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Combined Degree and Physician Scholar Programs

MD/Master of Science in Translational Research


The MD/Master of Science in Translational Research (MD/MTR) program is designed to provide Perelman medical students with in-depth instruction in the fundamental skills, methodology, and principles necessary to be a well trained junior investigator. Upon successful completion of the program, graduates are expected to have developed a strong foundation in the fundamental techniques of translational research. The program will produce junior clinical researchers who are knowledgeable about the complex issues associated with conducting sound clinical research.

Please note that the following guidelines apply only to Perelman medical students. The program is not open to medical students from other institutions.

The rest of this site includes the following sections:

Information Gathering

The first step of the process is to gather information regarding the MD/MTR dual degree. Interested students have several resources :

  • MTR website (http://www.itmat.upenn.edu/mtr/) – the Master of Science in Translational Research program website provides detailed information on the program and application process. MD-MTR Information Session
  • MD/MTR Information Session – every fall the Combined Degree office holds an MD/MTR Information Session for medical students. Email announcements are sent out to students prior to the event. For the September 19, 2014 MD-MTR Information Session PPT presentation, click here.
  • Dr. Emma Meagher – candidates are encouraged to contact Dr. Meagher, Director of POR/MTR Programs, at emma@upenn.edu to discuss the MTR program.
  • Amy Nothelfer – students are encouraged to contact Amy, Coordinator of MD-Masters Programs, at nothelfe@mail.med.upenn.edu to discuss their interest in a Master's program.
  • Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM) Office of Admissions and Financial Aid – As soon as a student is considering the pursuit of an integrated dual degree program, financial aid counseling and planning is strongly advised.


At the time of application, each candidate identifies with the help of MTR advisors the project they wish to pursue, along with the lead mentor, who will supervise the research project. The mentored thesis involves designing a research project, writing a formal research proposal, performing the study described in it, preparing a comprehensive scholarly scientific paper reporting the results, and presenting and defending the thesis at a public seminar.

In consultation with the lead mentor, and with the approval of the MTR Advisory Committee, the candidate selects from the Penn faculty an individualized candidate MTR mentoring committee. This three person committee functions as an ongoing monitoring group for the candidate’s progress. Its members are faculty with expertise relevant to both the basic and clinical aspects of the candidate’s research, and each is expected to contribute their expertise to fostering the candidate’s research progress. The committee meets on a trimester basis to review progress reports submitted by the trainee.

Once a student is accepted into the MD/MTR program, the student will meet with the Coordinator for POR/MTR Programs, Marti Dandridge, to develop a curriculum plan based on their research project and discuss potential funding opportunities.

After a curriculum plan is developed, the student must notify Helene Weinberg, PSOM Registrar, of his/her intention to pursue the MD/MTR.

Students are strongly encouraged to meet with a staff member in the PSOM Office of Admissions and Financial Aid to discuss financial issues. (See tuition policy below.)

Curriculum & Program Structure

Program Requirements:

The MTR degree is composed of 12 credit units, which are distributed among four types of requirements:

  • 6 core courses (MTR 600, MTR 601, MTR 602, MTR 603, MTR 604, MTR 605)
  • 2 elective courses
  • 2 laboratory experiences (2 different units of MTR 999)
  • 2 credits for research project and masters thesis (MTR 607, MTR 608)

Required Course Units:               12

For more details about core courses, most elective courses and laboratory experiences, see the course work descriptions below. Course work is also laid out in a sample study plan below.


Perelman medical students will complete three years of the MD curriculum before beginning full time study in the MTR program in July at the end of year 3. Students who are interested in the program early in their time as medical students are strongly encouraged to contact the program director, Dr. Emma Meagher, and to begin exploring possibilities for their research mentor/project. Interested students can work on a research project during the summer between years 1 and 2 of Medical School.

The July 1 start date at the end of year 3 for full time MTR work means that MD/MTR students will have only six months (from January through June) of year 3 to complete step 1 of the boards and take the electives and sub-I they need for residency application. Faculty advising and close communication with Helene Weinberg, PSOM Registar, about scheduling issues are absolutely essential, given the compressed time frame. Students considering the MD/MTR program should start planning as early as possible to make the best use of their time.

With careful planning, Perelman medical students may be able to complete both degrees in five years. Careful selection of a thesis project is crucial for students hoping to graduate in five years. The sample plan below describes the program for a student who is able to complete the requirements of both degrees in five years.

MD/MTR Degree Completion Time:               5 years

MD/MTR Sample Study Plan:

All of year 4 and the fall of year 5 will be devoted to full time work toward the MTR, during which time students are not registered for the MD. (Note that to retain status as a full time student during the MTR program, students must be registered for at least 3 course units during the fall and spring semesters of year 4 and the fall semester of year 5. No registration is required for the summer term). The spring of year 5 will be used to complete the final requirements for both degrees.





