Introduction to Research

There are a variety of ways students can engage in research at the McGovern Medical School (MMS) at UTHealth.  These include formal programs like MMS’ Summer Research Program (SRP), Scholarly Concentrations Program (SCP), Dual Degree Programs, and/or external programs.  Students can also engage in research at the Texas Medical Center independent of a formal program by finding a mentor and joining a research group without the guidance of a formal program.  See the “Research Opportunities” for information on formal programming.

Many research programs require the identification of a faculty research mentor, including the MMS SRP.  For such programs, identifying a research mentor is always the first step.  It is important to identify a good faculty research mentor with whom you can work closely and comfortably.  The MSRO has a repository of research mentors interested in working with medical students.  Click here to identify mentors in specialties of interest.  Click here for step-by-step guidance on finding a good mentor.

If you would like to see a template for a memo to a potential mentor, click here.

For research programs that require a mentor and research proposal, you will work closely with your identified mentor to prepare the application proposal.  The described project will almost certainly be among the many aspects of the research of your mentor, and in large laboratories you may be working with others on the same project, junior professors, postdoctoral fellows, clinical fellows, graduate students, or other medical students.  Your mentor’s guidance and input is an integral part of the preparation of the application proposal; the working relationship developed at the proposal stage will be a sign of the success and longevity of this relationship.   

Preparation of a Research Proposal which usually includes a Project Abstract are important skills for a career in academic medicine.  

A goal of every research project is the potential for presentation at a local or national conference and publication in a scholarly journal.  Discuss these objectives with your mentor.  Discussions like these and alignment of your goals with your mentor’s is a sign of a successful relationship.  Good mentors will guide you toward the appropriate venues for presentation of your work, and preparation of a good research poster or oral presentation.  Mentors will also guide you to the appropriate journals for publication.  For a journal publication, involvement in a project usually will extend beyond a short-term or summer program.  A mentor may put your name on a publication written by others if you contributed in a substantial and/or intellectual way to the work of the project.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

Summer Research Program (SRP)

Will the Summer Research Program in person for virtually for Summer 2022?
We will have a better idea when it gets closer to the orientation date in May.

What is the timeline for the SRP?
Click on this link to access the SRP Calendar.

What is the program overview?
If you are a McGovern Medical School at UTHealth first-year medical student, you can gain hands-on laboratory experience under the supervision of a faculty sponsor during the summer between your first and second year of medical school. As part of our program, you will receive special training in laboratory and radiation safety, laboratory animal methodology, research technology, and biomedical ethics. Also, as part of the program you will attend weekly seminars by guest speakers focusing on cutting-edge research and career development.  As a summer research program student you will be guided by your faculty mentor on a research project over a 10-week period.  Students are expected to work 40 hours per week on their research in their selected faculty mentor’s laboratory. At the conclusion of the program you will submit an abstract of your research. Your mentor will also help you develop a poster that must be presented at the annual Research Forum held in the fall.

Is Orientation mandatory?
Yes, there will be speakers from the McGovern Medical School. We will also conduct various trainings during orientation.

Is attending the Closing Ceremony mandatory?
Yes, important announcements and your SRP certificate will be handed out during this time.

When does the online application become available?
McGovern Medical School Student Online Application period is February 1 – March 18, 2022 (Online portal link opens February 1st).

What is the MS1 online application link?
Refer to this site to fill out your MS1 on-line application. You can also find the online application locating on the main MS1 SRP website.

What is the deadline for the online application?
Supporting documents must be received by 11:59pm CST, March 18, 2022.  Note:  Your mentor must e-signed the online application and hit the submit button by the deadline.

What is the application process?
Refer to this link for more detailed steps.

If my mentor asks for a letter of reference, who do I get letters from?
If it is a research program, you should get letters that can speak to your research skills and interests.  These would be from past research mentors, preferably the head of previous labs in which you had worked.

What is the stipend amount for SRP MS1 students?
Refer to this Program Overview for more specific details on stipend distributions.

How important is it to do well on my research proposal?
It is very important to do well on your research proposal as part of your online application.  You are competing against your peers for the Dean’s Contribution Funds (DCF) of $2,500 (only top ranking 60 MS1 students will receive the DCF with your faculty mentor’s contribution fund of $1,500.  Our goal is to award each student $4,000 for the 10 weeks.

Do I still receive a stipend if my research proposal is not one of the top ranking 60 proposals?
We are asking your mentor/department to provide you support with a minimum of $2,000.  You are encouraged to have a stipend discussion with your faculty mentor before the application deadline.  Should your mentor mentioned there is no funding, please contact us at MSRO@uth.tmc.edu.

After I have submitted my online application, how do I know when my faculty mentor has approved my proposal and submitted the online application on my behalf?
You will receive an auto email once your faculty mentor has successfully e-signed and submitted your online application.  Your faculty mentor can log on and approve from any destination so long as there is internet access. It is your responsibility to stay in touch with your mentor to have the application turned in by the deadline.

