Exploring Research Options for PreHealth Students

Hi everyone! My name is Helen, and I’m excited to share my experience doing research as a premedical student. I pursued three different co-ops, each offering a unique perspective and invaluable experiences that were crucial for my medical school applications. 

My first co-op was in the White Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, where I studied apoptosis in Drosophila. This co-op provided me with a solid foundation in basic research techniques and the scientific method. My second co-op was through the CanCURE Nanomedicine program I found on NUworks, working in the Wu Lab at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Here, I delved into the complex world of nanotechnology and its applications in cancer treatment. For my third co-op, I returned to MGH to work in the Fisher Lab studying pigmentation. This experience was particularly intriguing as it combined genetics, biochemistry, and cellular biology, offering a comprehensive look at the biomedical research landscape. 

While my wet-lab research was conducted at hospital-affiliated labs, I also pursued public health research at Northeastern with the Institute of Health Equity and Social Justice Research, focusing on early childhood mental health. Northeastern’s strong connections with the welfare system in Boston allowed me to gain significant experience in the integration of healthcare and public welfare. This research helped me understand the critical intersection between public health policies and direct clinical care, highlighting how systemic changes can impact individual health outcomes. 

While Northeastern does offer strong basic science research experience, we do not have our own affiliated hospital, which has limited opportunities for conducting medical research on campus. This is what led me to seek co-op positions in hospital labs around Boston, where I could engage in more directly translatable research. These settings allowed me to work closely with researchers who had medical backgrounds, as many of my mentors have medical degrees, and I learned a great deal about how research translates into clinical practice. Because many of my mentors were also practicing physicians as well as researchers, I had the opportunity to shadow them in a clinical setting and learn more about the clinical trials they were working on.  

Research is an integral part of the medical school application process. Many medical schools are keen on applicants who not only show strong academic prowess but also demonstrate hands-on experience in research. During my medical school interviews this fall, I frequently discussed how these co-op experiences enabled me to undertake research independently – a quality highly valued by admissions committees. For fellow prehealth students, I highly recommend seeking research opportunities in hospital settings. This not only enhances your understanding of medical research but also helps you grasp how such research can directly impact patient care. These experiences are crucial in shaping both your educational path and future career in medicine.