Research Opportunities

A long-term goal of medical research is to improve diagnosis and therapy. For this to be possible it is usually necessary to understand the mechanism underlying disease onset or progression. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is home to investigators involved in cutting-edge research. Many enjoy serving as mentors to medical students and training them to carry out a research project. What is learned in the classroom, or on clinical rotations, must be considered as just a beginning. There is so much not yet understood that any number of opportunities exist to ask "Why?" or "How?"

Medical Student Research Office

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai aims to produce physicians who provide the highest quality medical care to patients and develop intellectually as future physician-scholars and leaders.

The Medical Student Research Office (MSRO) supports students, regardless of research experience. The mission of the Office is to:

  • Help develop critical thinking skills, creativity, and intellectual independence
  • Teach practical skills in basic clinical research methodology
  • Promote awareness of short or long term research programs
  • Assist in identifying research mentors and research projects
  • Help identify research funding opportunities

Students can participate in research at several points in their training. The majority elect to participate during the summer break between the Year 1 and 2. Student can also take tailor made research electives in Year 3 and 4. About a quarter of the class further choose to obtain a more intensive research experience by taking a Scholarly Year.

For details on potential mentors, funding and project opportunities visit us on Blackboard under the MSRO page at this link, click here or stop by the office. We are located in Annenberg Building, 12th Floor, Room 12-18.

The Scholarship and Research (SCHOLaR) programs are designed to provide medical students with fundamental understanding of the research process and mentored scholarly training.  The goal is to help develop (enhance) an understanding of scientific methods in medicine, evaluate existing medical literature, encourage creativity, and support their dedication to advancing science and improving patient care. 

SCHOLaR connects and provides longitudinal mentorship that enables students to carry out rigorous scholarly project(s).  The primary learning objective is to learn how to ask a research question and obtain and analyze data with the purpose of answering that question. Although not required, nearly 90% of students participate in a research experience during the summer between first and second year as this is the longest available block of time during medical school.  Students who work on a summer project with ISMMS faculty will have the opportunity to receive a stipend to cover their living costs.  All funded students present their work at the Karen Zier Medical Student Research Day which takes place in March each year and fulfills the scholarly product requirement.  The SCHOLaR milestones help you stay on track towards fulfilling the scholarly product requirement.

SCHOLaR consists of:

  • Classroom, multimedia materials, and small group discussions on study design, statistics, and evaluation of a research manuscript,
  • Guided navigation from finding a mentor to developing and conducting a study, and
  • Presentation of research findings.

The first three blocks of course work focuses on the principles underlying rigorous research. The final didactic block will focus on Evidence-Based Medicine, providing a bridge from the pre-clinical coursework to clerkships by focusing on the application of research to patient care.

Oversight of scholarly progress will be provided by the faculty advisors, track advisors, and mentors.  Students are assigned a track advisor who will help navigate the process; offer feedback on their study; and follow their progress.

The scholarly product that fulfills the graduation requirement will be based on research begun and carried out after entering medical school.  Most projects will involve proposing a specific hypothesis or asking a question, obtaining and analyzing data, and synthesizing the results to demonstrate how the results help answer the research question.  However, this model may not pertain to projects in the Medical Humanities or Quantitative Biomedicine tracks.  If working in one of these tracks, please consult the Track Advisor for additional guidance.  For summer projects with an external mentor, students should share these guidelines so that the mentor is aware of the expectations and timelines.   

We strongly urge students to join an existing project and work with the mentor to carve out a focused question for which the student can take ownership and, produce a mentored first author abstract for Medical Student Research Day.  Eight weeks, the period of the summer research program, is not a long time and is far too short to start an entirely new project.  Joining an existing project will allow you to avoid start-up delays.  Because of past problems obtaining timely approvals from the IRB for human subjects research or from IACUC for animal research, students will not be eligible to receive a summer stipend from the Medical Student Research Office (MSRO) to work on a research study that does not already have these approvals in place by the March deadline.  Students in the Global Health program should consult their track advisors for modified deadlines. Students working with external mentors are not eligible for a summer stipend from the MSRO, but are encouraged to follow this timeline in order to avoid delays.

We evaluate the scholarly products based on:

  • Overall clarity
  • Rationale for the study, clear goals
  • Demonstration that the objectives of the project relate to the problem
  • Well explained methodology
  • Results that address the study question
  • Acknowledgement of study limitations
  • Conclusion, including the significance of the findings and implications.

