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Neuroscience phd after MD for internationa student


mlg22
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Hi everyone, 

 

I am now in my sixth and final year of medical school in Athens, Greece and I want to ask about my chances of geetting accepted into a phd in neuroscience if I apply next year for entrance in fall 2016.

 

My grades are above average (in the upper 10% of my year) and I have some research experience during my undergraduate year. Specifically I have been a research assistant for more than a year now in the epidemiology department. This has led to 3 presentatons in greek conferences (2 out of 3 in neurology) while I am working on other projects that will result in at least 4 publications (mostly in neurology subjects). Moreover I already have one review publucation in a renowned peer-reviewed journal (regarding pathophysiology of atherosclerosis) and a review published in a greek journal (about epilepsy). My plan is to obtain basic research experience during next summer and autumn in a neuroscience lab (I have already made an arrangement about this) and then apply for a phd in neurosceince in the usa and canada. 

 

I will sit the examinations for GRE and TOEFL the upcoming summer. 

 

Which universities do you think I should apply to? My objective is to study in the USA, since I plan to stay there for residency after the phd, but I have relatives in Montreal, Canada and I plan to appy for the McGill neuroscience program as well.

Is a foreign MD a competitive candidate for a neurosceince phd? What are my chances in general?

 

Lastly, I would like your opinion on another issue. I was tthinking of applying to a combined master's/phd program in neurobiology in my university for the upcoming year. I know that my chances of getting accepted here are really high. This would give me the theoritical background in neuroscience that I must have in order to go on with the phd in the US and would be a good plan B if I am noy accepted in the US. However, the msc is awarded only after 2 years of study, so this would mean that when I apply in the USA next november-december it will look like i just have started a graduate program that I plan to quit. How will this appear for my application?

 

And a final question, I know that the mean time to graduation for a phd student is 4 to 7 years. Do you think that this is dependent on the candidate or it is mostly randomly determined?

 

Thanks in advance!

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Hi everyone, 

 

I am now in my sixth and final year of medical school in Athens, Greece and I want to ask about my chances of geetting accepted into a phd in neuroscience if I apply next year for entrance in fall 2016.

 

My grades are above average (in the upper 10% of my year) and I have some research experience during my undergraduate year. Specifically I have been a research assistant for more than a year now in the epidemiology department. This has led to 3 presentatons in greek conferences (2 out of 3 in neurology) while I am working on other projects that will result in at least 4 publications (mostly in neurology subjects). Moreover I already have one review publucation in a renowned peer-reviewed journal (regarding pathophysiology of atherosclerosis) and a review published in a greek journal (about epilepsy). My plan is to obtain basic research experience during next summer and autumn in a neuroscience lab (I have already made an arrangement about this) and then apply for a phd in neurosceince in the usa and canada. 

 

I will sit the examinations for GRE and TOEFL the upcoming summer. 

 

Which universities do you think I should apply to? My objective is to study in the USA, since I plan to stay there for residency after the phd, but I have relatives in Montreal, Canada and I plan to appy for the McGill neuroscience program as well.

Is a foreign MD a competitive candidate for a neurosceince phd? What are my chances in general?

 

Lastly, I would like your opinion on another issue. I was tthinking of applying to a combined master's/phd program in neurobiology in my university for the upcoming year. I know that my chances of getting accepted here are really high. This would give me the theoritical background in neuroscience that I must have in order to go on with the phd in the US and would be a good plan B if I am noy accepted in the US. However, the msc is awarded only after 2 years of study, so this would mean that when I apply in the USA next november-december it will look like i just have started a graduate program that I plan to quit. How will this appear for my application?

 

And a final question, I know that the mean time to graduation for a phd student is 4 to 7 years. Do you think that this is dependent on the candidate or it is mostly randomly determined?

 

Thanks in advance!

Depending on your specialty of interest, It is possible to do your PhD during residency. 

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Just a side thought, why are you looking at obtaining a PhD? At least where I'm studying a good number of faculty members do have MDs instead of PhDs and a MD can very much qualify you for academic research. I admit I don't know the details of what is needed, but it may not be necessary to go through an additional half-decade of schooling if your goals can be fulfilled without the additional degree. Additionally, at least where I study, none of the PhD students have a degree higher than a masters.

If anything, I don't think the issue is if you're sufficiently qualified, but that you're overqualified.

