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Rookie In Research. Help!

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Clipse, Aug 7, 2002.

  1. Clipse

    Clipse Member
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    I am currently a sophomore sincerely interested in becoming involved in medically oriented research, in hopes of one day publishing. Is this going to be more difficult because I am not a biology major (thus, no mentor = no connections) and because I don't have any formal laboratory research experience? How should I go about finding/applying to meaningful research positions? By meaningful I mean actually learning and contributing, rather than just washing test-tubes all day. Should I send out numerous letters of interest and resumes before the school year starts or should I apply in person once the school year begins? Do research positions pay and do they pay well? This is especially important to me because I am a federal work-study student and money is definitely an issue. Is there such a thing as a permanent research position? Would I actually be working personally with the PI and is a strong letter of recommendation from them possible? How do medical schools view research positions with the NIH? How difficult is it to attain a research position with the NIH? Do research positions exist for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or any other government agencies?

    Why do medical schools prefer people with research experience that have published? Does being "published" mean being the author/co-author or a paper - or is having your name mentioned in the "thanks to:" section count? How common is it for undergraduates to become published? How long does it typically take to become published? Is becoming published difficult and or time consuming - is it all worth it? Do all researchers publish? If not, how do I find researchers that are likely to? Is it considered unprofessional/greedy to ask a researcher "is it likely that I can eventually become published in this position?" Is it worth doing long-term research even if you do not become published? Are all publications equal in they eyes of medical school admission officers? Do medical school admission committees prefer to see laboratory (test-tube) research or is research in the field of public health considered better/equal/lesser? And finally, what is the best and worst part of being a research assistant?

    WOW:eek: I have a lot of questions - so everyone tell me everything about research. Thanks to everyone who replies!

    I LOVE THIS PLACE!
     
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  3. freakazoid

    freakazoid Guy Friend Extraordinaire
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    Mmmm. Sounds like you're extremely worried. Though I can see why, I don't think this merits all that much worrying (you can do that when you take MCAT :) This is what I did: I am a Bioengineering major, I asked one of my professors if I could do research for him, we went through a small informal interview, and then I did research about differentiating human skin cells into chondrocytes (cartilage regeneration) for a semester. Didn't get published, but it's an experience I was able to include in my post-secondary experiences and was a small part of my personal statement.

    Even though you're not a science major, you still have to take premed classes (and depending on the schools you apply to, maybe upper bio classes as well), so you could try to "get-to-know" the professor if possible, and then inquire about a research position then. (if not for a research position, then for a letter of recommendation) If you don't find success there, you might want to consider taking an upper level science class/laboratory w/ a smaller class size that might allow a more personal experience. Most professors should understand that undergraduates do not come in with a hatful of research experiences . . . I didn't have any when I started out. Good luck!
     
  4. Diogenes

    Diogenes Succat
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    If you have no lab experience (and thus might not know what you are getting into), is there ANY reason you want to do medical research and be published beyond getting into med school?

    If med school admissions is your only reason to be interested in doing research and being published, I would suggest doing other thngs that will improve your chances of getting into med school. Research, and being published, is not a magical free pass to get into med school. It is also not absolutely required.
     
  5. DW

    DW Fix me some sandwiches
    Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    yes, you do have a lot of questions, take a breath man :laugh:

    anyways, its good that you're looking to do something meaningful, and not just trying to pad your resume. Sometimes its a matter of just going to your university research center, finding some people who do some interesting research, and just stop in and ask if they can take on some extra help (what can it hurt?). There are a lot of great undergrad summer research programs that will pay you a decent stipend ( i got 2500 plus a free room and board ), if your school has a decent career center, they should have listings of programs you can apply to.

    Well, publications can vary in merit (I'm "only" in clinical and diagnostic immunology lab journal, so, if someone publishes in AIDS or Nature or something, they trump me considerably) but getting a pub (authorship, not an acknowledgement) as an undergrad is a rare feat and not to be looked down on in any way. Obviously, dont got looking for positions with a demand of getting some authorship, cause you'll be dissappointed, a lot of full time research techs have to wait a few years before they get in on the action.

    whew, i just realized i cant answer all this in one post, so i'm gonna stop here. but, there are some people on this board who can help you. If you want to know more about opportunities at CDC, I've been working there as a student and full timer for 2 years now so feel free to PM me. Some kids (jot, marq_bme?) are NIHers, and lots of other kids here doing cool stuff as well. If you like to do something analytical, enjoy working independently at your own pace, and have a high tolerance for frustration, research might turn out to be a lot of fun for you.
     