What happens after my mentor has submitted my online application?
During the first week of April, a selected number of McGovern Medical Faculty Judges will be assigned to judge your proposal.  Each proposal will be judged by two judges. (Note:  Your mentor will not be assigned to judge your proposal).  Your name will not be attached or associated with your proposal for this process.  Once the judges have turned in and all scores are tallied,  Mrs. Linh Trinh will notify students, their faculty mentor, and department administrator via email to fill out a “Stipend Form”:
1. Top 60 students who received the Dean’s Contribution Funds (DCF) or
2. Those who do not make the list but has their faculty mentor’s contribution funds

You should be receiving an email from Mrs. Linh Trinh with some news by mid April if not sooner.

How do I find a research mentor at MMS?
There are a variety of ways, most importantly go to events like Grand Rounds and research seminars, and talk to faculty and fellow students.  Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities.  Websites and the SRP database are two great starting points.  Also see document here entitled “Identifying Research and a Mentor”.  Click on this link to look up faculty listing who have expressed interests in mentoring MS1 students.

Do I need a research advisor or mentor to apply for SRP?
Yes, for the MMS SRP you will need to identify a research mentor and work with them on your application’s research proposal.

Do I need a research advisor or mentor to apply for other summer experiences?
Not necessarily, each fellowship or research program may be different.  Read descriptions carefully for application requirements and deadlines.

I found a mentor but my mentor doesn’t have any funding to support me for the summer.  What should I do?
Contact Mrs. Linh Trinh to discuss your options.  It depends on the department areas.  Some departments might set aside funding for programs like this.

How do I identify Research Areas of Interest and Finding a Mentor?
Click on this link for more detailed information.

What should I do after I have gone through the Faculty Mentor List and still not sure who to contact or the next steps?
You have several options:

  1. Contact Mrs. Linh Trinh or Dr. Mary Kollmer Horton for a one-on-one consultation (Webex or in-person)
  2. Attend the SRP Annual Job Fair Event scheduled in January of each year (See News/Announcement Page)
  3. Log onto Mrs. Linh Trinh’s Webex Personal Room Link on Fridays during the month of January from 11:30am – 12:30am

How long do I wait for a response from a mentor?
Allow 5-7 days for a reply before sending a follow-up message.  If a second follow-up message does not receive a response, consider this a nonviable option and seek alternatives (next on the list).

My mentor is from MDACC, do I need to notify someone about this?
Yes, please contact Mrs. Linh Trinh as soon as possible and provide your mentor’s contact information to include:
a. Name of program at MDACC
b. Name
c. Department
d. Email
e. Phone number
f. Coordinator/or mentor’s admin person
g. Formal Name of MDACC SRP program

A member of the MSRO staff will contact your mentor so that they are aware of the MMS Summer Research Program requirements.

  • Mandatory attendance at orientation.
  • Attendance at weekly seminar-series lectures (written assignment required for missed lectures – no more than ONE absence allowed).
  • Completion of 10-week program (encompasses 40-hour work week; no vacation is to be scheduled during the program with exception of Memorial holiday and July 4th holiday).
  • Mandatory completion of lecturer and program evaluations (Incomplete evaluation – no letter in the blue book upon graduation).
  • Abstract submission (end of September).
  • Mandatory attendance at closing program (last morning of program).
  • Mandatory poster at Research Forum (late October early November).

Students participating in MDACC SRP will also need to fill out an MMS SRP online application form and follow all program guidelines as other MS1 students.  Upon successfully completing the program requirements, a letter will go in the blue book upon graduation.

I got accepted into MDACC’s Summer Research Program, do I also need to fill out McGovern Medical School’s MS1 online application?
Yes, it is very important that you notify Mrs. Linh Trinh as soon as possible.  Students participating in MDACC SRP will also need to fill out an MMS SRP online application form and follow all program guidelines as other MS1 students to get credit upon graduation.

My mentor is from MDACC and their name does not populate in the drop down list on the online application form.  Who should I list?   
On the application form list Linh Trinh as your faculty since your mentor’s name will not show up in the drop down box.  Next, in the “Proposal Title” space on your application, first list your mentor’s name – MDACC and department name then the title of your research.  See example below:
Proposal Title:
Dr. Kelly Nelson – MDACC – Department of Dermatology; Title of your research

How do I receive recognition upon graduation for participating in the MDACC’s Summer Research Program (SRP)?
Students will need to also fill out an MS1 online application found on the MS1 SRP website and follow all guidelines as those MMS SRP students.

