Updated: Feb 19, 2018
My first venture into research was at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (where Watson & Crick discovered DNA!) summer science camp. The sole purpose of the entire camp was to clone a single jellyfish gene for a glow in the dark protein. At the end of the week you ended up with one small test tube that, when under UV light, glowed. in. the. dark. That was all I needed to be hooked on science for life.
15 (!) years later I couldn't imagine my life without research. It's allowed me to travel the country, taught me how to act under pressure, and forced me to think outside of the box when my first plan fails. There is a lot of pressure for everyone in medicine to do research, but it’s not always easy to get started.
Interested in research? Here are four tips for beginning a research project:
1. Talk to everyone!
The most frustrating thing about starting a project is finding a mentor. Some amazing professors/attendings/faculty simply don't have any active projects or funding to take on a mentee. The solution? Have them help connect you! All of my most successful mentorships have been through networking connections. Send e-mails, show up to office hours, ask questions.
2. Please make sure you're actually interested.
Research looks really pretty when you have a 3'x4' poster on display at a national conference. What you don't see is the hours spent collecting data, crunching numbers, and doing literature reviews. You really have to care about what you’re doing; otherwise it is just not worth it. Very often research is unpaid work, and while your friends are in finance internships making a lot of money over the summer, you will be showing up and doing just as much work for no pay.
3. Think about your time frame.
I've made the rookie mistake of trying to start a project from scratch knowing that I only had a year to finish it. Guess what? It didn’t happen. Foolishly, I tried it again. It still didn’t happen! If it’s your first time doing research make sure to ask about things like Internal Review Board (IRB) approval, feasibility of data collection, and realistic goals for the project. You may not publish everything you do, but if you can learn how to put together a poster or run a chi-squared test, that could save you time on your next project!
4. Where to share?
Research is only rewarding when you can share it with others! Before you start your project you should anticipate what you want to do with the results. Are trying to publish a in a journal? Want to present at your school's local research fair? This will help narrow down your time frame and scope, and ultimately accomplish your goal!
Feel free to message me with any questions you may have about research!