Each year, the number of medical school applicants who have significant medical or laboratory experience grows. In fact, many medical schools expect students to have some experience with research and give priority to applicants who have conducted their own research projects.
Do I have to do research?
Working in a lab setting will help make you a more competitive applicant and will also help you to determine if a career in medicine or medical research is right for you. That said, it is not a required pre-requisite at most medical schools. If you have very little interest in research, it may be a better use of your time to engage in activities that you are more passionate about, such as clinical or community volunteering.
How do I find research opportunities?
The University of Georgia is a very large, research-intensive institution. Nearly every faculty member on campus is conducting some type of research. Students at UGA can get involved in research in a number of ways: as volunteers, paid lab assistants or for course credit. If you are looking to get a paid position, keep an eye on the Biology listserv for openings or check in with your career consultant at the Career Center and look on Handshake for any job postings.
If you are looking to simply volunteer in a laboratory or receive course credit (e.g., BIOL 4960) for research, the first step is to make a list of faculty members that are currently doing work you may be interested in. Review departmental webpages or use the FRED database to help narrow your search. The UGA Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) also provides resources and tips for finding research opportunities. They also offer a limited number of research fellowships each year.
Once you have found a lab you are interested in, reach out to the faculty member. E-mail is usually the best way to do this. In your email, express your specific reasons for wanting to join the lab (i.e., what about the research interests you) and provide some details about yourself and your future goals.
Finding a lab does require you to be proactive. Lab openings are limited. You should expect to send out a number of e-mails before you find an open lab. Do not get discouraged!
How "much" research should I do?
Our office recommends that prospective applicants participate in a research lab for at least a semester. However, keep in mind that medical schools care more about the "depth" of your research experience rather than the length of time. In other words, it is important that you are able to talk intelligently and in detail about your role in the lab and the goals/results of the project.
Students interested in a pursuing a dual-degree (e.g., MD/PhD) must dedicate a significant amount of time towards research and, if possible, develop their own project. Competitive applicants will have presented their research at conferences or symposiums and some will have written and submitted manuscripts.