Research Dilema

Hi again,

I was hesisitant to start a new thread for this since there has been plently of research question based topics, so apologies in advance if this has been touched on already:

Lately I’ve been trying to secure a research position for this coming fall. (I cant guarantee full commitment over the summer)… I’ve touched based with many of my professors who lead research groups on campus and none so far has stuck. Either they have a full ship already, they dont run their labs anymore, they are out of town, or they havent responded.

I’m pretty resourceful so I was able to get in touch with a research professor at the medical school at my local university (different school, not mine), which is very reputable. The research position is in the university hospital’s dermatology and cutaneous surgery department.

The catch: The prof requires a committment of three half days a week… = 12hrs/week.

The perk: I would be able to publish my own mini research after several months, the recommendation from that university would be great (assuming I do well enough to deserve one.) And I’m sure it would “look better” if my research came from a different and better univisity than my own.

The issue: I’m not sure if I should take that much time away from studying/classes etc. Is 12hrs/week normal for research? I could probably find something, anything at my school, but cant guarantee that it has a huge wow factor. I mean, studying coral reefs doesnt have much to do with any medical school endeavor.

The question: Should I forge ahead and take the risk with that commitment?

My proposed class schedule is:

Calc 1

Orgo II (eek)

Cell Bio


maybe Physics II

Any guidance and opinion would be great! I’m sooo torn!

If you loose Physics, then I think the schedule is just fine. However, don’t expect to get anything substaintial done with only 12 hours/weeks unless you’re jumping in on a project already in full swing or have a post doc or other advanced person working with you.

Hrm, yea I think I might swap physics forsomething a little more tolerable… Maybe il retake a class. I’m not sure what the situation is yet as far as the research projects though. We are still in touch and I have yet to figure out if she plans to start anew or if she already has something going… However, she does allow a minimum of 12hrs, weekly. So, I’m assuming that that schedule might yield something relatively substantial after at least a semester worth I think. But then again I can’t be too sure.

I just don’t want to put too much on my plate at once. I need to work on my balancing act to make this all jive.

How important is research in one’s application? Does it have to be hard science related (i.e. biology, chemistry, etc.) or can it be a social science (psychology)?

When the dean of admissions from my state’s medical school came to speak to my college’s premed group, he brought up the subject of research. He said that he personally never liked research and does not put any emphasis on whether someone has or has not done research when considering them for admission. He said not to do research just so you can put it on your application - only do it if you enjoy it. However, he’s just one member on the panel. I suspect that there could be one member on the panel who feels this way, but if something about your application doesn’t strike his/her fancy (to cause that member to advocate for you with the rest of the board), then you’re at the mercy of the rest of the members who MAY put emphasis on research. For me, I doubt that I will have any research to put on my application simply because of time - full-time school and nearly full-time work - and I’m not sure I would even enjoy it. But I still have a ways to go before I apply and who knows - I may get the opportunity and find that I love it! Not sure if this helps - a lot of this process seems kind of random to me. My strategy is just to do the best I can and only do what I enjoy and see what happens in the end - maybe someone will like me

One other point - the MSAR lists what percentage of accepted applicants did what things (broken down into Community service/volunteer, Medically-related work, and Research). This may give you a better idea for your particular school of choice. For instance, knowing what the dean told me, I see the MSAR shows that 91% of accepted applicants for 2007 had research experience. So what does that mean? Obviously 9% had none. Also 31% had no volunteer/community service, and I was under the impression that was basically mandatory. Wow, this is really confusing.

well, the first thing I can confidently say is that I know I like reseach too and would be doing it for more than just a perk on my resume. I would think that generally adcoms would expect the applicant to at least have some laboratory exposure.

I already do, but it was about 5years ago, so I should probably do something a little more recent. I think I will end up putting in the time for it in the fall.

I should check that MSAR out too… There’s only one thing that bugs me about those percentages, though… We don’t know what their grades are like (unless it gives u gpa too?). I’m assumming the 31% of people who chose not do partake in any community service must have stellar grades. I’m my case, my grades are far from stellar which is why I want to cover my bases in regard to extra currics, volunteer, research, shadowing etc… I think it would do me a disservice to “leave anything out.” but, that’s just me I know its not all about the resume but im hoping that it will reflect both my strong commtment and breadth of experience.