  6. jot

    jot

    ok i'll give this ago - anything i miss, others fill in:

    not being a bio major shouldn't be much of a problem if you have a sincere interest, and you have taken at least a couple intro bio classes. i would blanket e-mail as many people that you can, a few will bite, before you goto school. if that doesn't work, go in person, its much harder to say no to a person than to an e-mail.

    i found the best way to get a meaningful research position with relatively little experience (2nd semester freshman year) was volunteering for a semester, then getting paid. i understand that work study puts this option in a different light, but i would at least consider it. usually paid entry positions are dish washing stuff, which i was fortunate enough to by pass. in general, academic labs do not pay much more than min. wage - they don't have enough money to give out, especially to undergrads. industry research labs pay exorbiantly (20-25$/hour at some places), and can be excellent opportuniies - but one usually needs a resume to warrent getting into those programs without connections.

    as far as getting published - this is highly dependent on your project, pi, and other factors, though your perseverence will definately go a long way. being published is a deomnstrated way of contributing new knowledge, and is therefore regarded highly. it is definately, possible to have a meaningful research position and not be published, for the aforementioned factors. this subtler opints are more applicable to md/phd apps, then md. they just like to see research (publishing always helps).

    if you work long enough with someone, and work hard/smart, you can defiantely expect a strong letter from the pi - it will be an asset to you in any endeavour. positions at the nih and cdc are highly regarded, and are possibe to get into through applications, but also through e-mailing individual people to get positions. there are other programs at many universities called urop's, surf's, or howard hughes medical investigator fellowships for the summer.

    doing research as an udnergrad can be both frustrating and extremely exciting - research is a process, and with all things have highs and lows. it can be quite breathtaking to watch somehting you have been working on crystallize into a substantial finding - but not necessarily after watching many things fail. but beware - only do it if you like it, it can be hell if you don't enjoy what you are doing. goodluck - and others will have more to say i'm sure.

    -jot
     
  7. jot

    jot

    marq_bme is - i've spent my summers at merck research labs - which have been excellent opportunities. for example, a fellow that works down the hall from me, ed skolnick on the short list for becoming the head of an nih division. i don't know if you remember a year ago or so the interest in alzheimers in public news ,and articles in nature - that was done in the lab next door (some of it). lots of cool stuff - the research internships are pretty comptitive (fresh and soph interns are almost exclusively from mit,harvard,princeton - i slipped through the cracks), but junior and senior positions are slightly varied. lots of other opportunities though.
    -jot
     
  8. Sonya

    Sonya Senior Member
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    Yeah, just e-mail out your CV to any professor whose work sounds interesting. Considering you're not a science major, maybe let them k now of the science classes you have, or will have. Talk to them (those who respond), about what kindof work you can do. are you work study? I think that means goverment pays part of your stipend.. ri ght? that means the prof pays less? i'm guessing they'd like that.

    Work that is published is good. umm, i guess that means you had a significant role. But, few undergrads do get published.

    Talk to all the profs who are willing, even if they don't have a position. Take interest in what they are doing. I think you'll find it quite interesting just to see all the different research that goes on!
    Sure, lot of research can be "permanent", like for the rest of undergrad.

    AND... YES! definetly, absolutely very definetly advantageous to contact them t hem before the semester. If they say they may have in fall, just keep in contact. They often just takes whoever comes by, so be the f irst! besides, their students left in spring, and they n eed replacements.

    sonya
     
  9. exigente chica

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    Breathe. lol.
    Ok, everyone allready covered all the good stuff:( But I am the queen when it comes to summer internships and Minority programs. If you need any info about a certain school or a program, pm me and I will hook you up;)

    I agree, just talk to your professors, ask to see their lab, show interest.
    Summer internships give you some experience,(not always needed) so when you come back you can tell them that you did research in the summer and would like to conitinue doing some on campus.
    It is very hard to get published. But it can happen. Go to lab with and open mind and you will be fine.

    Good luck:clap:
     

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