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I am going to be pretty candid here-

any time a student comes to our program with an MD already now looking for a PhD. red flags are raised. Issues of career commitment and lifelong student status are also brought to our attention. You've devoted an enormous amount of time and money to a career in medicine and now you want to switch to another program. It almost sounds to me as you do not know what you want to do, and admissions committees see that too. 

 

Additionally, students who apply to MD/PhD programs are them selves initially huge redflags... they don't know what they want and the depth of research they do does not warrant a PhD. in the same degree it does for a PhD. student who does 7 yrs intensive research. MD/PhD. students thesis projects are sadly most of the time seen as unoriginal and extensions of former summer students projects.

Additionally MD/Phd faculty members out there can barely obtain grant funding, why are you now seeking to obtain a PhD?

 

In my experience these students do not get along with their peers, they continue to bring their "medical school" knowledge to graduate school, and they are trained to memorize and regurgitate information, where as PhD students are trained to think about the big picture and think how each signaling cascade flows  with the next one, brought up in the following lecture, and in next years lecture.

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I have to agree with the other replies...what is your goal here?

 

If you want to do research, you don't need a PhD, plenty of foreign MDs do research in the US. What you should apply for is a post-doc, fellowship, or even a staff scientist position somewhere to gain experience and then use that to apply for faculty positions.

 

If you want to practice medicine in the US, you obviously need to do residency here. My fear is that you're trying to use the PhD to establish yourself in the US as a springboard to a residency application. If that's your ultimate goal, don't waste a school's time as it will be obvious you don't care about the degree and they won't want to deal with you. I worked with a fair number of IMGs at my old job and ALL of them were just in the lab to polish their CV for residency; it was clear they didn't give two shits about our experiments or the conclusions. Don't be that person.

Edited by ss2player
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First of all, thanks a lot for your immediate replies.

 

What needs to be clarified here is that I dont want to get into a phd in order to establish myself in the US and improve my chances for a residency match. My goal is to become a physician-scientist in academics. Here in greece most of professors have a phd and a huge amount of biomedical research is based on physicians. I neither want to polish my CV for residency nor to do unoriginal research just to put my name in a number of publications. 

Im really interested in research and I cant see why being a physician at the same time should be an obstacle. The in-depth knowledge of the pathophysiology of diseases you are diagnosing and treating makes you to better understand the way everything works and makes you a better physician. On the other hand, the clinical background and the clinical observations made by a physician generate new research hypotheses that could be tested in epidemiological studies and after that in basic research experiments to investigate their biological background. I don think that I am going to be the person you are describing. If I just wanted what you' re saying, I would just come in the US and do observerships and 1-year clinical research as a fellow.

What I really want with the phd is to obtain the appropriate education in order to be able to do research in the future. Do you think that as an MD, I would be able to do the same thing? That possibly the phd is not necessary for this career?

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I can only comment on what I've observed as I never really looked at the path of earning a MD and then entering research, but there's a good number of professors in the US engaged in research who do not possess a PhD and instead are MDs. Look at the faculty pages for neuroscience departments at US universities and you're going to see a number of different professors who have MDs.

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First of all, thanks a lot for your immediate replies.

 

What needs to be clarified here is that I dont want to get into a phd in order to establish myself in the US and improve my chances for a residency match. My goal is to become a physician-scientist in academics. Here in greece most of professors have a phd and a huge amount of biomedical research is based on physicians. I neither want to polish my CV for residency nor to do unoriginal research just to put my name in a number of publications. 

Im really interested in research and I cant see why being a physician at the same time should be an obstacle. The in-depth knowledge of the pathophysiology of diseases you are diagnosing and treating makes you to better understand the way everything works and makes you a better physician. On the other hand, the clinical background and the clinical observations made by a physician generate new research hypotheses that could be tested in epidemiological studies and after that in basic research experiments to investigate their biological background. I don think that I am going to be the person you are describing. If I just wanted what you' re saying, I would just come in the US and do observerships and 1-year clinical research as a fellow.

What I really want with the phd is to obtain the appropriate education in order to be able to do research in the future. Do you think that as an MD, I would be able to do the same thing? That possibly the phd is not necessary for this career?

 

Well, glad to hear that! No, I don't think it's necessary, but if you REALLY want to, you can. There are a couple of folks like this in my cohort: an MBBS from India and an MD from Egypt. Both are smart and motivated and have enthusiasm for the research, so I like having their expertise on the pathology side of things.