When to Carry Out the Scholarly Project

As part of your graduation requirements, students must present their scholarly work at Medical Student Research Day as a poster or an oral talk. Final abstracts are due in early January and Research Day is held in March. Exact dates can be found in the class Milestones Map.

Most students begin their required scholarly project during the summer between Year 1 and Year 2 and present their work in Year 2. To support students who do not fulfill their graduation requirement during Year 2, students must schedule an appointment with the MSRO Director as early as possible to discuss alternative plan and timeline. 

All medical students who participate in summer research at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) may receive a stipend. To be eligible the mentor must be a faculty member in Mount Sinai affiliated hospitals & Health Care Systems faculty and the student must complete the appropriate SCHOLaR milestones. Note: Global Health students should refer to their program for further instructions about their specific applications and guidelines for funding.

The Summer Student Investigator Program takes place during the summer between MS1 and MS2, and provides an ideal time to have a short-term, focused eight-week research experience for ISMMS students. Areas of exploration can be in any of the following tracks: basic/translational science, clinical research, medical education, epidemiology, community health, health evidence and policy, quantitative biomedicine, medical humanities, or other approved areas.

To request funding, submit the funding request form and an abstract proposal that is approved by the mentor and SCHOLaR track advisor. MSRO will review applications and seek the best funding opportunity for the student and project from among a range of sources.

The Karen Zier, PhD Medical Student Research Day, held in mid-March is a forum for students to share the results of your projects with the Icahn School of Medicine community. Participants receive training on how to write an abstract and prepare a poster or give an oral talk. More advanced students may use the opportunity to hone their presentation skills in anticipation of giving a presentation at a national meeting. Research Day is open to all medical students, regardless of where the research was done. All abstracts are published in the Research Day Abstract Book. Visit the Medical Student Research Day for more information

A Scholarly Year is available to students who have completed their second or third year of medical training, although students most often choose to pursue a scholarly year following their third year to take advantage of the clinical perspective offered by the clerkships. It allows students a more intense and focused research experience to develop and carry out a mentored project in an area of their choice. In the broadest terms, the project must investigate a question of scientific and medical value and be feasible to complete within the time frame available. Studies must be strongly mentored and approved by the MSRO Director

For more information about the following:

  • Director of internal and external funding opportunities
  • Detailed guidelines about the approval process
  • Guidelines for mentors of students

Please consult the following resources:

Applying for a Scholarly Year:

Students considering a Scholarly Year, must meet with the MSRO Director 6-12 months before the desired starting period to discuss potential mentors, studies, and funding. Those on Scholarly Year are not eligible for federal student loans though they are regarded as fulltime students with the ability to defer loans.

The majority of students start their Scholarly Year in mid-July to August. The Scholarly Year is an 11-month commitment. Students returning early will be required to complete the remaining time with a not for credit research elective. The registrar’s office will track this time. A final scholarly product must be submitted and presented at the annual Medical Student Research Day.

During Scholarly Year students may stay in housing. If required to be onsite at another institution, students should work with the housing office to ensure housing upon return. Students may also remain on the school-sponsored health insurance plan during that time, and should consider the cost of coverage in estimating costs for the year.

The Request for Scholarly Year form can be found on the Medical School Forms page and must be submitted no later than May 15. If pursuing a second degree or a consulting fellowship consult with the Office of Student Affairs and not MSRO.

Return from Scholarly Year
Students must obtain clearance to return from a Scholarly Year. The form can be found on the Medical School Forms webpage. The scholarly product is required of everyone May 1, as is the Scholarly Year Student Clearance Check List, which addresses all compliance requirements for return to the clinical realm and school. Students should notify the Registrar’s office of their intention to return by March 1 to be entered into the clerkship lottery.

If the necessary requirements are not completed, we will presume the student no longer wishes to be considered in good standing and will be placed you on administrative leave. To apply for reinstatement at a later date, students will need to complete a new application for admissions.

As outlined above under “Applying for a Scholarly Year,” we expect an 11-month commitment, students wishing to return early will be required to make up that time during a non-credit research elective.

Before taking a required sub internship, in medicine or pediatrics, you are required to take a clinical refresher upon returning from scholarly leave into the fourth year. The clinical refresher must be a rigorous experience such as Emergency Medicine or a hospitalist elective. Experiences other than Emergency Medicine must be approved by the Faculty Advisor.