Tuition and billing


Maximum Direct loan Eligibility


MD curriculum (Modules 1,3,6)

MD curriculum (Modules 2,3,6)

MD tuition fall and spring




MD curriculum (Modules 2,3,6)

MD curriculum (Modules 4,6)

MD curriculum (Modules 4,6)

MD tuition fall and spring




MD curriculum (Modules 4,6)

Boards 1 and MD curriculum (Module 5)

MD curriculum (Module 5) through June; July-Aug full time MTR (research)

MTR 600
Research project

MD tuition fall and spring; MTR tuition summer

Self through June; possibly with CTSA starting July 1



MTR 601*
MTR 602
MTR 603
Research project

MTR 604
MTR 605
Elective 1
Research Project

Research project

MTR tuition

Self and possibly CTSA grant through June; Self starting July



MTR 999 (lab)
MTR 999 (lab)
Elective 2
Research project

MD curriculum (Module 5)
MTR 607
MTR 608

MTR tuition fall; MD tuition spring


Fall $10,250; Spring $20,250

Note: each MTR course is 1.0 c.u.
* MTR 601 begins in the summer. Student is registered for course in Fall.

Medical School Planning:

There are several things to keep in mind when making your medical school plans:

Financial Information (2015-16)

Tuition policy:

MD/MTR students will be charged 7 semesters of medical tuition (6 semesters in years 1-3 and the final semester of year 5). During fall and spring semesters of year 4 and the fall semester of year 5, MTR tuition will be charged per course unit ('15-'16 cost is $4,286 per unit) plus fees.

Note that in the sample plan above, students take 2 courses total during the semester they are charged medical school tuition: MTR 607 and 608 in the final semester of year 5. As long as the student has not already used the benefit that allows med students to take 3 additional courses while registered for the MD program, there will be no additional charge beyond MD tuition in that semester. Please refer to the PSOM Additional Course Policy on the Student Portal website for information on tuition implications.

Grant funding:

A potential partial funding mechanism for the MTR program is the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) TL1 training grant. Selected students will be appointed to the grant for 12 months. During the year of appointment (typically June 30-June 29 of year 4), the CTSA grant will provide a stipend of $22,476 and tuition of $20,500 (2014-2015 appointment year). Please keep in mind that the amount of stipend and tuition may change based on NIH regulations each grant year.

Financial aid:

As soon as a Perelman medical student is considering the pursuit of an integrated dual degree program, financial aid counseling and planning is strongly advised. Students should contact Jean Fox at the PSOM Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.  She is available to help explain program costs, the financial aid process, funding options and how to apply for financial aid. Here are some things to consider:

1. When paying Medical School tuition and registered as a medical student, an individual can retain his/her PSOM Scholarship and has a Direct loan eligibility of $40,500. When a student is registered as a full time MTR student, he/she is not eligible for PSOM Scholarship and has a Direct loan eligibility of $20,500. In accordance with federal regulations, all sources of aid (loan, scholarships, fellowships,) cannot exceed the student budget.

2. Direct loans have aggregate limits, which are cumulative and include any undergraduate, graduate, and medical school loans borrowed in the Direct loan program. For any semester when a student is a full-time MTR student (versus full-time MD student), the MTR program aggregate limit is $138,500 versus the MD aggregate limit ($224,000).

3. Students who require funds in excess of their Direct loan may apply for a Direct PLUS loan. Details on this loan and instructions for applying can be found at www.med.upenn.edu/financialaid/gradplus.shtml.


The admissions process for the MD/MTR program is competitive and requires admission to both the MD and MTR programs. Students may only apply to the combined degree MD/MTR program after admission and matriculation in the Perelman School of Medicine. Medical students at other institutions are not eligible to apply.

There are two steps to applying:

1) Apply to the Master of Science in Translational Research Program

MTR application forms for MD/MTR candidates and instructions for submission are available by contacting Marti Dandridge, Coordinator, POR/MTR Programs, at ITMATEd@mail.med.upenn.edu. For additional information, see the Request for Applications.

2) Submit Master's Program Registration Form to the Combined Degree Office

In addition to submitting an MTR application, Perelman medical students must also submit a Master’s Program Registration Form to Amy Nothelfer (nothelfe@mail.med.upenn.edu) in the Combined Degree and Physician Scholar Programs Office (6th floor JMEC).

Application deadline:               October 17 of third year
Perelman medical students may apply to the MD/MTR program at any time during their first, second or third year of medical school. Decisions to award CTSA funding will be made beginning in the fall of the third year.


Please note that policies concerning admissions, curriculum, funding and financial aid are subject to change. Additionally, though variations in the curriculum may be possible, any changes will need prior approval and may have financial implications. This website is meant to provide preliminary general overview information only. Students interested in or enrolled in the program should seek personal advising from relevant faculty and staff.


MTR Program:
Emma A. Meagher, M.D.
Director, POR/MTR Programs
991 Maloney Bldg.

Marti Dandridge
Coordinator, POR/MTR Programs
971 Maloney Bldg.

