5 Ways to Get Pre-Med Research Experience

Doctor with stethoscope represents pre-med research experience.
Exploring the world of research in pre-med studies

Are you a pre-med student looking to enhance your chances of medical school? One way to set yourself apart from other applicants is by gaining research experience. Research experience demonstrates your curiosity and work ethic and equips you with essential skills for a medical career. 

This blog will explore five ways for pre-med students to obtain research experience. These strategies can maximize your chances of securing valuable research opportunities and strengthen your medical school application.

1. Leverage Summer Programs

Summer research programs hosted by medical centers and universities can be excellent avenues for pre-med students to gain research experience. These programs are specifically designed for undergraduate students and sometimes even high school students interested in scientific research.

The National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program, offered at numerous college campuses, is an example of a prestigious summer research program. Conduct thorough research and identify summer programs that cater to your research interests and goals. Applying and participating in these programs can provide immersive research experiences and valuable networking opportunities.

2. Forge Relationships with Professors

Building relationships with professors is one of the most effective ways to find research opportunities. Take the initiative to contact your professors and express your research interest. Schedule a meeting or invite them for coffee to discuss potential research and special project opportunities in their labs or departments. 

Additionally, engage with teaching and research assistants who work with you in your pre-med courses. They can provide valuable insights and guidance on available research opportunities. Establishing connections with faculty members early on can also lead to strong letters of recommendation, a crucial component of your medical school application.

3. Explore Department Websites and University Offerings

Pre-med student in lab coat gaining research experience.
Hands-on research: A crucial step in the pre-med journey

Departments within your university often provide information on current research projects or direct you to funded or volunteer research options. Visit the websites of various science departments at your university and explore the research opportunities they offer. Contact principal investigators leading grant projects at your institution and inquire about ways to get involved in their studies.

Additionally, utilize resources like the AAMC database, which lists summer undergraduate research programs for students interested in scientific research. Investigate these options to find research opportunities that align with your interests and goals.

4. Seek Guidance from Advisors

Your pre-med or college advisor can be a valuable resource when searching for research opportunities. Schedule a meeting with your advisor to discuss your research interest and inquire about potential opportunities on campus. These advisors possess extensive knowledge about academic opportunities and can direct you toward departments, professors, or programs that align with your research interests. 

Additionally, consider visiting your college’s career center and consulting with staff who can guide and support your research. Utilize resources like Medic Mind to uncover hidden research opportunities and receive expert advice on navigating the research landscape.

5. Consider Study Abroad and Internship Programs

Scientific equipment symbolizes pre-med research exploration.
Delving into the depths of pre-med research

Study abroad programs and internships present unique opportunities to research outside of traditional campus settings. Look for programs that conduct research in your field of interest. Study abroad programs often incorporate research components, allowing you to explore different cultural and academic environments while gaining valuable research experience. 

Additionally, internships at national laboratories and research facilities can provide hands-on research opportunities in cutting-edge scientific environments. Consider these non-traditional avenues to expand your research experience and broaden your perspective in preparation for medical school.

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What Med Schools Look For in Research Experiences

Medical schools value diverse research experiences covering basic and social sciences, clinical research, and humanities research. While any research experience can be beneficial, dedicating a full year to research, preferably in a lab setting, can make your application stand out. Research-oriented medical schools, particularly those offering MD-PhD programs, often offer preferential consideration to applicants with extensive research experience. Here are some key factors that medical schools look for in research experiences:

Depth and Duration: 

Medical schools appreciate applicants who have dedicated much time to research. Spending a full year or more working on a research project demonstrates commitment and allows for substantial contributions to the field. However, even shorter research experiences can be valuable if they are focused and impactful.

Hands-on Involvement: 

Active participation in research is highly regarded. Medical schools value applicants who have actively contributed to the design, execution, and analysis of research projects. Describe your specific responsibilities and highlight your involvement’s significant achievements or outcomes.

Publication and Presentation: 

It can significantly strengthen your application if you have had the opportunity to present your research findings at conferences or publish them in scientific journals. These accomplishments demonstrate your ability to communicate your research and contribute to the scientific community.

Interdisciplinary Exposure: 

While it is essential to have in-depth knowledge in your specific area of research, medical schools also appreciate applicants with exposure to interdisciplinary research. Your ability to collaborate across different fields and integrate diverse perspectives showcases your versatility and adaptability.

Impact and Reflection: 

Medical schools want to see the impact of your research experiences beyond the laboratory or academic setting. Reflect on how your research has influenced your understanding of medicine, patient care, or broader societal issues. Emphasize any lessons learned, personal growth, or the potential applications of your research in healthcare.

Remember, research experience is just one aspect of your medical school application. Maintaining a strong academic record, demonstrating leadership skills, engaging in extracurricular activities, and showcasing your passion for medicine through volunteering or clinical experiences is crucial.


Securing research experience as a pre-med student can significantly enhance your chances of getting into medical school. By forging relationships with professors, exploring department websites, leveraging summer programs, seeking guidance from advisors, and considering study abroad or internship opportunities, you can find lucrative ways to gain research experience. 

When applying to medical schools, highlight the depth and duration of your research involvement, active participation, publication or presentation accomplishments, interdisciplinary exposure, and the impact of your research on your understanding of medicine. 

By effectively showcasing your research experiences, you can demonstrate your dedication, curiosity, and potential as a future physician-scientist.


โ†’ Q1: How can I find research opportunities on my university campus?

Explore department websites and university offerings. Visit science department websites and reach out to principal investigators leading grant projects. Your pre-med advisor and college career center can also provide guidance and support in finding research opportunities.

โ†’ Q2: What types of research experiences do med schools look for?

Medical schools value a diverse range of research experiences, including basic and social sciences, clinical research, and humanities research. They appreciate applicants with hands-on involvement, publication or presentation of findings, interdisciplinary exposure, and research impact beyond the academic setting.

โ†’ Q3: What if I need to gain research experience?

While research experience is beneficial, it is not a requirement for medical school. If you need more research experience, focus on other aspects of your application, such as maintaining a strong academic record, demonstrating leadership skills, engaging in extracurricular activities, and showcasing your passion for medicine through volunteering or clinical experiences.

โ†’ Q4: Should I take a gap year to get research experience?

Taking a gap year solely for research experience is a personal decision. It can be beneficial if you are committed to gaining extensive research involvement or if research is a specific requirement for the medical schools you are targeting. Consider the potential benefits of a gap year, such as strengthening your application, exploring research interests, or improving your chances of admission.

โ†’ Q5: How much research experience do I need for medical school?

The amount of research experience needed varies among medical schools. While dedicating a full year or more to research can make your application stand out, even shorter research experiences can be valuable if they are focused and impactful. Research-oriented medical schools, especially those offering MD-PhD programs, often prefer applicants with extensive research experience. However, it’s important to note that research experience is just one aspect of a holistic application, and other factors also contribute to the overall evaluation by medical schools.

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