Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Friend Research and I Want to be Your Friend Too!

     This particular post is intended to: 1) present my personal experiences with research; 2) describe the salient features of the process of getting research; 3) offer some advice for those seeking research positions.

     I have been "doing research" for about 11 months now. I worked for two months in the Summer at the EMB Core which is a Life Sciences Division lab in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories and I am now currently working in a molecular ecology lab as well as a social psychology lab on the UC Berkeley campus.
  1. I got the LBNL lab position by applying through a student-led research opportunity seminar. I was there from 10am-5pm about everyday for the first two weeks and then just MWF for the remainder of the summer. The researchers their trained me very well in sterile technique as well as a host of other molecular biology techniques such as western blotting, immunoassays, and bacterial preparation. I had to quit because my Fall schedule wasn't accommodating. I would have to say that my tenure at the lab was an incredibly enriching experience as far as developing a professional demeanor and acquiring industry standard technique.
  2. I applied under UC Berkeley's very own Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) for the Evolab which I currently work in. I found the laboratory work to be sort of enjoyable because of my previous training at the EMB Core. Even more outstanding were the attitudes of the people in the Evolab. All of them are incredibly generous, patient, and quite personable. I truly believe that I am enjoying my time at the Evolab mostly because of the down-to-earth people I work with.
  3. I took a social psychology class with a professor Robb Willer and fell in love with the subject. I liked it so much I applied for his lab and now work under him as an undergraduate research assistant. The discussion during the weekly lab meetings is really quite interesting as it is generally about some cutting edge research that a grad student or another professor is doing.
    2. Getting into Research

         There are a variety of ways to get into research. The following is a short list of the avenues that lead to research.
    • If it exists, apply through your institution's research office or through a campus wide research program for undergrads like URAP at Berkeley. Be warned that selection seems to be somewhat correlated with one's GPA.
    • Ask a Principal Investigator (P.I.) or professor if they have an opening for a research assistant position in their lab and if they would be interested in working with you. This takes more initiative but may be more rewarding because you can seek out specific labs that are doing the research you are interested in rather than choosing from a list and applying to labs that you think you can grow to like.
    • If you are even more amazing you can come up with your own research proposal and apply for some of the many grants that are available to undergraduate students. Depending on the grant, you may have to get in touch with a PI or professor on campus who is willing to sponsor you.
    • Apply for summer research internships. These may either last only the summer or allow for the possibility of continuation during the school year. Either way the experience over the summer would serve as a great stepping stone into more research because you will hopefully have accumulated plenty of training and experiences.
    3. Research Advice
         I strongly feel that it is absolutely critical to find a good fit with the research you are going to be doing. There are three points that I believe should be satisfied in order to make the experience enriching.
    1. Be genuinely interested in the research subject. This is essential psychologically. Real interest makes it easier to learn the skills and theory behind the research as well as provide an underlying sense of purpose that contributes to one's success in a lab. Furthermore, liking the research you do makes a world of difference come time for a medical school interview. The difference manifests in your tone of voice and the content you discuss as you will sound legitimately interested in the research you did.
    2. Don't plan to be a worker bee. What I mean is to avoid research where there really is no upward mobility as far as becoming more technically self-sufficient and possibly undertaking your own individualized research project. You want the experience to be enriching and intrinsically motivating. Stagnancy is not the way to go. Unfortunately and at no fault of their own, some labs just need labor more than anything else. 
    3. Go above and beyond the call of duty. If you can manage, try to put in more than is expected of you. This is a stronger testament to your enthusiasm and dedication to your research than saying you care. You are likely to receive an even more stellar letter of recommendation.
    Word to the Wise

    If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. It is a competitive career path you have chosen to embark upon. Don't be dissuaded if you don't get a position immediately. Perhaps you need to progress more in order to demonstrate the intellectual and professional maturity necessary to work in a lab. Winning and losing are not negatively correlated. In fact the people who win the most also lose the most so with that in mind swing for the fences!

     Good Luck!

    - Andrew

      Wednesday, March 2, 2011

      One Way to Simmer Your Brain in Motivation

           I find that when I watch medical dramas such as "House" or reality medical documentaries such as "Boston Med" and "Hopkins" I get rather gung-ho about going to medical school. This surge in motivation usually takes physical form in either spending extra time studying, going to the gym, and chanting "M.D." repeatedly with my shirt off and face painted, not unlike the manner in which football enthusiasts carry themselves at events such as the Super Bowl or Rose Bowl.

      If you are like me and enjoy feeling gratuitously pumped up about medicine you can watch full episodes by clicking on the following link:    Boston Med Full Episodes

      Besides being motivating, the ABC series is actually quite poignant as it documents the work and personal lives of a diverse group of physicians and their professional as well as personal triumphs and travails.  Though unavoidably dramatized I feel that the show provides a superb and nitty-gritty view into the life of a clinician. To tell you the truth, I personally prefer that the show is action-packed and compelling.
      I certainly hope you enjoy watching the show. If you want to discuss anything about the show with me, you are more than welcome to email me at:

      - Andrew

      Some Revolutionary Food for Thought

           Sir Ken Robinson who, if not already popular, became even more popular when he gave his 2006 TED talk provocatively titled: Do Schools Kill Creativity? In his 2010 talk Dr. Robinson talks about how the US education system doesn't need anymore reform because reform entails fixing a broken system. He says we need an educational revolution if we are to give our children as well as ourselves the brightest possible future.

      Click on the following link below to watch the TED talk on YouTube:

      Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution!

      - Andrew

      The Premedical Curriculum: A Rite of Passage or A Gauntlet of Outdated Standards? You Decide.

      At last, the first post!

           As a premedical student, one wonders what remote relevance if any do topics like quantum tunneling have on one's future career as a doctor, unless of course you are a physics major with a hankering for quantum mechanics. One may also wonder: does getting an A in every premedical requirement mean that one will be an adept clinician someday? Perhaps performance in these classes could be indicative of an individual's rigorous work ethic or they could be speaking to an individual's personability or unfortunate lack thereof. To help clue us in on the possible answers to these puzzling questions is Dr. Donald A. Barr who, fortunately for all of us, wrote the following article on the issue:

      Science as superstition: selecting medical students

           Dr. Donal A. Barr is an associate professor at Stanford University. He obtained his M.D. from UCSF in 1973 and his P.h.D. in Sociology from Stanford University in 1993. If you found the article to your liking and are interested in finding out more about the issue Dr. Barr has written an insightful book on the matter called "Questioning the Premedical Paradigm: Enhancing Diversity in the Medical Profession a Century After the Flexner Report". It is an absolutely wonderful read that really makes wonder about the state of things concerning premedical education as well as medical admissions.

      - Andrew

      Wednesday, September 15, 2010

      About Us

      What is This Pre-Med Life?

      This Pre-Med Life is a blog that aims to help aspiring future physicians by:

      • By sharing experiences about the ups and downs of premedical life
      • Connecting to others through shared personal stories
      • Fostering empathy for others by expanding and developing our perspectives

      Hopefully this blog will be able to help aspiring physicians to live purposeful, active, and enjoyable lives.

      Who Are We?

      We are Andrew & Jason  and are two undergraduate students attending U.C. Berkeley both with the dream of attending medical school in the future.