Summer Research Program
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I consider doing summer research?
Different people have different preferences regarding the mix of research versus clinical parts in their career. This is a great time for you to get exposed to biomedical research and see what is involved. Even if you eventually decide that you do not want to pursue a research-oriented career, exposure to some research early on will help you appreciate and keep up with the evolution of clinical care later on in your practice. Research experience also improves your chances of landing your preferred residency and/or fellowship later in your training.
Do I need to have previous research experience to apply to the Student Summer Research Program?
This is not necessary. However, students who have already had some research experience at the time of their application to the program receive priority in the selection process (particularly for funding support). Therefore, if you have identified a potential summer advisor, you are encouraged to start preparatory/orientation work and familiarize yourself with the environment where you will be conducting your summer research. For example, you may want to obtain IRB training and certification, or JeffChart training, if those will be required for your project. Furthermore, some preparatory research work in the spring before you start your summer project will greatly improve your chances of being productive and successful.
Can I do summer research outside the Student Summer Research Program? Why should I consider participating in the Program?
You do not have to participate in the formal Sidney Kimmel Medical College (SKMC) Student Summer Research Program to become involved in summer research. Many students find mentors/advisors and work on projects outside any formal program. Other students carry out summer research through various other programs, such as College within the College and Bridging the Gaps, or even at non-Jefferson environments. However, participation in the SKMC Student Summer Research Program will allow you to take advantage of other program components, such as the seminar series and interactions with fellow students. Furthermore, many Thomas Jefferson University faculty look to the structure of the program to help them identify and select students for their projects. Finally, financial support is also awarded to many of the program participants.
How do I find a project to work on during the summer?
First, think about the type/field of research that you may be interested in. Then, identify a faculty member who might have a project on which you can work. If you need help identifying potential advisors, approach the departmental director or research contact and he/she will point you to one or more faculty members who may be a good match for you. You may also approach faculty members who served as advisors to recent student summer research projects and check for opportunities among posted/advertised projects. If all else fails, you can contact the SKMC Student Summer Research Program Director or Coordinator for help. For more details, see Programs / Research Projects & Contacts.
What characteristics should a project have?
Basic science, translational, clinical, population, and community projects are all eligible for your summer work. However, a qualifying project should have sufficient breadth and complexity, and involve participation in actual study implementation and data collection (e.g., experiments, chart reviews, interviews or surveys, etc.). Ideally, it should also involve one or more research hypotheses that will be evaluated, although a purely descriptive project might also sometimes qualify. It is acceptable for a project not to achieve closure by the end of the summer, as long as some study implementation has been carried out and some data have been obtained that will support a proof-of-principle presentation and abstract. However, projects such as case studies, literature reviews, study/protocol design, preparation and submission of IRB materials, data collection, or creation/expansion of a database by themselves do not normally qualify—the project must include a hypothesis-driven component beyond logistical or administrative tasks. Please discuss these requirements with your advisor and make sure the proposed project is consistent with them.
You may work on multiple projects (possibly with different advisors), but a single project must be declared as primary by the end of June. This should be the project that is likely to achieve the most progress by the end of the summer, as the presentation and abstract will eventually be based on it.
Multiple students may work on the same project, but it is advisable to discuss and clear such cases in advance with the SKMC Student Summer Research Program director by the end of June. Although student tasks and responsibilities may overlap, each student should ideally focus on a different aspect of the project, e.g., a different research hypothesis. In these cases, joint presentations and abstracts might be acceptable.
Do I need to have an advisor and a project identified before I apply to the summer research program?
In some instances, this is not possible, as noted in the description of particular programs (e.g., Emergency Medicine, Family & Community Medicine, see Programs). However, in most other cases, having talked to a departmental research contact and possibly having identified an advisor is highly desirable. Having outlined a specific project is not required but a general discussion of potential projects is strongly encouraged. Students who have already identified an advisor and have discussed possible summer projects with him/her by the time of their application to the program receive priority in the selection process (both for program admission and funding support). So, please approach potential advisors (if appropriate) as early as possible to discuss your interests and research projects on which you might be able to work during the summer.