Perelman School of Medicine:
Amy Nothelfer, MSW, LSW
Associate Director
Combined Degree and Physician Scholar Programs Office
Jordan Medical Education Ctr, 6th Floor
3400 Civic Center Blvd, BLDG 421
Philadelphia, PA 19104-5162

Helene Weinberg
Office of the Registrar
Jordan Medical Education Ctr, 6th Floor
3400 Civic Center Blvd, BLDG 421
Philadelphia, PA 19104-5162

Jean Fox
Financial Aid Officer
Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
Jordan Medical Education Ctr, 6th Floor
3400 Civic Center Blvd, BLDG 421
Philadelphia, PA 19104-5162

Description of Required Course Work

MTR 600 - Introductory Biostatistics (Third year – Summer semester)
This course approaches statistics from an applied as well as theoretical point of view. Students learn the correct application and interpretation of basic statistical concepts and techniques. The course covers probability estimation, hypothesis testing, nonparametric tests, tests for categorical data, correlation, and regression.

MTR 601 - Scientific Writing I: Review Writing (Fourth year – Fall semester)
This course will lead students through the process of writing a Review Article during their first Summer within the MTR program. Review articles will be authored with the student's primary mentor and will be used to accomplish the following goals: 1) Attain rapid familiarity with background in their new area of study; 2) a mechanism for mentor and student to create a productive working/writing relationship; 3) help the student identify key gaps in the literature and/or areas of controversy that would benefit from pivotal experiments; 4) understand the factors that contribute to variability in research outcomes in their area and; 5) introduce the student to other scientists in their new area through an initial publication early in their career.

MTR 602 - Proposal Development (Fourth year – Fall semester)
Content includes study design and protocol development as they relate to the studies that probe the mechanism of disease and the study of complex traits. It discusses concepts such as writing a background section, asking a research question, designing a study, use of biomarkers, writing a research proposal and feasibility issues. Early development of the research protocol starts during this course and is evaluated prior to course completion.

MTR 603 - Disease Measurement Course (Fourth year - Fall semester)
Acquire the knowledge to rationally and effectively incorporate disease measurements, including emerging technologies, into the design of translational and clinical research protocols. Gain a basic understanding of measurement methodologies used in clinical medicine. Understand how "normal" values are determined, and how to interpret test results in the context of patients/research subjects. Approach disease measurements (tests) as a mean of answering questions, and to be able to choose appropriate tests to answer the questions being posed. The measurement aspects of the students' research protocol are written and evaluated during this course.

MTR 604 - Scientific and Ethical Conduct (Fourth year - Spring semester)
Content areas include human subjects protection, good laboratory practices, good clinical practices, conflict of interest, scientific misconduct, regulatory affairs including the role of OHRP and the FDA. Financial considerations including budget development for grant proposals. In addition students serve as an active member of an IRB for 6 months. The informed consent document that accompanies the students’ research protocol is developed during this course.

MTR 605 - Scientific Writing II: Manuscript Writing (Fourth year – Spring semester)
Students will write a primary data manuscript for publication with their primary lab mentor. Emphasis will be placed on identifying publishable data that was either generated by the student, or which is made available to the student for analysis from the mentor’s lab (e.g. perform a new analysis across data from multiple studies, organize and analyze data that is laying in wait of someone to publish it). The student will be expected to learn the role of first author including 1) coordination with the senior mentor to write the introduction, 2) organize data, analyses and figures; 3) obtain or write methods and results from collaborators; 4) writing a discussion and; 5) “getting it out the door”. Mentors will be asked to agree to participate in this process, or identify another senior individual in their group who would perform the function as a condition to have MTR students funded in their program. Course director and members of the curriculum committee will provide guidance and critical review of work throughout the process.

MTR 999 - Laboratory Units (flexible timing)
Completion of 2 lab units is required but flexible in terms of timing. Lab experiences need approval of the candidate's MTR mentoring committee and the MTR director 2 months prior to commencing the lab rotation. Examples of lab experiences include, but are not limited to, a traditional wet bench experience to learn how to develop an assay; a clinical lab rotation learning how to perform /analyze a technique in your specialty; a rotation in a bioinformatics laboratory; or a rotation in an imaging laboratory. (2 c.u. total). The purpose of the lab experience is to emphasize the basic components of the translational research experience, to appreciate that the underpinnings of translational research is understanding disease mechanism, to learn the subtleties of measurement of disease process and the complexity this brings to the area of human research.

Following completion of each lab experience, students are required to submit a "lab book" with documentation of the elements listed below.

  • Each lab unit
    • 20 hours of direct contact time with mentor
    • Lab meetings / learning techniques / analysis and discussion of data
  • Clearly documented by Mentor/supervisor
    • Grading performed by mentor and grading sheet submitted to university as equivalence of exam grade
    • Time documented by mentor

MTR 607 & 608 - Research Project and Masters Thesis (Fifth year – Spring semester)
Candidates are expected to complete a thesis that involves designing a research project, writing a formal research proposal, performing the study described in it, preparing a comprehensive scholarly scientific paper reporting the results, and presenting and defending the thesis at a public seminar. At the time of application, each candidate specifies the project they will pursue, along with the lead mentor, who will supervise the research project.