Penn Medicine MD-PhD

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the research descriptions listed on this website current?

What if I don't see funding that matches my project?

What is the difference between a Penn reviewed and External reviewed funding source?

Do I need to contact the Combined Degree and Physician Scholar Programs Office before applying?

Do I need to contact the Registrar if I will be doing research?

Will I receive credit for the Scholarly Pursuit requirement by doing short-term or year-out research?

Can I be funded for my Scholarly Pursuit?

How do I find a mentor?

Can a Perelman medical student do research offsite?

Are there opportunities for international research?

What other summer opportunities are available?


Still have questions?

Email your questions to Amy Nothelfer at nothelfe@mail.med.upenn.edu.


Answers

Are the research descriptions listed on this website current?
We are continually monitoring the website to ensure that we have up-to-date information. However, many of the organizations that provide funding for research update their call for applications in the fall. Most application deadlines are in early spring. Knowing what an organization did last year can be a good indication of what they will do the next year. A word of caution--never assume it will be the same.  Keep checking back to see if updated information has been posted.

What if I don't see funding that matches my project?
First, be sure to look at the specific guidelines of a sponsor's award (not just the summary), as many have broad specifications for project topics. Then, try an alternative search engine such as one listed in the Guide to Research.  While you are searching for a match, don't hesitate to contact Amy Nothelfer for further assistance.

What is the difference between a Penn Approval for Submission and External Reviewed funding source?
Penn Approval for Submission indicates that applications will go through an internal review process prior to being submitted to the funding institution.  Read the program summary carefully to determine where your application should be sent.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Combined Degree Office. 

Do I need to contact the Combined Degree and Physician Scholar Programs Office before applying?
If the research description is listed as being "Penn Approval for Submission," then you must apply through this office. If it is listed as "Penn Reviewed" or "External Reviewed," then you are free to apply directly to the Penn Department or outside organization sponsoring the award. However, it helps us a great deal to know what your plans are for short-term and year-out research. Even if you are just considering this as an option, let us know in an email to Amy Nothelfer, nothelfe@mail.med.upenn.edu.

Do I need to contact the Registrar if I will be doing research?
Yes, the Registrar's Office asks that you complete an Arranged Activity form for any elective research that you conduct.  Also, for those considering a year-out, it is advised that you discuss the timing with the Registrar, Helene Weinberg.  Early planning is essential to ensure that you are able to coordinate a project, secure a mentor, and confirm that your time line does not interfere with your responsibilities at Penn.

Will I receive credit for the Scholarly Pursuit requirement by doing short-term or year-out research?
Yes, if conducted after completing Module 4 and receiving approval for the proposed project (see http://www.med.upenn.edu/student/scholarlystudy/ for guidelines). However you should be aware that some funding agencies, such as the NIH, will not fund projects that are completed to fulfill degree requirements. Rather, they will fund elective research.

Can I be funded for my Scholarly Pursuit?
Possibly. Some mentors may have funding available and some fellowships may be appropriate. Many funding agencies, such as the NIH, will not fund projects which fulfill degree requirements. Rather, they will fund elective research projects. To be sure, always check the guidelines for application and, if it is not specifically mentioned, contact the funding agency directly.

How do I find a mentor?
When you have narrowed your interests down to one or more broad areas, you can seek advice on things to keep in mind when choosing a mentor, and also ask for suggestions on which labs would be good for short term students.

You might start with your course directors and lecturers, if their expertise is in one of your areas of interest. You can also e-mail or make appointments with the relevant Department Chairs or Division Chiefs, Directors of Centers or Institutes, and Graduate Group Chairs or track chairs. (The people in this last group steward PhD students, and have a wealth of information on faculty members who are most active in training students.) Some of these folks are extremely busy, and you may have to be persistent. Don't give up after one e-mail if you don't hear from someone! There is no substitute for the advice of faculty members. (But do give up if you try several times and get nowhere. In that case, contact other people instead.) Other helpful folks:

You should also get the advice of your fellow students: first years with extensive research experience and/or more senior students who have already been through this process. You can learn more about other students' research experiences on the Student Portal - Educational Opportunities (http://www.med.upenn.edu/student/educational.shtml) under Summer First Year - Guide to Planning. Click on 2009 and 2010 Student Experiences - Research. There's an incredible network of people who can help you, but you need to be proactive and thorough to take advantage of it.

Once you have a list of particular labs that you are interested in, contact those faculty members directly, perhaps by e-mail.

Tell them about your enthusiasm for their research and ask if they would be interested in having a medical student in the lab for two months during the summer. If so request a chance to meet with them to discuss possible projects. If not, perhaps ask if there are others they would recommend.

Can a Perelman medical student do research offsite?
Yes, there are opportunities for doing research through institutions other than Penn. Going offsite can limit your funding options. Early planning is essential to ensure that you are able to coordinate a project, secure a mentor, and confirm that your timeline does not interfere with your responsibilities at Penn.

Are there opportunities for international research?
Yes, there are opportunities for international research at Penn. Interested students should contact Nancy Biller, nbiller@mail.med.upenn.edu , in the Global Health Programs Office for more information. Visit the Global Health Programs website at http://www.med.upenn.edu/globalhealth/penn_students.shtml .

What other summer opportunities are available?
Our office provides information on short-term elective research programs that can be completed during the summer months. For information on community service projects, there is information on the Student Portal on the Educational Opportunities tab under Summer - First Year.