 

I still think working as a researcher but not in a degree program will help you accomplish your goals in a faster, more efficient manner. My previous PI is an MD from Turkey and he worked at Sloan-Kettering for ~6 years to get research experience as a staff scientist, then did residency at Yale, and is now an associate professor and clinician.

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MDs far outnumber PhDs & MD/PhDs in the department I work in now, which is a part of the medical school at a big university in the states -- I don't think the PhD is necessary to do research.  I'm not sure what the process is for moving into research with an MD, but it hardly seems impossible.

Edited by fec
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The PhD is necessary to do research in terms of applying for grants. The PhD. provides the grant writing framework necessary to apply for and obtain an RO1 grant. If an MD does not have a PhD. they have to find a PhD. researcher to support them, assist in the grant writing and experimental design. I firsthand watched my colleague, a research PI help an MD try to write a grant and it was a nightmare. The MD was consistently dinged for not having grant writing experience and was not given the grants compared to the people who they were competing with for and RO1, those people all had previous grant writing experience.

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The PhD is necessary to do research in terms of applying for grants. The PhD. provides the grant writing framework necessary to apply for and obtain an RO1 grant. If an MD does not have a PhD. they have to find a PhD. researcher to support them, assist in the grant writing and experimental design. I firsthand watched my colleague, a research PI help an MD try to write a grant and it was a nightmare. The MD was consistently dinged for not having grant writing experience and was not given the grants compared to the people who they were competing with for and RO1, those people all had previous grant writing experience.

Is this in Greece? I can guarantee this is not the case in the US. At my research institute some of the PI's with the most NIH funding are MD's. You should consider taking scientific writing/grant writing courses. It sounds like that would be more helpful to you than a PhD. Also, why don't you consider apply for staff scientist positions? Quite a few labs associated with Med schools/research institutes have MD's working in the lab. It would provide you with the neccessary research experience/grant writing/scientific writing that you are looking for. 

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No this is in the US. 

MD's who were new and were just starting their own lab from the ground up were facing these situations- not established MD's. Established MD' also conducting research get great NIH funding due to the translational applicability of their research. 

A new MD who wants to conduct research will generally seek out advice from an established research track/tenure track faculty if there has been a lack of scientific writing/grant writing in the MD's background.

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Hi there! I'm a European MD who moved onto doing a PhD in the States. I'm hoping I'll have some useful advice for you, since we come from similar backgrounds. (also, some of the negativity in this thread is bringing me down, so I'd like to show a more cheerful perspective)

 

I wanted to get a PhD because my goal is to devote myself to bench research exclusively in the future. Technically, I could have done this by doing a research fellowship or a postdoc (many of my friends have done this), but research at this stage requires more scientific independence, critical thinking skills, and frankly, experience. Because, when you think about it, these are positions that come right before you transition into being a standalone scientist. Also, for getting a good postdoc position, your research experience matters a great deal. I'd gotten my feet wet as a med student, but I was nowhere close to being ready to function independently, nor did I have any strong publications. I tech'ed for a while after moving to the States, and had good publications afterwards that could have potentially allowed me to find a postdoc position, but I still preferred to take the longer route of a PhD, because I thought that in the long run, it would teach me to think like a scientist a lot better than just moving onto a postdoc.

 

Your case is a little different though - or might be, depending on how much of your career you want to be dedicated to research. If you would mainly like to be a clinician who does research on the side, it's definitely a good option to take a fellowship/postdoc route. A PhD is a significant time investment, and if you don't see yourself devoted to running a lab in the future, might not be worth it. (I don't really plan on practicing as a physician, so it was a more clear-cut decision for me). And especially since you want to do a residency later on, it could be a red flag for residency programs that you have been away from the bedside for so long - I cannot stress this enough, a lot of residency programs place importance in how long it's been since you've graduated (some programs even impose rules regarding this, not more than 5 years after medical school graduation etc.). It's not going to make or break you in terms of getting into a residency, but keep that in mind.

 

That being said...after factoring in all these other things, if you do want to do PhD, then go for it! Don't let any of the possible negativity and/or prejudice you will encounter stray you from your direction. A number of people were leery of me as an applicant because they 1) doubted my investment to research, and kept saying I would probably go back to medicine anyway or 2) were unsure my credentials were appropriate for biomedical research, because like you, I went to medical school straight after high school. So you might get a few raised eyebrows, for totally valid reasons (Also for invalid ones, occasionally. Sadly, there's this deeply ingrained "I'm better than you" struggle between MDs and PhDs that is utterly pointless - ignore that). As long as you are truly passionate about your commitment to science, it will show, and you will pull through.

