Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Combined Degree and
Physician Scholar Programs

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MD/MTR Information Session

MD/Master of Science in Translational Research (MSTR)

The MD/Master of Science in Translational Research (MD/MSTR) 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.

Information Gathering

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

  • MSTR Program — the Master of Science in Translational Research program website provides detailed information on the program and application process.
  • MD/MSTR Information Session — every fall the Combined Degree office holds an MD/MSTR Information Session for medical students. Email announcements are sent out to students prior to the event. Check out the September 11, 2018 MD-MSTR Information Session PPT.
  • Dr. Emma Meagher — candidates are encouraged to contact Dr. Meagher, Program Director, to discuss the MSTR program.
  • Amy Nothelfer — students are encouraged to contact Amy, Associate Director of Combined Degree Office, to discuss their interest in a Master's program.
  • Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM) Financial Aid Office — As soon as a student is considering the pursuit of an integrated dual degree program, financial aid counseling and planning is strongly advised.

Additional Translational Research resources on Penn's campus:



Prior to application, each candidate identifies the project they wish to pursue, along with the lead mentor, who will supervise the research project. Students are encouraged to reach out to the MSTR Program to discuss their project and mentor selection prior to submitting their application. Additionally, it is helpful to meet with the MSTR Program to understand potential funding opportunities. 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.

Upon acceptance, each student is assigned additional programmatic mentors to complement their primary research mentor(s) and create a mentoring committee. This three or four person committee functions as an ongoing monitoring group for the candidate’s progress.

If accepted into the MD/MSTR program, the student will be requested to formally confirm enrollment with the MSTR Program Administration. In the spring prior to matriculation, the student will meet with the MSTR mentoring committee to discuss program requirements and finalize a plan of study.

The accepted student must notify Helene Weinberg, PSOM Registrar, of his/her acceptance into the MD/MSTR program.

Students are strongly encouraged to meet with a staff member in the PSOM Financial Aid Office to discuss financial issues.


Curriculum & Program Structure

Program Requirements:

The MSTR curriculum 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. Course work is also laid out in a sample study plan below.


Students enroll in a core set of courses and also choose an academic pathway to concentrate in a specific area of translational science:


Perelman medical students will complete three years of the MD curriculum before beginning full time study in the MSTR 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 MSTR work means that MD/MSTR 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/MSTR 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/MSTR Degree Completion Time:               5 years

MD/MSTR Sample Study Plan:

All of year 4 and the fall of year 5 will be devoted to full time work toward the MSTR, during which time students are not registered for the MD.

Clinical Rotations at Penn or other institutions are permitted during July and August between years 4 and 5. Please note that all courses require in-person attendance, and you may not attend a clinical rotation during a scheduled course.

The spring of year 5 will be used to complete the final requirements for both degrees.

Year Fall Spring Summer Tuition and Billing Maximum Direct Loan Eligibility (2019-20)
1 MD curriculum (Modules 1,3,6) MD curriculum (Modules 2,3,6)   MD Tuition Fall and Spring $42,722
2 MD curriculum (Modules 2,3,6) MD curriculum (Modules 4,6) MD curriculum (Modules 4,6) MD Tuition Fall and Spring $47,167
3 MD curriculum (Modules 4,6) Boards 1
MD curriculum (Module 5)
MD curriculum (Module 5) through June; July-Aug full time MTR 601
MTR 602
Research project
MD Tuition Fall and Spring; MSTR Tuition Summer $47,167
4 MTR 600
MTR 603
Research project
MTR 604
Elective 1
Research Project
MTR 605
MTR 999 (lab)
Research Project
MSTR Tuition $20,500
5 MTR 999 (lab)
Elective 2
Research project
MD curriculum (Module 5)
MTR 607
MTR 608
  MSTR Tuition Fall; MD Tuition Spring Fall $10,250; Spring $20,250

Note: each MTR course is 1.0 c.u.

