Lauren Waldman is currently at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is happy to chat with any students who wants to talk further. Also, if any students are particularly interested in cancer/palliative care research in Boston, then please have them reach out.
How you found the research position- what resources did you use? Who did you talk to?
I knew which city I wanted to be in after my post-bacc year, and I had a pretty good idea that I wanted to clinical research, so I applied very broadly to any position that seemed even remotely interesting to me, all of which I found on the hospital job portals.
I had known some people from undergrad who worked in similar roles, and I reached out to them to either see if their lab was hiring or if they had general feedback on the application process.
Unless the website explicitly says not to, it is definitely okay to reach out to the PI's reiterating your interest and letting them know you applied for a position in their lab.
When did you start looking? When were you interviewed? When did you start?
I started applying in December/January, but I found this was actually too early for a ~July start date so perhaps a month or so later would have been better, but I don't think it hurts to start looking around then.
Most of my interviews were around March.
I pushed for a June 30th start date after I had taken the MCAT, and I was very explicit about that before even interviewing since that was too late for some labs. I would just be transparent about your start date from the start because many places can be flexible as long as they are aware.
Why did you select this opportunity for your glide year? What are you getting out of it? Would you recommend it to future students?
I would definitely recommend getting involved in research! I learned so much about not only the research process, but also how to interact with acutely ill patients, what physicians can choose to do day-to-day, and it helped me to feel more comfortable in hospital settings and how to interact with many types of providers.
Something you can ask at interviews or research on your own on Pubmed is how much the research assistants are involved in abstract and manuscript writing - not only is this a good learning opportunity but it is very helpful when it comes time to apply to medical school and even residency (I am still working with my lab now in a medical student research position).
Tips from Lauren:
Even though it can be time consuming, it is important to modify your cover letter for each position you apply for - it helps you stand out among many applicants and interviewers can tell when you submit a templated cover. Even just a few sentences on why that job in particular interests you is sufficient.
When weighing job offers, I think the most important thing is to see if the culture of the lab is right for you, more so than the specific research. You will probably gain similar skills in any clinical research lab, but the way the PI's treat their research staff can really make or break your experience.
I was very glad my role had a lot of patient contact - even as a medical student, I find that I am much more comfortable talking to patients than some of my peers who did not have similar experiences, and of course, with all that you learn from these encounters, you will have plenty to talk about in interviews, personal statements, etc.