Program Requirements

  • Mandatory attendance at orientation.
  • Attendance at weekly seminar-series lectures (written assignment required for missed lectures – no more than ONE absence allowed).
  • Completion of 10-week program (encompasses 40-hour work week; no vacation is to be scheduled during the program with exception of Memorial holiday and July 4th holiday).
  • Mandatory completion of lecturer and program evaluations (Incomplete evaluation – no letter in the blue book upon graduation).
  • Abstract submission (end of September).
  • Mandatory attendance at closing program (last morning of program).
  • Mandatory poster at Research Forum (late October early November).

All students will have the opportunity for the following:

  • Participation in the C. Frank Webber Prizes for Student Research Competition at the Summer Research Program Research Forum.
  • Student abstracts will be published on the Summer Research Program website.
  • Upon successful completion of the program, a letter will be sent to the student’s blue book.

Note:  MMS MS1 SRP students participating in the MDACC SRP are not eligible to compete for the McGovern Medical School’s Dean Contribution Funds as part of the online application.  

My mentor is from Baylor, Memorial Hermann, Methodist, or from other entities for independent research, do I need to notify someone about this?
Yes, please contact MSRO@uth.tmc.edu as soon as possible and provide your mentor’s contact information to include:
a. Name
b. Department
c. Email
d. Phone number
e. Coordinator/or mentor’s admin person

A member of the MSRO staff will contact your mentor so that they are aware of the MMS Summer Research Program requirements.

  • Mandatory attendance at orientation.
  • Attendance at weekly seminar-series lectures (written assignment required for missed lectures – no more than ONE absence allowed).
  • Completion of 10-week program (encompasses 40-hour work week; no vacation is to be scheduled during the program with exception of Memorial holiday and July 4th holiday).
  • Mandatory completion of lecturer and program evaluations (Incomplete evaluation – no letter in the blue book upon graduation).
  • Abstract submission (end of September).
  • Mandatory attendance at closing program (last morning of program).
  • Mandatory poster at Research Forum (late October early November).

Students participating in research outside of MMS will also need to fill out an MMS SRP online application form and follow all program guidelines as other MS1 students.  Upon successfully completing the program requirements, a letter will go in the blue book upon graduation.

Program Requirements

  • Mandatory attendance at orientation.
  • Attendance at weekly seminar-series lectures (written assignment required for missed lectures – no more than ONE absence allowed).
  • Completion of 10-week program (encompasses 40-hour work week; no vacation is to be scheduled during the program with exception of Memorial holiday and July 4th holiday).
  • Mandatory completion of lecturer and program evaluations (Incomplete evaluation – no letter in the blue book upon graduation).
  • Abstract submission (end of September).
  • Mandatory attendance at closing program (last morning of program).
  • Mandatory poster at Research Forum (late October early November).

All students will have the opportunity for the following:

  • Participation in the C. Frank Webber Prizes for Student Research Competition at the Summer Research Program Research Forum.
  • Student abstracts will be published on the Summer Research Program website.
  • Upon successful completion of the program, a letter will be sent to the student’s blue book.

Note:  If your mentor is not a fulltime (100% time) faculty at MMS, you are not eligible to compete for the McGovern Medical School’s Dean Contribution Funds as part of the online application.  

Scholarly Concentration Program (SCP)

What is the website for McGovern Medical School at UTHealth’s Scholarly Concentration Program?
https://med.uth.edu/oep/scholarly-concentrations-program/ 

What is the program overview?
The UTHealth Scholarly Concentration Program is designed to enrich the student experience through learning and scholarly activities specific to an interdisciplinary health-related topic.

Students participating in a Scholarly Concentration will engage in an independent, scholarly project guided by a faculty mentor. Examples of possible scholarly projects include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Development of a new clinical protocol
  • Original basic or clinical research
  • Development of a new curriculum component or module
  • Evaluation of an outreach program
  • Creation of a bioengineering tool or biomedical software
  • Creative medical writing

Students who successfully fulfill the concentration requirements will receive a certificate of completion and will be recognized at commencement.

What is the application link?
Complete the online application

What is the application process?
Interested students should:

  1. Review the concentration areas and select the one of interest
  2. Complete the online application*

* First-year medical students are eligible to apply in January upon successful completion of their first semester of work. Students will be notified of their application status by the director of the concentration. Acceptance in a concentration will be determined by the Concentration Director based on the student application, specific concentration requirements, and the number of positions available.

Can I participate in more than one concentration?
Student success is everyone’s priority.  Participating in more than one Scholarly Concentration could compete with and diminish the success and depth of each scholarly activity;  therefore, participation in only one program is allowed.  It is encouraged that you choose a concentration that best fits your current personal and professional interests.  For added intellectual or clinical interests consider attending complementary academic forums, such as departmental seminars, grand rounds, or research meetings.

When should I fill out the online application form?
If you have identified a mentor, you can fill out the online application form as early as January.

When is the deadline for acceptance?
We practice rolling acceptance for each concentration. There is not a set deadline date for the application but it is highly recommended to submit your application after you have submitted your Summer Research Program (SRP).

