Working in the Medical Research LabMarch 15, 2014
We live in a world where we worship the principles of science and those who work to solve the mysteries of the physical world around us. Much of that work is done in the medical research laboratory. Medical professionals come in all forms, and there is a subset of doctors whose primary medical work is done in the lab. If you are a pre-medical student, and you have an affinity for research, you should consider a medical career as a researcher. Here’s the value in gaining medical research laboratory experience as an undergraduate:
Get ready for your MD/PhD application: There’s no need to be torn between a career as a clinical physician and a medical researcher. More and more medical schools offer combined dual degrees which allow you to explore your interests. Working in a basic science laboratory (also known as wet lab or bench research) allows you the opportunity to work hands-on with the equipment and materials that frequently lead to breakthroughs in medical diagnoses and treatments. You’ll become proficient in the use of advanced laboratory technologies, chemicals, measurement tools, and cultures. As an MS/PhD candidate, your capacity to function in the medical research laboratory will add value to your med school applications.
Learn more than you would in class: When you work in a medical research laboratory, you’ll have to do quite a bit of reading to accompany your hands-on experiences. This reading load supplements what you’ve learned in your classes, and in many cases, this literature will be highly relevant to the work you’ll undertake in the lab. Know that if you choose not to do the requested reading, you will be missing out on key knowledge that will make your lab work run smoother. Keeping current on the latest findings in your field is the key to advancement and innovation in the medical research lab.
Grow your own research project: Highly motivated and academically talented students are often given the opportunity to run their own research experiments in the lab. The earlier in your premedical studies you are able to find a research lab opportunity, the more likely you’ll be given the reign to design and execute your own research. This is a clear opportunity to shine. Your findings can be used as part of a thesis project. You can also present at conferences and begin to populate your CV with speaking engagements and papers. In addition to the hands-on work which you’ve mastered, you will develop your ability to communicate your work and explain your findings in both layman’s terms and academic settings. Communicating your work with multiple audiences will also give you the opportunity to refine your public speaking skills, a strength that will serve you well as you interview for medical schools and prepare to work in the medical professional world.
The pace of the research lab you work in is dictated by the head of your lab. The personalities you work with will be varied in urgency and temperament. Ultimately, your partnership with the head of the research lab is a vital one which can have significant influence on your future medical career decisions. Be open to the possibilities offered by a medical research laboratory experience! — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.