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What's clinical research like compared to wet-lab research?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by bozz, Jun 2, 2008.

  1. bozz

    bozz 2+ Year Member

    Nov 15, 2007
    It sounds a loooot more interesting than basic wet lab research and I'm looking forward to get involved in it in med. school. Anyone have experience with both and can comment?

    Any fundamental skills you gained from basic research that helps with clinical research?
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  3. funkydrmonkey

    funkydrmonkey They Call Me Dr. Funkmonk 7+ Year Member

    May 10, 2007
    In the Frozen Tundra
    Isn't clinical research just boring statistical analysis:confused:

    Correct me if I am wrong.
  4. ButImLETired

    ButImLETired Prodigal member Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

    May 27, 2008
    the hospital
    hSDN Member
    I haven't done a whole lot of wet lab research, but I've been working as a clinical research coordinator for about a year now, and I like it! The two are SO different. In lab research you're really disconnected from the project, I feel. You're doing a lot of repetitive, small things that may or may not apply to a bigger picture, and there's a lot of busywork. The beauty of it, of course, is that it's very hands-on, which can be fun.

    Clinical research is a totally different ballgame. You have direct control over the outcome of the study- you gotta follow the rules of the sponsor (essentially, whoever pays for the study, whether it's a pharmaceutical company or NIH), the IRB of the university you're doing it at (Stanford IRB= HELL) and whoever else has a say in the study. As a coordinator, it was my job to present this new clinical trial to the IRB, train the rest of the staff on what to do, phone-screen patients, work around their schedules, meet with them, talk to them, run various psychological tests for them...basically, you're a jack of all trades. It's rarely ever boring, but it's also pretty tiring cause people are EXHAUSTING, and trying to make them follow the protocol can be pretty tiring. But we're gonna be doctors, right? It's probably a good time to start getting used to having people depend on you...

    All in all, I like clinical research better, and I'm sure a lot of people will disagree. Having people trust your judgment and patients actually look at you like you know what you're talking about is extremely exciting and humbling. It has the "immediate gratification", "I'm actually helping someone!" feeling.

    As for a skill that helps the transition, I think it's all about being EXTREMELY precise and honest in your data. Wet lab research depends on you to keep meticulous records, and clinical research definitely benefits from that attention to detail as well. It's much harder to be precise when you're dealing with people, but it really helps data collection and statistical analysis. Ok, I hope that answers your questions!
  5. MossPoh

    MossPoh Textures intrigue me 7+ Year Member

    Apr 24, 2006
    Tally/Willkillya County
    It all depends on what you like. I despise labs and I don't mind clinical-esque type stuff. It gives me a lot more freedom. It is a fair amount of statistics stuff, but a lot of research is. I guess the research I was involved in is kind of halfway inbetween. We did eyetracking and what not (more of the psychology side of things). I think you should go with what you stand. Nobody wants to work with a person that is miserable and doing it to pad their resume. Find someone that does clinical stuff and try it out for a bit. You'll probably end up spending a lot of time in excel.

    Fundamental skills? Depends on the person as well... Some people learn a great deal from research. Others are monkeys that clean glassware all day while the big boys go and do the real stuff. There is such a range of responsibility with research...just learning the processes involved is half the battle.
  6. LikeClockWork

    LikeClockWork Guest

    Jul 23, 2007
    I've done both, though clearly not as in depth as LET has.

    My wet lab research was in a three person lab (1 PI and 2 RAs) and it was kinda cool. The days were very routine. Show up, prep work, start assay, lunch, tabulate results, graph, go home, repeat tomorrow. It was interesting and there were some days that the routine would get shaken up a little bit, but I couldn't do it forever. One summer was enough thankyouverymuch.

    I'm currently doing clinical research and it's very different. It's still a small lab (1 PI and me) and I'm in charge of a lot more. I have to recruit subjects, do phone screens, interview, present and all that in addition to keeping track of the finance stuff. If I were only in charge of the research aspect and not the office work, it would be much less work, but the other people I've talked to say RAs typically pull double duty like that.

