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Posts Tagged ‘non-bio major’

Difficulty getting Research

In applying to med school, Rants on September 9, 2009 at 9:13 am

This post is, admittedly, about to be a rant…  Being a non-Bio major, non work-study, nontraditional student has made it incredibly tough to secure a research position.  Currently, I am working full-time, have a part-time job, am quietly looking for a third job (since no one wants to give me health insurance…), and am applying to med school, which leaves little time for anything else, let alone a research job, making this a moot point for me.  But, back when I was unemployed this summer, I applied to so many research jobs – all to no avail.  While in the end, I do feel that I am in the place where God wants me to be, I do still feel a slight headache come on when I think about my experience trying to gain research experience.

Let me rewind by taking you back to my undergraduate years.  Flash back six years as a college freshman.  I knew nothing about biology, let alone any particular area I’d potentially like to put more work into.  I came into college knowing that I wanted to be a psychology major (psychiatry is still a very real specialty option for me).  I discussed  the idea of research with an advisor.  At least at my school, and I’m not sure how other schools do it, they took the position of Only do research if it’s something you truly have an interest in and want to explore.  Don’t do it just to boost your application for med school.  Then again, how do you know you’re not going to like something until you try it?  Ok.  Slightly confusing, but I interpreted to mean that since I 1) had no background in biology, 2) was NOT going to be a biology major, and 3) my personality doesn’t align well with research (i.e. I get bored very easily, and monotonous activities that I see no real value to push the psycho buttons in my brain) I should pass.

By the time I finally became somewhat interested in the possibility of doing research, I was a junior.  Seeing how I had already decided I was taking some time off due to shear exhaustion, it didn’t seem too late to get involved in research.  Plus, our school was a pretty big-named school with excellent biomedical research facilities…so, I assumed it shouldn’t be hard to get involved.  False.  What I found was that most research positions on-campus were either requiring advanced biology coursework or classification as a work-study student…usually they wanted both…I was neither.  I submitted my resumes to a bunch of labs, but to no avail.  If they were interested in having me join their lab, as a non work-study student, I was expected to do it for free.  Now, perhaps if I had been a traditional non work-study student (i.e. mommy and daddy are loaded and paying for college and I truly didn’t need any money) then I would probably not have flinched at the idea of doing this work for free.  However, and this is a big however, I am broke.  I had a very special situation where a close family member passed away and left me money for my education.  Outside of that money that my undergrad institution happily, eagerly, and greedily sucked me dry of, I come from a family with very little income.  So, while I didn’t have to work to put myself through college (much respect to those that do), if I needed to do anything in the semester, I had to work for the money to finance those endeavors (i.e. gas money, food money, etc).  In sum, working for free, while knowing that not only did I need a paying job, but that others would be doing my same job for a fee was not going to fly with me.

Needless to say, no undergraduate research was done by moi.  Post-graduation, I was offered a research position at one of my professor’s office doing clinical research.  I remember vividly how excited I was.  It would be doing research on clinical decision making – a topic I was (and still am) thoroughly interested in.  This prof was my favorite undergrad prof, and I took two of his course, receiving As in both: Judgment and Decision Making and Medical Decision Making.  I still love the subject, and even read books touching upon it in my (limited) spare time.  He extended the offer, but I had to work through the people in his office to get the position.  To this day, I still do not know what happened.  I just remember having to interview for the position (yes, I had to interview for a position in my prof’s research group that he wanted me to work at), last-minute having the interviewer change to someone who was not an interviewer, then the woman in-charge of hiring like had a baby or a sick baby (I forget).  Thrown atop of this, I had a scheduled trip to Germany to visit my uncle for a month, so since they couldn’t seem to get it all figured out in the month or so after graduation, I slowed my pursuit of it.  After sending e-mails inquiring for updates and getting none returned (highly unprofessional!), I stopped showing interest in the position and took a boring, monotonous job at the local hotel to pay the bills while I MCAT prepped.  Shame how that worked out – I would’ve loved that job and been good at it too.  Ah well.  Once again, I am a firm believer that everything that happens is for a reason.  Lord knows I did everything in my power to secure that position and they were sloppy on that end.  Who knows.  If they were that disorganized in hiring, perhaps it would’ve been a headache working there and would’ve strained my relationship with that professor (who I still admire, who still admires me and my work, and who subsequently wrote me a LOR that I know was amazing).  Got to stay positive!

Flash forward to my post-baccalaureate program.  The only thing I would’ve done differently there would have been to ignore the advice of the advisors.  I was only there 3 semesters (summer – spring), and they told me that since I was overly involved in undergrad, that I should focus solely on my coursework while there.  I sincerely hope this doesn’t come back to bite me in the booty…  While the pay was horrible, and most research positions were still for biology majors and work-study students, I know a few people who were able to secure jobs.  But here’s my thing with research.  I know beggars can’t be choosers, but if I’m going to spend my time doing some monotonous activity to further research, I want it to be in an area I’m interested in.  And I have many interests.  The opps I saw repeatedly were sleep and mapping the tongue – neither of which were particularly interesting to me.  Plus, since I started in the summer, many of the semester positions had already been filled.  By the time they became open again, it was clear that the many of the people who had the position would highly recommend a friend to fill their place – boooo! Not fair!

I even applied to an entry-level research position (as in the job description stated no research experience required).  By now, I had taken multiple upper-level courses, so when the woman invited me in for an interview, I was expecting to be a shoe-in. False.  This was the straw that broke the frustrated camel’s back.  This woman (who could barely speak English) had the nerve to invite out to interview over an hour away only to say that they were actually not hiring at this point, as they had already filled the position with undergrad work-study, bio major students who had more extensive research experience.  Whew, I nearly lost it.  I wanted to smack her across her face and ask her 1) why’d you invite me all the way out here? 2) What good is previous research experience if this is an entry-level position (don’t think I didn’t see those lil’ undergrads lugging around boxes and organizing supplies in the background).

After that, I washed my hands of trying to secure a research position.  I really hope no one asks me about why I haven’t pursued research during any interview (although, I have a touch of clinical research experience), because it might set-off a frustrated rambling response.  I pursued it, it just didn’t reciprocate :/

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