Medical School Planning:

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


Financial Information

Tuition Policy:

MD/MSTR 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, MSTR tuition will be charged per course unit plus fees.

Tuition:               ~$5000/course. This includes a general University fee and the technical fee. (2019-2020)

Note that in the sample plan, 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 for information on tuition implications.

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 Michael Sabara, Director of Financial Services.  He 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 MD Scholarship (for tuition/living expenses) and has a Direct loan eligibility of $40,500. When a student is registered as a full time MSTR student, he/she is not eligible for MD Scholarship (for tuition/living expenses) 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.
  1. 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 MSTR student (versus full-time MD student), the MSTR program aggregate limit is $138,500 versus the MD aggregate limit ($224,000).
  1. 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 the PSOM Financial Aid Office.
Part-time Student Status Implications:

If a student is considering a Master's curriculum plan that would include one or more part-time Masters semesters, we urge students to consider the following:

Part-time student:

- Is registered for 2 cus or 2.5 cus in a Masters primary semester.

- Is eligible for student loans and loan deferment.

- Part-time students’ health insurance (PSIP) coverage is not mandated by the University.  Students are strongly encouraged to continue health insurance of some kind and are eligible to opt-in to the PSIP plan.  

- To opt-in to PSIP: Online application during open enrollment periods. See for open enrollment schedule.

- A student who is full-time in the fall is considered subject to the insurance coverage requirement. This means that they must be enrolled in PSIP or waive out, and that enrollment or waiver is good for 12 months. If this student becomes part-time in the spring term, the PSIP enrollment or the waiver will not be terminated.

- A student who is part-time in the fall, and becomes full-time in the spring term will at that point become subject to the insurance requirement for the spring term and must then waive out or be enrolled for that term. 

- The clinical fee, which provides access to Student Health Services (SHS), is mandatory when on PSIP. A Primary Care Physician (PCP) designation needs to be considered for students who are not opting into SHS and who used SHS before for this purpose. If a part-time student is not enrolled in PSIP, they can opt-in to the clinical fee to have access to SHS. Students can stop by SHS for the application or call the insurance office at 215-746-3535 to request it.

- Is not eligible for Penn gym membership, but the student pays less in fees, which hopefully offsets this expense.

Students will need to proactively enroll for Penn Student Insurance Plan for both years 4 and 5 and are responsible for associated fees.

Grant Funding:

A potential partial funding mechanism for the MSTR 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 July 1-June 30 of year 4), the CTSA grant will provide a stipend of $24,816 and tuition of $20,500 (2019-2020 appointment year). Please keep in mind that the amount of stipend and tuition may change based on NIH regulations each grant year.



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

Admissions process:
There are two steps to applying:

  1. Apply to the Master of Science in Translational Research Program
    The combined application form for the MSTR and TL1 training grant for MD/MSTR candidates and instructions for submission are available by contacting the MSTR Program Administration. For additional information, check out the MSTR Application and TL1 Grant Funding.
  1. 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, Associate Director of the Combined Degree and Physician Scholar Programs Office (6th floor JMEC).

Application deadline:               October of third year [refer to MSTR Program website for exact date] (in 2019: October 25)

Perelman medical students may apply to the MD/MSTR program during their third year of medical school. Decisions to award CTSA funding will be made beginning in the fall of the third year.



For more information regarding the MD/MTR program, contact:

MSTR Program:

Emma A. Meagher, MD
Director, ITMAT Education Programs
8032 Maloney Bldg.

Rachel Bastian
Administrative Director, ITMAT Education Programs
8033 Maloney Bldg.

Megan Maxwell
Coordinator, ITMAT Education Programs
8033 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

Michael Sabara
Director of Financial Services
Financial Aid Office
Jordan Medical Education Ctr, 6th Floor
3400 Civic Center Blvd, BLDG 421
Philadelphia, PA 19104-5162


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.