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Medical Students: Now is the Time to Arrange for Next Summer’s Research Position

As the fall ends and winter approaches, next summer may seem far away. But this is the ideal time to arrange for next summer’s research position.  This is especially true for first-year medical students who, at most schools, have the prospect of a long summer break.

A good place to find out about available opportunities is from your Dean’s office or from the Associate Dean for Research.  Most medical schools offer a wealth of opportunities.  How do you choose?  A good place to begin is by determining what area interests and excites you the most: Neuroscience? Reproductive biology? Robotic surgery? Space medicine? AIDS research? It’s all out there. 

Next, you want to know what questions the laboratory is trying to
answer.  And what will you do if hired?  What skills and knowledge will
you need to bring to the job?  What techniques will you learn?  Will you
be assigned to a discrete project and have a definite role or will you
be doing a little of this and a little of that? Does the work have
potential for your continuing beyond the summer? Does it have potential
for publication with yourself as an author?

Of great importance
is a knowledge of the principal investigator.  How closely will you be
working with her or him? Does the PI look good as a potential mentor? 
Are there ethical or safety aspects of the work being done that concern
you?  What’s the stipend?  It’s also helpful to speak to other students
who worked in the lab and glean their impressions.
You may want
to look beyond your own institution. Your summer research position may
also afford an opportunity to see another part of the country or another
part of the world. Nor are they limited to academic institutions.  Many
large pharmaceutical companies and technology and instrument companies
take on summer interns.

But the most desirable positions are
usually the most competitive.  A personalized e-mail briefly stating
your qualifications and demonstrating your enthusiasm for the position
is helpful.  A face-to-face meeting with the PI is an important part in
making the decision.
Act now and proceed in a thoughtful and
determined manner.  Many a distinguished medical research career has
been launched  by a summer research position!