How Should You Find The Best Research Possible?

For every pre-medical or medical student, this is always a lingering question. What is the best way to find a research mentor? Is there a magic key to getting the best research project? Should you be spending your days working on a lab bench trying to discover the mechanistic basis of diseases or should you be scanning your eyes through patient charts in the comfort of an office?

Having gone through this myself, I would like to offer a few words of advice to all rising undergraduate and future medical students. My suggestion would be to approach this issue with three basic things in mind:

1. Pursue what you enjoy doing

This may seem like the most obvious fact. However, students often seem to neglect their interest for a particular area of research for its supposed popularity and potential for publications. If you are not involved in work that you find interesting, you are undoubtedly going to have a difficult time tolerating it for the next however many years to come. Research takes long-term commitment. Once you find something you are truly passionate about, stick to it. But until you do, keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to switch from one mentor to another.

2. Set expectations with your mentor

Whether you decide to do basic science or clinical research, make sure you have an honest conversation with your mentor and let them know what you expect to get out of the time you spend with them. This includes a discussion of your time commitment, involvement in projects, and publications. Most mentors will appreciate this and subsequently know how to most effectively utilize your efforts.

3. Don’t depend on just one mentor

At the end of the day, you also need to be realistic. It is simply too difficult to get all your research experiences from a single mentor. Medicine is a huge field and you are bound to be interested in more than one area of study. Furthermore, branching out allows you to form connections and network with a variety of people while making sure that you are building a well-rounded research background for future endeavors. And if something doesn’t pan out as expected in one project (as is often the case in research), then at least you can rest assured with your work in another.

For more reading, A Research Manifesto: How to Make the Most of Your Pre-Med Research Position

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Yash Pandya

Yash Pandya is a science writer at The "Almost" Doctor's Channel. He is a rising third-year student at the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in Emergency Medicine with minors in Neuroscience and Chemistry. Yash plans on attending the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Fall 2016 with guaranteed admission. In addition to the usual humdrum of academic involvement, Yash loves to play Ping Pong, catch up on the latest "Big Bang Theory," and travel. Having lived in India for half his lifetime, Yash aspires to expand his horizons into international healthcare by practicing medicine globally.