Research is an element of a pre-health application that is not necessarily “required” in the same way that clinical experience and community service are, though it does add significant strength to any application and can be a great avenue for developing and enhancing certain competencies such as critical thinking, scientific inquiry, and teamwork. It is a great way to get acquainted with the scientific process, pursue your interests outside of the classroom, and even find opportunities for formal publication or presentation of your work.
Research is also an excellent way to show committees your ability to solve complex problems through trial and error, analyze data, and approach novel challenges. This is similar to the clinical decision-making process in that you are presented with new information and must arrive at a conclusion that is supported by evidence and careful investigation.
Research can be completed through an on-campus or off-campus opportunity, either during the school year or over the summer months. Some people choose to pursue internships or fellowships that are research focused, and some applicants will even take a growth year or two to work in a research setting before applying to medical school. If you are in a major or program that requires a capstone project or thesis, this is also viewed as a form of research known as independent scholarship.
Keep in mind that research does not necessarily need to be within your major field, or even necessarily in a traditional STEM field. We encourage students to pursue those opportunities that they are most interested in and passionate about. As long as you are able to articulate what you have learned from your experience and how you can translate that knowledge into your future career, you are welcome to explore a variety of research fields and opportunities.
Remember as well that connections you make with your PIs or research coordinators in this setting are important to build and keep so that you may ask for a letter of recommendation for your application.
The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) is a fantastic resource for learning how to get started in research and for finding research opportunities. OUR offers several programs, such as the Health Research Program, that offer funding for undergraduate students, which we encourage you to explore.
Students are also welcome to explore specific department websites at the university to find any ongoing research projects certain professors might be conducting. If you find something that you are interested in by doing this, you will need to formally and politely reach out to the professor. We suggest utilizing OUR’s resources on Connecting with Faculty and Email Etiquette.
For those students who are in their sophomore or junior year and identify as first-generation and low-income, and/or historically underrepresented, who are interested in pursuing M.S. and/or Ph.D. studies in the STEM disciplines, our office encourages you to explore the CAPS Research Scholars program.
For those students who are members of historically underrepresented groups in STEM fields, with a declared major in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and pre-health professions, LSAMP is a community-based program that focuses on scholar support and success.