Shriya Deshmukh is a fifth-year MD-PhD student at McGill University. Her PhD research is in experimental medicine and centers on uncovering epigenetic mechanisms driving the development of pediatric high-grade gliomas and neurodevelopmental syndromes. Prior to medical school, Shriya completed a bachelor of science in neuroscience from the University of Toronto.
This chapter focuses on insights into maximizing research productivity as an MD-PhD student. Unlike other graduate students, MD-PhD students typically have restrictions on the time they can devote to graduate studies, as imposed by program structure and the demands of concurrently completing a medical degree. In addition, because most MD-PhDs pursue clinical residencies upon graduation, there is a considerable gap between the conclusion of graduate studies and the start of their careers as physician-scientists. Research techniques, technologies, and knowledge progress at a rate considerably faster than the training trajectory of physician-scientists. Moreover, it is probable that research interests will diverge with the acquisition of additional clinical experiences during residency. Therefore, in this chapter, we focus on research skills that will serve MD-PhD graduates well even after a hiatus of several years.
As a student in the fourth year of my PhD, I am acutely aware of the time constraints of my graduate research program. Working in Dr. Nada Jabado’s lab, I study the epigenome’s role in the development of aggressive high-grade pediatric brain tumors and other cancers using various next-generation sequencing technologies, gene editing, and functional assays. The lab consists of a diverse, talented, and close-knit group of individuals, and we frequently interact with local and international collaborators across a spectrum of research and clinical disciplines. My time spent in this fun, fast-paced, and intellectually stimulating environment has taught me the importance of taking purposeful steps to promote research productivity.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Attend conferences and scientific meetings to learn, receive feedback, network with collaborators, and refocus your own projects.
Find a simple and effortless way to keep up-to-date with new research in your field: email alerts, social media, local meetings, journal clubs, etc.
Take student supervision responsibilities seriously.
Use committee meetings to assess progress and develop plans to achieve your goals.
Through uncertainty and failure, be open and seek help when necessary. Remind yourself why you love doing research!
Research productivity can be narrowly defined in terms of the number and quality of publications produced; this topic is covered at length in the following chapter. In this chapter, we take an expansive view of research productivity to encompass the development of foundational skills that will promote future research productivity. This chapter includes insights into presenting at conferences, keeping up-to-date with novel research findings, and taking advantage of committee meetings and exams to propel your projects forward.
Effective Communication is Essential
Effective communication is a foundational skill that is key to ...