requirements...

In all honesty I think Cornell's HCEC/health careers advisors will be able to help you come up with an actual plan given that you're diverging from a typical premed for now. Even if you're an alumnus there's no problem in contacting them, they'll be happy to eke things out with you and help.
 
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sluox

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It may be easier for you to transition *within* Alphabet instead. It'll be more impressive if you develop some relationship, do some kind of research as a side project from Project Baseline or some other part of Verily or Deepmind that's doing health-related questions, get it published, than drop out of your highly coveted SWE position, work for a generic biomedical informaticist for 30k a year as an RA, then apply, etc.

I suspect this is not difficult if you are entry-level and clearly express your goal of eventually do MD/PhD, and possibly even return to Alphabet after. It also seems logical given your resume.
 
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Thanks for your reply! I hadn't even considered this as an option before, but it does make sense. Do you know of anyone who has done something similar who I could reach out to? I had assumed that a prerequisite to get involved in research with Project Baseline or Verily is a Master's or PhD. I'll be starting work soon, and will definitely be on the lookout for opportunities like this.
 

sluox

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Thanks for your reply! I hadn't even considered this as an option before, but it does make sense. Do you know of anyone who has done something similar who I could reach out to? I had assumed that a prerequisite to get involved in research with Project Baseline or Verily is a Master's or PhD. I'll be starting work soon, and will definitely be on the lookout for opportunities like this.

Ask people you know at Alphabet or use things like Blind might get you more traction.
 

mark-ER

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It may be easier for you to transition *within* Alphabet instead. It'll be more impressive if you develop some relationship, do some kind of research as a side project from Project Baseline or some other part of Verily or Deepmind that's doing health-related questions, get it published, than drop out of your highly coveted SWE position, work for a generic biomedical informaticist for 30k a year as an RA, then apply, etc.

I suspect this is not difficult if you are entry-level and clearly express your goal of eventually do MD/PhD, and possibly even return to Alphabet after. It also seems logical given your resume.
I agree... I knew someone within google whom you can ask. PM me.
 
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Hey OP! I'm in almost the exact shoes as you - graduated in the summer with CS major and bio minor and had industry internships throughout undergrad (Google in junior year) and started working full-time at Google a few months ago. I completed all the pre-reqs in undergrad, also did volunteering and research, looking to apply to MD programs in the next or following cycle. My plan is to pickup a 20% health related project and eventually transition to a health related team.

It's cool to meet someone in a similarly unique situation haha :)
 
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