Research in the Same Lab as Undergrad

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10+ Year Member
Jan 15, 2011
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Hello all,

I am a senior en route to get a BS/MS at Yale. I have been in the same lab since the fall of my freshman year, including summers, funded by several fellowships. I've been fortunate to work in a great lab and have a great mentor starting out (in my time here, he went from being a postdoc in the lab to an assistant professor) and got very, very lucky; I have two first author publications in PNAS, two co-authored papers, and hopefully, I'll have another first author paper by the time I graduate. I did well on the MCATs (38+)/have a good GPA (3.9+)/reasonable leadership/clinical experience, but by far, research has been my biggest time commitment.

I applied MSTP to Yale. If I manage to get in and continue in the same lab, do you think I could graduate in 4-5 years? I know people who go through PhD programs with only 2 first author publications while I know others who have upwards of 10-15, so I wasn't sure how rigid the cutoff for a thesis was. Thank you!

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Graduation requirements will be program-specific. You should talk to the MD/PhD program director, the director of the PhD program that you will join, and your PI.

No, I don't think you could graduate in 4-5 years. If you go in with this expectation, you will be disappointed. 6 is a possibility. It will ultimately depend when you mentor thinks you are ready and whether your committee agrees. I doubt they would let you out with 2 years of PhD work, although 3 years is reasonable (6 years total, I believe at Yale).

You don't win a special prize for finishing early, and with your experience 7 years could be almost a 'sure-thing' if you pick your advisor carefully at other programs/with a different advisor at Yale. If you choose the same advisor, make it your decision, not pressure from your PI because he wants to keep you.
I would assume that they would make you do at least one or two additional rotations to make sure that you aren't going into your research narrow-mindedly. Just as an aside, your stats are nothing short of amazing, and I don't think you'll have any trouble getting into the MSTP of your choice.
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They generally are not just going to let you walk away with your MS work as a substantial part of your PhD. Depending on the PI or MSTP director, they may force you to start a whole new project. There is no rigid cut off for MSTPs, but generally it's time served and/or some minimum number of publications during the PhD. It's more like, have you suffered enough... If you're looking to graduate in 6 you better have darn good standalone data. If you're looking to graduate in 9, they might just let you go out of pity with little or nothing.

I've seen a few people start with this "well I can finish in 6 years because I'm still working in my undergrad lab" mentality and end up taking 8 years. There's no such thing as a free PhD.
See two comments below
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Congratulations on what you have accomplished thus far. It is a very strong resume that will serve you well in any MSTP.

If you are staying and getting admitted to the Yale MSTP, you must talk to the Program Director (PD). I don't think that they will let you walk out of a full PhD part. As PD myself, I wouldn't. The minimum that you will be able to do is 3 yr PhD with 1 first-author publication of "new" work, but I will advise you to broaden your experience to another lab. You might short-change yourself by what you are proposing.
Congrats! Your stats are amazing. You will be fine. But I am confused, isn't this you as well (See below):

[Hi all,

I am planning to apply as early as soon as possible in early June =) A NJ Resident

cGPA: 3.94
BCPM: 3.91

College/Degree: Princeton, Economics

cGPA and sGPA: both 3.94

MCAT: 39R - 14PS 12VR 13BS WS = R


-3 years same lab, 1 publication (4th author Nature), 1 2nd author in a low-level journal in high school if that counts for anything, misc. posters, presentations, etc.
-MCAT tutor 1 year
-TA 2 semesters
-Shadowing ~100 hours
-EMT 3yr ~1000 hr (required 40hrs/mo minimum)
-Hospital volunteer 2yr 200hours
-School newspaper 2yr section editor 1yr
-Study abroad 1 semester
-Church Youth Group, volunteered at various places, set up events

I know my stats are competitive, but I have minimal leadership and since my schools are very top heavy, as you all say 'they want to train future leaders of medicine'. Is there anything else you could recommend I do for leadership? As a NJ resident, are there any 'safety' schools I can add?

I saw this leadership 'level' list catalystik posted. I've been spending a while trying to find it, but can't. It divided up leadership into various levels and gave examples. If anyone knows what I am talking about and can post it, that'd be a big help!

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Washington U