The Medical Student Research Office (MSRO) provides Travel Grant Awards to MD, MD/MPH, MD/MSCR, and MD/PhD for their presentation at scientific conferences of up to $500 for one trip per academic year. The student’s mentor must match 50 percent of the MSRO award up to a maximum of $500. If the mentor is unable to match, the mentor should state this in the student’s letter of support. In this case, students may still qualify to receive 50% support for eligible expenses from the MSRO, up to a maximum of $500. Only projects begun in medical school are eligible for funding. MD/PhD students are eligible for support to present work completed during their MD years if the project is unrelated to their PhD research. In some cases, students may be able to obtain travel funding from a conference, CMCA, the Global Health Institute, or Student Council. Funding for Scholarly Year students also may be available from national programs and mentors often support travel for their Scholarly Year students.

In order to qualify for a travel award, the student must fulfill all of the following:

  • Be first author on the abstract accepted for an oral or poster presentation;
  • the work presented must be original work;
  • Must not have been funded by the MSRO to present the same project at a different conference;
  • Submit a letter or email from the faculty mentor stating his/her agreement to match the support of your travel, and provide the mentor's fund number. This document should be attached (as a pdf) with the online application;
  • If the conference coincides with a mandatory course session or part of a clerkship, the must obtain permission to be away prior to travel. Send an email to medstudentabsence@mssm.edu and copy the Course/Clerkship Director. Print the response email and attach it to the travel request form;
  • Be in good standing; and
  • Submit requests in advance of booking any travel, lodging or conference registration.

Further information is on Blackboard under the MSRO page at this link, click here

PORTAL is a five-year, 38-credit, multidisciplinary combined degree (MD-Masters in Clinical Research [MSCR]) program for medical students interested in careers as clinical investigators. Students are eligible to apply to the PORTAL program during their first year of medical school. This intensely mentored program offers a multidisciplinary approach to clinical investigation to introduce medical students to the field of clinical/translational research and how it drives the practice of clinical medicine. Students are part of a select group of scholars that integrate learning about clinical medicine, along with how to establish a career in clinical investigation from the very start of their medical education.

Program participants learn to design and carry out original research studies leading to new approaches to the prevention, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of disease. This comprehensive dual degree program prepares students for a future as lifelong learners as well as for careers in academia, research institutes, industry, or regulatory agencies. The curriculum focuses on building critical thinking skills and offers a solid foundation for conducting independent patient-oriented research studies. For thesis research, students pursue original scholarly research on a subject of their choice, guided by a faculty mentor and the program directors. This entails the formulation of a research question, design and conduct of a research plan, analysis of resulting data, and presentation of the findings.

The program begins in Year 2 of medical school. MSCR coursework is taken during Year 2 and during the Scholarly Year (between medical school Year 3 and Year 4). Most of the thesis work is performed during the Scholarly Year and successful students are awarded the MSCR degree.

Students selected for the competitive PORTAL program receive full tuition scholarships to cover tuition for the MSCR degree. There is no medical school tuition during the Scholarly Year. PORTAL participants receive a stipend during their Scholarly Year to cover living expenses, including health insurance. An information session on PORTAL is held for medical school Year 1 students in the fall.

Complete information on the program, including the curriculum, can be found on the MD/MSCR Portal Program page and Blackboard under the MSRO page at this link, click here

The Distinction in Research (DIR) recognizes students who take ownership of an original research project and publish the results as a first author during medical school. Students in the MSTP (MD/PhD) program are eligible to apply.

Guidelines

  • In order to qualify for graduation with Distinction in Research, students must:
  • Be in good academic standing. 
  • Have a first author manuscript on an original research study accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Only manuscripts published in a peer-reviewed journal with an Impact Factor greater than or equal to two.
  • Submit the online application, including a copy of the manuscript or a PubMed link to access the manuscript. The form link can be found on the MSRO Blackboard page.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.  The deadline for MS Y4 is March 1.

Further information is on Blackboard under the MSRO page at this link, click here

Blackboard contains additional helpful information including how to:

  • Write an abstract
  • Prepare a research proposal
  • Give an oral talk
  • Make a poster
  • Obtain IRB approval
  • Access biostatistical support when planning a project or analyzing resulting data
  • Research specific how-to videos.