 

And finally, remember that, as physicians and/or scientists, each of us are different. My mentor always says there is no one-size-fits-all in science. Draw your own path to reach you career goals, regardless of what you choose to do in terms of your training. Good luck! ^_^

Edited by scienceowl
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No this is in the US. 

MD's who were new and were just starting their own lab from the ground up were facing these situations- not established MD's. Established MD' also conducting research get great NIH funding due to the translational applicability of their research. 

A new MD who wants to conduct research will generally seek out advice from an established research track/tenure track faculty if there has been a lack of scientific writing/grant writing in the MD's background.

IF that's the case then why do you need to do a PhD? Why can't you just find an established tenured faculty since you have lack of grant writing in your background?

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In order to obtain grants you need a PhD. The PhD prepares students for writing manuscripts and grants. An MD can apply for grants but because of a lack in grant writing experience, they will collaborate with or seek advice from a research faculty on grant writing. They are also not trained to write grants in medical school, the focus is not on securing funds in the forms of grants to start a lab, but in med school to be a doctor.

New MD's who want to conduct their own research to obtain their own lab do not have grant writing experience, an established tenured faculty member will provide basic grant writing help and some advice. In some cases, I have seen research PI's offer their lab space and equipment to help out a new MD who wants to start his/her own research lab but has yet to secure funds and an actual lab space.

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  • 3 months later...

Hi there! I'm a European MD who moved onto doing a PhD in the States. I'm hoping I'll have some useful advice for you, since we come from similar backgrounds. (also, some of the negativity in this thread is bringing me down, so I'd like to show a more cheerful perspective)

 

I wanted to get a PhD because my goal is to devote myself to bench research exclusively in the future. Technically, I could have done this by doing a research fellowship or a postdoc (many of my friends have done this), but research at this stage requires more scientific independence, critical thinking skills, and frankly, experience. Because, when you think about it, these are positions that come right before you transition into being a standalone scientist. Also, for getting a good postdoc position, your research experience matters a great deal. I'd gotten my feet wet as a med student, but I was nowhere close to being ready to function independently, nor did I have any strong publications. I tech'ed for a while after moving to the States, and had good publications afterwards that could have potentially allowed me to find a postdoc position, but I still preferred to take the longer route of a PhD, because I thought that in the long run, it would teach me to think like a scientist a lot better than just moving onto a postdoc.

 

Your case is a little different though - or might be, depending on how much of your career you want to be dedicated to research. If you would mainly like to be a clinician who does research on the side, it's definitely a good option to take a fellowship/postdoc route. A PhD is a significant time investment, and if you don't see yourself devoted to running a lab in the future, might not be worth it. (I don't really plan on practicing as a physician, so it was a more clear-cut decision for me). And especially since you want to do a residency later on, it could be a red flag for residency programs that you have been away from the bedside for so long - I cannot stress this enough, a lot of residency programs place importance in how long it's been since you've graduated (some programs even impose rules regarding this, not more than 5 years after medical school graduation etc.). It's not going to make or break you in terms of getting into a residency, but keep that in mind.

 

That being said...after factoring in all these other things, if you do want to do PhD, then go for it! Don't let any of the possible negativity and/or prejudice you will encounter stray you from your direction. A number of people were leery of me as an applicant because they 1) doubted my investment to research, and kept saying I would probably go back to medicine anyway or 2) were unsure my credentials were appropriate for biomedical research, because like you, I went to medical school straight after high school. So you might get a few raised eyebrows, for totally valid reasons (Also for invalid ones, occasionally. Sadly, there's this deeply ingrained "I'm better than you" struggle between MDs and PhDs that is utterly pointless - ignore that). As long as you are truly passionate about your commitment to science, it will show, and you will pull through.

 

And finally, remember that, as physicians and/or scientists, each of us are different. My mentor always says there is no one-size-fits-all in science. Draw your own path to reach you career goals, regardless of what you choose to do in terms of your training. Good luck! ^_^

Well thank you for this reply! I was going through this thread and your reply helped a lot! In India the graduate schools for biomedical sciences are understaffed and have poor educational standards. Medical school is the only way of getting a good graduate education when it comes to biological sciences. But I _always_ wanted to be a research scientist. I love developmental and cellular biology! I am applying for a PhD this year. I honestly didn't think I would rank low because I am an MD. And like you just out of med school I don't have experience to apply for a post doc /fellowship and i think a structured program will help me.
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