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Research Project Went Belly-Up, Please Advise

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Silmaril, Jan 11, 2019.

  1. Silmaril

    Silmaril I always have a plan.
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    Warning: Long post ahead.

    Background: I am currently in the cycle. I have acceptances.

    My problem is that I worked for over a year trying to put a meta-analysis together (which I have never done before), put it on my AMCAS/AACOMAS because it was well in progress, but then was low-key dumped/ghosted by my research mentor.

    In fall 2017 I applied for an undergraduate research position at my university (where I was completing prerequisites) working in cardio-oncology research. I was interviewed and selected by the PhD in charge of the project.

    She gave me a general subject to research and write about (that I would have to further narrow down for the paper). When pressed, she wouldn't give me any deadlines except to say that I can finish it when I want to, but not to take too long so that others wouldn't publish before me. She said she would help me with statistical analysis. No advice as to how to determine the quality or relevance of papers and trials I would find, only that I would need at least 10 of them. No advice on narrowing my subject down. Yes, I did ask several times!

    Knowing next to nothing about cardio-oncology, I launched into finding studies and papers for the project. I met with her occasionally and communicated via email with her. I wrote a small paper (7-8 pages) that summarized what I had learned thus far to show that I understand the underlying basic science principles and emailed it to her. She did not email me back. I emailed her again, and she said we should meet again.

    At the meeting, she said that she wanted me to help with clinical research at a local academic medicine/research hospital that was beginning in summer 2018. I demonstrated enthusiasm, and went home. I had already found a bunch of papers for the meta-analysis, but she wanted me to do something different now. When the time came, I emailed her about the clinical research. She emailed back that it was a failure to launch and that I should write a meta-analysis...and then she changed the subject of my paper!

    Everything I had found previously was useless.

    I found more papers and trials on this new subject, and have emailed her several times. No reply. I went to her lab without an appointment and left an in-person message with her graduate research assistants. Still haven't heard back.

    She was a lovely person, and very encouraging. However, I never felt comfortable with the fact that she couldn't help me narrow down my subject, and wouldn't give me a deadline. I feel that although I may have made some mistakes and was a bit of a failure-to-launch myself, she perhaps had too much on her plate and couldn't give me the support I needed to finish a project that required intimate knowledge in a very complicated area of medicine. I honestly don't know where to start with this deluge of information on preventing cardiac events after receiving oncological therapies.

    I am not complaining so much as asking whether I should make another stab at contacting her, or whether I should jump ship and search for another opportunity. Do I need another opportunity?

    I have finished all my classes and am no longer on campus. My advisor told me that research projects don't work out sometimes. At interviews (when asked!) I have felt compelled to at least describe everything I have learned while researching the project. I haven't stated that the project is a failure, partly out of shame and partly because I still had feeble hope that it would work out.

    I just feel terrible that I put the meta-analysis on my med school applications, and then nothing came of it!

    Should I update medical schools that the project has been stopped?


    Sorry about the long post. Brevity is not my strong suit.

    TL;DR: DOA research project that I put on my AMCAS and AACOMAS. Please advise.
     
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    #1 Silmaril, Jan 11, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019 at 5:24 PM
  2. beeboops

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    Don’t update medical schools. From your description, this seems more like your PI’s fault than yours, but you don’t want to plant a seed of doubt in adcoms’ minds. It is highly unlikely you would have an acceptance rescinded because you didn’t complete an project you anticipated completing, but it’s not something that you would necessarily want to bring up voluntarily with med schools.

    It’s up to you how you want to frame it should you have any more interviews coming up. I think your idea of talking about what you’ve learned from it is good, and if you wanted to say that the clinical trial failed to launch to explain why there’s no deeper involvement than the meta-analysis, that would be fine too as this was entirely out of your control. I would leave out how your PI was unsupportive as it appears that you’re placing blame on them.
     
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  3. OP
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    Silmaril

    Silmaril I always have a plan.
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    Thank you for the feedback, advice, and validation. I certainly don't want ADCOMs to think that I am blaming my PI; I am simply disappointed. I also discuss with interviewers issues like data recording differences between studies, which is an issue that appears in many projects. I like the idea of saying there was no deeper involvement than the meta-analysis, especially since I did many literature searches for it. Congrats on your acceptances and good luck for the rest of the cycle.
     
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  4. jarednogeek

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    I didn’t read all of this but seems you’re making something out of nothing. Just relax. You’re fine
     
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  5. Matthew9Thirtyfive

    Matthew9Thirtyfive Class of 2023!
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    It sounds like the PI liked you and took you on but didn’t really know what to do with you and wasn’t very organized. Not your fault. If asked about it, just say the project ended up not getting off the ground before you graduated and say what you learned while involved. No big deal.
     
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  6. aldol16

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    No need to update - research doesn't always pan out and it's okay. Now, if you said "published in Nature" and then there's no publication, then that's an issue. But if you just listed it as a research project, it's fine. It's more about having the experience of going through the scientific method and process rather than having a publication.

    In terms of your project(s), it would be inappropriate for a PI to ask you to do a meta-analysis knowing that you have no experience in the field without giving you some sort of support in the form of pairing you with a resident, fellow, etc. or at least pointing you to resources. Usually, the library at your school will have librarians who can consult with you about methodology and how to do a meta-analysis properly. There are published guidelines out there and many journals nowadays require you to explicitly follow one of those guidelines (or justify why you didn't). There is an established methodology to doing meta-analyses (and software) so you shouldn't just be doing searches blindly. It should be in a systematic manner because you have to be comprehensive in your search.
     
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    Silmaril

    Silmaril I always have a plan.
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    Thanks for pointing this out and explaining the process when a research project goes well. I have never worked with a PI before, so I didn't know for sure whether the fizzle-out was my responsibility. I am relieved I don't have to update schools. Also, I had no idea about the methodologies involved. She pointed me to Pubmed and suggested I use evernote for my bibliography.
     
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  8. aldol16

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    People have software to keep track of which papers are screened, etc. PubMed is a good place to start and you can build pretty good searches using MESH terms. But people will typically search more than one database to make sure that they are comprehensive - you'll see this in the methodologies section of other meta-analyses where people list out where they have searched.
     
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  9. mmmcdowe

    mmmcdowe Duke of minimal vowels
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    To clarify how did you put it on your application? If you put it down as submitted or accepted to a journal then that puts you at risk and O would at the very least inform the schools that accepted you of this error. If you just wrote manuscript in preparation then you are fine.

    Sounds like you have one or possibly two manuscripts drafted. I would find a md at your school that you intend go attend and email them? asking if they thought either manuscript had value to publish.
     
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  10. OP
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    Silmaril

    Silmaril I always have a plan.
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    No, I did not put it as "submitted" on AMCAS/AACOMAS. I stated that it was "in progress" and then described its subject.

    I have one small paper drafted. It was mostly a summarization citing the trials and reviews I read on the my understanding of the biochemistry & basic science involved in the subject assigned to me. I merely did research for the second paper. Thank you for the suggestion, I will consider bringing it to a physician at the school I attend for resuscitation and publication.
     
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