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Biology: Independent Research

Do health professional schools prefer applicants who have research experience?

Not always. Independent research is one of several ways that you can distinguish yourself from other applicants regardless of the health profession that you choose to pursue. Some schools (like The Ohio State University College of Medicine) are very interested in students with research experience and preferentially accept students with a research background. Health professional schools, particularly medical schools, like students with a research background because it demonstrates intellectual curiosity, perseverance, and time management skills. However, while most schools appreciate your research efforts, research is not a requirement for admission to their program.

Do I have to do research if I am interested in attending medical, dental, optometry, or another type of health professional school?

No. While research is one way to attract the attention of the Office of Admission at your target health professional school, it is certainly not your only opportunity to distinguish yourself from others in the applicant pool. Applicants must have a strong GPA and good interpersonal skills to be competitive for medical school, even if they have a strong research background. Students who do not conduct research may spend more time in leadership positions or in unique medical settings and be very competitive applicants to health professional schools.

What kinds of research opportunities are available at Wittenberg?

The Wittenberg faculty is active in research across campus and includes students in their research projects both during the academic year and in the summer. There are numerous opportunities to work closely with a faculty mentor, particularly in the departments of Biology, Biochemistry/Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Sociology. Your challenge is to find a project that is of interest to you and a faculty mentor with which you want to work closely.

What kinds of support are available for students interested in conducting research at Wittenberg?

Wittenberg offers competitive grants to support student research both during the academic year and the summer. Students may apply to the Faculty Research Fund Board for equipment and materials grants in the amount of $250 for research being conducted during either the fall or spring semester. In addition, students are invited to compete for 12 summer research stipends awarded by the Faculty Research Fund Board early each spring semester. Students who are awarded one of these summer grants receive a $2100 stipend and $250 to be used for travel, materials, or equipment required to conduct the research project. In addition, some departments offer their own summer research awards to enhance the likelihood that their students have opportunities to conduct summer research at Wittenberg if it is desired.

When is the best time in my college career to conduct research?

You can choose to initiate a research project with a faculty member at any point in your college career. Most students who choose to work in a research laboratory begin during their sophomore or junior year, but some students begin a research project as early as their freshman year or as late as their senior year

How do I initiate a research project?

Initiating a research project with a faculty member is relatively easy. You might begin by looking at the departmental webpage for your major or minor department to get an idea of research being conducted by faculty that you know. If you find a faculty member who is doing research in an area that you find interesting, go and speak with that person. If the faculty member has room in his or her research laboratory for another student and you are still interested in working with that person - you have initiated a collaboration with that faculty member!

Do I have to sign up for academic credit when conducting research?

No. Not all students are even eligible to sign up for credit when conducting independent research. Students who are being paid to conduct research as a faculty aide, part of a work/study program or with a summer stipend, are not eligible to receive academic credit for their research. Students who are not being paid for their time to do research are eligible to sign up for academic credit.

How do I sign up for research credit if I am eligible?

To receive academic credit for your research project, discuss signing up for the Directed Research, Independent Study, or Research Internship course with your faculty research mentor (names of the course vary by department). This option allows you to choose to sign up for 1-5 semester hours of credit, and the course will appear on your official transcript for the health professional schools to see when you apply.

What is the time commitment involved in conducting a research project?

The time commitment for research varies widely by discipline and experimental protocol. Some are very time intensive and require your presence at specific times while other projects are more flexible, and allow you to come and go as your schedule permits. Be clear with your research mentor when you talk about the required time commitment to ensure that neither of you become frustrated as your project proceeds.

Can the research I do with my faculty research mentor be used for my University or Departmental Honors research requirement?

Absolutely! If you meet the GPA and other requirements for University Honors, Departmental Honors, or both, the research you do with your faculty research mentor will fulfill the research requirement for those programs. It is important that you fill out the proper paperwork to apply for University and/or Departmental Honors (talk to your research mentor about this), and you must present and defend your research in front of a panel of three faculty members. The same research project can generally be applied to both University and Departmental Honors, if the student is eligible for both. The research conducted for an honors project may be completed during the academic year or with a summer project either at Wittenberg or elsewhere. Students who are paid for their research efforts are still eligible to use their project to fulfill the requirement for University or Departmental Honors.

What do most students do as they conclude their research projects?

As students progress in their research, they often present their findings at the Wittenberg poster sessions and in many cases at regional or national meetings as well. Many pre-health students have presented posters at The Ohio Academy of Science over the years, as well as at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research, and other discipline specific national meetings. These venues are a great way for students to meet fellow researchers and further distinguish themselves as they apply to health professional schools.

What research opportunities are available to me apart from what is offered at Wittenberg?

There are a variety of schools and programs that invite college students to apply for summer research experiences. Many medical and dental schools offer summer research programs for undergraduates which they use as a recruiting tool to attract strong students to their programs. Some of these programs guarantee that students who conduct research through their program will get an interview with the medical school. Below are some websites that might help you as you look for summer research opportunities away from Wittenberg.

Websites listing a variety of health related summer opportunities across the nation:

National health related summer programs:

Regional health related summer programs:

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