Every pre-med student is told that they must do certain activities in order to be considered a competitive candidate for medical school. One of these activities is research. Now, every school has its own requirements and its own rules when it comes to undergraduate research. Some schools may make it very easy for an undergraduate to join a lab. Others, however, may make it difficult.
Whatever your schools requirements, make sure that you are willing to undertake a research project. Picking up a pipette and transferring some solutions everyday for six months is not really what medical schools are looking for. The schools are really looking for dedicated scientists who are fully engaged in a research laboratory and have their own projects. If you say you have done research, you will be asked about it during your interview and if you cannot provide the finer details about your research, the interviewer is not going to look favorably.
It is my recommendation that you start thinking about research early in your academic career. The longer you wait to start research, the less you are going to accomplish. Starting early will also allow you to pick the research lab that will interest you the most. Some labs have a hands on focus, while other labs, have a more observational focus. In my case, I picked an immunology lab that was very hands on.
Make sure you make the most out of your research experience. The more you put in, the more you get out. The more time you dedicate, the greater the chance that you can get published. While not a requirement, medical schools love to see student publications.
Most importantly, remember, research has its ups and downs. One week you will have amazing results and then the next week, all of your cell colonies will be contaminated. Do not get discouraged. The most seasoned researchers have bad weeks and trust me, they are not afraid to let you know about them.
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