If you are a premed, you do not want to waste any summers doing nothing. There are many things that you can do in the summer, but very few activities that are more rewarding or beneficial to your medical career than a formal summer research program. If you are not convinced, here are five reasons that demonstrate the importance of a summer research program.
Offers a structured program designed to teach you about research
Not all principal investigators (PI) or research mentors are created equal. Some PI’s teach and guide you while others simply use you as free labor. Because of this, many undergraduate researchers do not really learn how to properly conduct research. Summer research programs, however, are specifically designed to teach you how to think scientifically, design experiments, troubleshoot, and solve problems. They can often open your eyes to see what research should actually be like.
Provides formal mentorship and the opportunity to build lasting relationships
One of the best things about a summer research program is that you get paired up with a PI or research mentor who has dedicated his or her summer to teaching you about research. The face time that you get with your mentor is incredibly valuable because you can learn a lot about science, a prospective career in medicine, and probably life in general. Developing a good relationship with your mentor also guarantees that you will have a strong letter of recommendation for your future application.
Helps you determine whether you want to do extensive research in the future
A summer research program is, in essence, an internship. You do research full time, like a graduate student or a postdoc. Thus, this experience is key when deciding whether you want research to be a significant part of your future career. Those who love their summer research experiences are more inclined to pursue an MD/PhD. Even if they do not work towards an MD/PhD, interested researchers are often more inclined to do significant research as an MD.
Often provides a stipend and/or housing
This is especially important if you do not have many research or clinical opportunities near where you normally live. If you are going to dedicate a summer to doing research, you might as well get paid and housed.
Boosts your CV/application
This shouldn’t be your main motivation but participating in a summer research program is a significant experience in the eyes of admissions committees. The more prestigious the research program, the more impressive it is. This is mainly because the best research programs have the best structure, provide the best mentorship, and allow you to make an important contribution to the scientific community.
The deadline for summer research programs varies by program. They can range from the end of fall to the end of winter. If you are interested at all in doing summer research, find a research program that might be a good fit for you. You will most likely have to apply to multiple programs in order to get accepted because many summer research programs are competitive.