Do I need to identify a mentor prior to filling out my online application for SCP?
No, it is not necessary but it will help in expediting the admission procedure for the director(s).

Once the online application has been submitted, how long does it take for the approval process?
Time varies from a few days to more than a week.  Our office receives and auto email notification once your application has been submitted. Next step is for our office to seek your academic standing from Office of Academic and Student Affairs (OASA).  Once that information has been confirmed, OEP will change your status to under the concentration director’s review.  You should receive an auto email each time notifying you of the status of your application.

Do I need to identify a mentor prior to filling out my online application for SCP?
No, it is not necessary but it will help in expediting the admission procedure for the director(s).

Where do I find a list of mentors for each concentration?
The approved list of mentors are located on the last page of each concentration’s curriculum. The list of Faculty who have previously participated in the Scholarly Concentration Program or have indicated a desire to work with medical students interested in research.  The listing is not exclusive. Students may find other acceptable faculty through student societies, seminars, or institutional websites. Please approach potential mentors from our institution and if help is needed, reach out to the MSRO staff or the director(s) for assistance.

Potential mentors need to be approved by the Concentration director(s).  

Do I need to have the same mentor as the one from my SRP?
1. Yes, if you are planning to enroll in one of the concentrations that requires you to be in the SRP, your mentor needs to be from the approved SCP mentor list.  If your SRP mentor is not on the approved concentration mentor list, the potential mentor needs to be approved by the Concentration Director(s).  Your mentor will need to submit a brief but detailed information explaining how the research relates to the specific concentration.  Send that information to Mrs. Linh Trinh and it will need to be approved by the Director(s) of the Concentration and Program. Once it has been approved, the mentor’s name will be added to the concentration mentor listing.

You can locate the mentor list on the last page of each concentration’s curriculum.  The following concentrations with an (asterisk) denotes the requirement to be in the SRP :

2. No, you can have a different mentor if you plan to enroll in a concentration that does not require you to participate in the SRP.

What happens if I found a mentor but he/she is not listed on the concentration’s approved list?  
Contact Mrs. Linh Trinh regarding this. Your mentor will need to submit a brief but detailed information explaining how the research relates to the specific concentration.  Send that information to Mrs. Linh Trinh and it will need to be approved by the Director(s) of the Concentration and Program.   Once it has been approved, the mentor’s name will be added to the concentration mentor listing.

What if my SRP mentor does not get approved to be listed on the concentration’s mentor list?
You will need to make a change in mentor.  Work with the director(s) of the concentration to assist you with a mentor matching.

I am an MS2.  Is it too late to enroll in the concentration?
It depends on the concentration you are interested in and your prior research experience.  Contact the MSRO for guidance.

Third Year/Student Research Elective

What is the procedure for Third Year/Student Research Elective?
Once you received the lotto from OASA, email Mrs. Linh Trinh.   You will need to fill out the Student Research Elective Worksheet .  You will be notified when your request has been approved. Then, contact OASA – Yolanda Bell to add the course to your schedule. Note:  you must submit your signed worksheet at least 30 days in advance before your actual start date.  

Upon completing your elective, fill out the Student Research Elective Evaluation and Summary Form, forward it to your mentor to complete and sign.  A grade will go in your file only when Mrs. Linh Trinh received your completed evaluation form from your mentor.     

How long is the elective?
It is about three weeks.

What happens after I’ve completed my Third Year Elective?
It is the responsibility of the student, upon completing your elective, to fill out the Student Research Elective Evaluation and Summary Form , (be sure your course number is on the form) forward it to your mentor to complete and sign.  Once your mentor emailed Mrs. Linh Trinh the signed evaluation, the course director will approve your evaluation before a grade will be entered into the system.

A grade will go in your file only when:
     1. Mrs. Linh Trinh received your completed evaluation form from your mentor, and
     2. Your course number is on the evaluation form. 

If you do not see your grade posted in the system after a few weeks of completion, please contact us at MSRO@uth.tmc.edu.

Other FAQs

Do I need research for my residency program?
Possibly, always check with your MMS Advisor and faculty in the residencies of your choice.  More competitive residencies will likely favor research experiences in their specialty area.  MS1 and MS2 years are the times to engage in these explorations.

I have done independent research and would like to let someone know my progress.  Where do I submit my information?
Please enter your research information in the Medical Student Research Office’s  Medical Student Research Catalog.

If I am interested in ‘academic medicine’, do I have to do research?
Not necessarily, although many academic physicians do engage in research of various kinds (basic, translational, clinical, educational, behavioral, etc.).  Academic medicine involves doing any combination of research, education, and clinical practice.  For more information on what ‘academic medicine’ means and how to prepare for that career path see Mary Kollmer Horton’s presentation on this topic.

Website update as of 10/18/2022