Does my advisor/project need to be at Thomas Jefferson University?
This is not necessary. An appropriate advisor for you may be based at a Jefferson-affiliated institution (e.g., Wills Eye Institute, Rothman Institute, Methodist Hospital, or Nemours/duPont Hospital), or even in an environment that does not have a formal connection to Jefferson, including other academic institutions and programs (e.g., UPenn, Vanderbilt), federal, state or local government agencies, or community organizations. However, if you are planning to work outside Jefferson and/or with a mentor who is not a Thomas Jefferson University faculty member, you must discuss those plans with the SKMC Student Summer Research Program Director before submitting your application. Keep in mind that Thomas Jefferson University financial support is generally not available to students who conduct their summer research off-campus.
Can I have multiple advisors/projects?
This is possible but not recommended. Program duration is short and you need to have a tangible product (abstract, presentation) at the end of the summer. Involvement with multiple projects runs the risk of none of them progressing sufficiently. Therefore, you should focus on a single project as your primary one for the summer. Choose the one that is most likely to progress sufficiently and to yield some results by the end of the summer. In practice, you may actually be able to work on additional secondary side projects, as time permits. Note that the advisor and project you specify in the application are provisional; they may change as circumstances change, and they need not be finalized until the end of June.
Can I participate in both the Student Summer Research Program and an externship that partially overlap in time?
This may be possible but is not recommended. A short externship (e.g., orthopedics or surgery) may take away 2 weeks, during which meaningful summer research work is not possible. It may be possible to make up that time by: (i) starting summer research work one week early; and (ii) working through the week typically reserved for vacation. However, such arrangements will be difficult and exhausting, leaving no time off during the summer. Ultimately, any such plans should be discussed with and approved by your summer research advisor and the SKMC Student Summer Research Program Director.
Is the application itself a commitment to the Student Summer Research Program?
No. The application itself is an expression of interest and intent. A preliminary decision needs to be made upon notification of acceptance into the program and provisional funding support (typically in late March) and a final commitment needs to be made upon notification of the finalized funding decision (typically in late April). For details, see Applying.
Does financial support accompany acceptance into the Student Summer Research Program?
Often, but not necessarily. Selection into the program and award of Federal Work Study funding or other financial aid are two separate processes. You may be accepted into the program but may not be awarded any financial support. Thomas Jefferson University tries to provide some financial support to most students who are accepted into the program, but this is not always possible and depends on the availability of funds each year and each student's eligibiligy for them. For details, see Financial Support.
Can I take vacation during the Student Summer Research Program?
Yes. The program period typically includes provision for one week of (unpaid) vacation. You must consult with your advisor to make sure that your vacation plans do not conflict with any requirements of your research project. You must also make sure that your vacation fits in with all the other program requirements. For example, your vacation should not lead you to miss more than three seminars, and it should normally not be taken during the last week of the program when oral presentations occur.
Can I withdraw from the Student Summer Research Program after I have accepted a spot or after the program has started?
Yes. After you have accepted a slot in the Program or even after you have started research work, your health, family, financial or other circumstances may change. Please discuss the relevant issues with your advisor (if you already have one) and the SKMC Student Summer Research Program Director. If you so desire, ways can often be found for you to restructure your research work and complete the Summer Research Program successfully. Alternatively, you can always withdraw from the Program and there is absolutely no academic penalty or consequence attached to your withdrawal. Note, however, that your financial support may be discontinued if it was tied to performing your summer research work (this may not hold if your financial support was a scholarship). Please discuss the particulars of your situation with the SKMC Student Summer Research Program Director and the Financial Aid Office.
Can I continue my research beyond the summer?
Certainly. Discuss your interests with your advisor and the SKMC Student Summer Research Program Director. If you know beforehand that you are ready for a longer commitment than just the 7-10 weeks in the summer, you may want to consider the College within the College Program which includes research during the summer between your first and second years in medical college but also additional follow-up work in subsequent years.