The Preclinical Years
Incoming MD/PhD trainees arrive the summer preceding the start of medical school to perform one laboratory rotation with an advisor of their choice. Trainees typically rotate with up to three candidate thesis preceptors over the course of the preclinical years, which comprise the first two years of the program. After a brief orientation session, which introduces new trainees to leadership and faculty from the 8 Multidisciplinary Training Areas, other current students, and the expectations of the program, the new trainee works in laboratory with their chosen advisor for approximately six weeks. Initial rotations conclude with a presentation session between all preclinical MD/PhDs and the MD/PhD Retreat, where all students are invited to relax, meet faculty in an informal setting, and attend talks by older students and invited guest speakers, who are typically MD/PhDs that have gone on to careers in academia, medical practice and industry.
Year 1 Curriculum
In the fall semester of the first year, trainees take a combination of introductory graduate courses and the first year medical school curriculum. In place of Molecules and Cells (an introductory medical school class on biochemistry), MD/PhD candidates can choose from graduate core curriculums in either Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience, or Systems Biomedicine, depending on their chosen Training Area. These courses introduce trainees to research techniques and basic science principles to prepare them for the formulation of their thesis projects. Concurrently, students participate in Journal Club, where they review and present literature in their area of interest. MD/PhD students also attend Medical Scientist Research Seminars, which are talks focused specifically on their interest in translational medicine, featuring invited scientists and upper-year fellow students presenting recent work. All of these graduate courses continue into the spring semester, excepting Systems Biomedicine students, who join the Biomedical Sciences track.
Throughout year one, trainees are encouraged to meet with other prospective thesis preceptors and perform directed readings in anticipation of additional lab rotations that take place in the summer between the preclinical years. Choosing a compatible thesis advisor is an extremely important factor in the success of a student’s training program. Recognizing the value of interdisciplinary collaboration, Mount Sinai’s MSTP will make every possible accommodation for a student’s interest in performing clinically relevant thesis research throughout the entire Graduate School of Biological Sciences, including the recruitment of faculty from outside the student’s chosen Training Area. For example, a student can elect for the Neuroscience program, take the Neuroscience core curriculum, and complete thesis research under a primary investigator from the Genetics and Genomic Sciences department. In fact, for a project exploring genetic causes of a neurological disease, this might be the optimal way to synthesize a successful thesis, and it would be encouraged by the program.
Year 2 Curriculum
Students conclude their second summer of lab rotations with the same activities as in the year prior, presenting to their peers and attending the MD/PhD retreat. Between this point and the commencement of full-time PhD work following the second year, most second year students are preoccupied with the second year medical school curriculum, and it can be difficult to continue research through the fall and spring semesters of this year. Nevertheless, many students remain involved at some level with the lab that they concluded from their rotations will be the site of their thesis project. In the unlikely case that a student does not want to complete a thesis with any of the three labs that they have rotated with, they should seek advice from the MSTP director and advisors before the end of the summer so that a mini-rotation with a final lab can be arranged; a thesis advisor should be declared during second year.
Mount Sinai MD/PhD Program
One Gustave L. Levy Place, Box 1022
New York, NY 10029-6574
Annenberg 5th floor, Room A5-206
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