I was assuming the same thing about those 31% - must have had excellent grades. Another thing the dean said was that they’ve had people with 4.0’s apply and not even get called for an interview because it was obvious to them from transcripts that the applicant dropped classes when it looked like they might not get an A in the class. He said they’ve had people apply with something like 50 dropped classes! Your strategy makes sense - it seems like if grades aren’t stellar, bulk up on the other requirements; if grades are top-notch, might be able to get away with less of the other requirements.

Wow Mari, really? That’s crazy…

My ex actually had a 4.0 (no dropped classes) and scored a 39 on his mcats (no joke, I saw the scores). He was rejected from all but one school, which turned out to be the same one where he completed his under grad. When I asked him about his research, he said his was non medically related, and his shadowing was minimal if at all.

That just confirms, like you said, that I need to bulk up on the rest. I’m still not even sure how much time is appropriate to put in for shadowing, but given my packed schedule already, I might leave that till next semester.

Unless someone might know how much time one should allocate toward shadowing, weekly?

There’s no one thing that will make or break an individual application. There are a lot of intangibles. Don’t assume that someone with stellar grades can get by without volunteering, or that research makes up for poor grades. It’s the whole package - what makes you an interesting and competitive applicant? What makes you stand out? What qualities do you bring to the school, that they think will be an asset to a class? Your application needs to be a good representation of your strengths, whether they be academic, community service, research, etc. It’s much less cut-and-dried than y’all are presuming.


Okay, two questions I have are:

  1. What type of role should a student have in a research project?

  2. How does one get into a research project if they aren’t a science major?

    I really have nothing against research, actually I hope to do some research when I get into medical school and my medical career.


Alrighty well originally my issue was whether or not I should devote so much time to this research opportunity (the 12 hours per week). Im not sure how many hours a week research usually takes up, but im willing to make the commitment.

Mary, I know there is not “one thing” that can make or break an application. My main concern is how to wisely balance everything when so much time still needs to be allocated for studying.

I’m aware that there is no set formula… so my intention is, like I mentioned in my earlier post, is to see to it that my application will accurately reflect my capabilities, experience, and commitment. Thats what Im trying to do without the water spilling over.

I’m sure it’s safe to say that TOO MUCH on an application would work against anyone.

As far as my ex, the law school drop out, I only brought it up because I always thought he had an interesting situation. I’m impressed by his academics. Fine. But, aside from that, he didnt seem to have brought anything else to the table. Hence my intrigue. However, I cant speak for him, and im not sure what he thought he had that “made him stand out.”


  1. I think it depends largely on what type of work you are doing and what type of supervision you have. From experience, I can say that in my last research gig I worked under post-grad supervision. I basically did as I was told, carried out experiments for them, recorded and entered the data that I compiled, and assisted with overall lab maintenance and animal husbandry. Most of the time, they were out of the lab. For this one, it was a project that I walked in on, which was already up n running. So to really answer your question, I dont think there is a specific role the student “should have.” I think it just depends on how involved you are capable of getting depending on the rigor of the project. Each lab has its own stucture.

  2. Good question. I’ve only come across one or two research professors who say on their application that “no previous research experience is necessary.” I guess they understand that you have to start somewhere, as long as you have displayed a decent level of work ethic and responsiblity in the past - so in this case, a non science major is good to go. I suppose then you would start off doing menial work etc…

    Whenever I had to contact a professor, and they saw my resume, I had to explain to them that even though it says “BA English,” I already completed 85% of my coursework toward my Bio degree during that time. Then, I list all the relevant upperdivision courses that I’ve already completed so they have a clearer idea of where I stand academically.

    Hope my answers help Krisss, I have to admit, #2 is over my head but i tried lol
  • Krisss17 Said:
Okay, two questions I have are:

1) What type of role should a student have in a research project?

2) How does one get into a research project if they aren't a science major?

I really have nothing against research, actually I hope to do some research when I get into medical school and my medical career.


1) As much as you can handle without compromising your grades.

2) I think the absolute best way is to offer to volunteer in someone/s lab. If you're good they'll either find a way to pay you in the future or refer you to a collegue who can. Plus you get to count this as a volunteer experience for your med school apps.