    The biggest difference, IMO, is that the research is much less routine. Just today both of my subjects cancelled on me, so I was left with nothing to do but sit in the lab and answer phones. Tomorrow I have 2 full day sessions plus 2 screens (read: very stacked day). Were it a wet lab, I would've spaced this out over two days, but since I'm a slave to the subject's schedules, I get one slow day and one busy day. Meh.

    Oh yeah, and there is a whole lot more paperwork when dealing with human subjects. I mean, ridiculously more paperwork that I (and the researchers) have to do than in my other lab.

    Overall though, I'd take the clinical work anyday. At least I get to meet interesting people and actually talk to them during the day. When I talked to my samples in the wet lab it just felt wierd. :D
  7. Ariadne

    Ariadne 2+ Year Member

    Sep 6, 2007
    Although I'm not a med student (yet, hopefully) so I don't know what the experience is like there, I've worked in clinical research for the past three years through two different medical schools. The first was in an outpatient clinic, the second is in an ED/Trauma center. I'm also involved in undergrad 'wet-lab' type research with one of my professors. Both have their benefits.

    A day in the lab encompasses eyes eternally glued to a microscope and fingers permanently stained blue from unending amounts of hematoxylin. A day in the ED means dealing with cranky nurses, patients who really don't want to answer my questions (which, frankly, I can't blame them for ... even I wouldn't want to answer the survey questions), and a pager that just loves to go off during my lunch break.

    I love clinical research because it's really educational and a great experience; talking to patients and staff and working in the unit had been invaluable to me in deciding to go into medicine. Also, I think it's easier to see the impact that your work has on actual people. The first clinical research job I had dealt with tobacco cessation, the work I did with people there is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

    That said, I love lab research because it's more varied, I get to do bench work, lit searches, write papers, etc., etc.... And at my level, there is also more active involvement and opportunity to do my own little side projects (as opposed to clinical research which is much more regimented due to the constrain of IRB approval). I also love the feeling I get where the research we're doing is a giant puzzle that we're slowly picking away at.

    From my experiences, the skills I've gained through CR have been much more 'soft skill-based' (i.e. people skills, communication, leadership, etc.), where as everyday in the lab is a reinforcement of the good old scientific method. In addition, of course, to the skills that come with being alone in the lab a midnight with your lab partner just having spilled XYZ chemical going, "****, what do we do, what do we do!!!!" Good times... :oops:

    For me, both are rewarding, but in the end I guess it really depends on what type of person you are and what you enjoy doing.
  8. ButImLETired

    ButImLETired Prodigal member Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

    May 27, 2008
    the hospital
    hSDN Member
    I definitely agree with likeclockwork, people can either be extremely frustrating or really amusing. We were testing a drug recently, the active ingredient of which is a REALLY strong sedative (a date rape drug, actually). I got to deal with drug seekers who wanted to use it for fun and nice little old ladies who were high as a kite on it. It definitely kept me on my toes to make sure all the patients were ok and taking it as directed, but it was also pretty fun/interesting to see the weird side effects people were experiencing (some guy came to the clinic from the east coast and thought he was hallucinating an earthquake, and FLIPPED OUT...turns out it was an ACTUAL earthquake and he was on placebo...gotta love nor-cal).
  9. LikeClockWork

    LikeClockWork Guest

    Jul 23, 2007
    Yeah, we're working with a pharmaceutical such that our subject population is marijuana users. I talk to some VERY interesting characters over the phone. It also comes through in their attendance rate unfortunately...
  10. Maxwell Edison

    Maxwell Edison Majoring In Medicine 2+ Year Member

    May 9, 2007
    I've never heard of the phrase "wet-lab research" before, which I consider strange owing to its obvious usefulness as a conversation starter.

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