MS4 Scholarship & Discovery

Learning Plan

By the beginning of October of the fourth year, students are required to submit a Learning Plan, which outlines their scholarly plans for the MS4 year. The Learning Plan provides opportunity for students to express their intended plan and rationale for fulfillment of the minimum required 100 S&D elective units (maximum 300 units). 

At this point in the curriculum, students may choose to remain on the same project with the same mentor from the MS2 year, or may elect to begin project with a new mentor on a new project, or continue with the same mentor in a different capacity. These intentions, coupled with a concrete plan of action, are communicated to the S&D Steering Committee via the Learning Plan.  The Learning Plan indicates how many months (typically 1-3) each student intends to work on scholarly project work, as well as if s/he plans to complete elective coursework relevant to project work, and/or engage in TA opportunities.  A minimum of 100 S&D Units is required throughout the MS4 year. Submitting a Learning Plan that is approved by the S&D Steering Committee automatically registers you for your S&D MS4 credits.

Fulfilling Unit Requirements

While it may be easiest - and is usually recommended - to follow a linear path of working with the same project and mentor from your MS2 Spring Block, this may not always be the case. Students may diverge from a set plan for myriad reasons related to their project, mentor, or evolving interests. Considering these factors, students have numerous options as to how to satisfy their S&D elective unit requirement.

Scholarly Project Work (100-300 Units)

Students may dedicate from a minimum of 100 units to a maximum of 300 units toward scholarly project work. MEDC 40120 - Scholarship & Discovery (100 - 300 Units) is the elective course in which students register to obtain credit for an S&D project. Once a Learning Plan is submitted and approved, students will automatically be registered for this course.

Students can determine exactly how much time (1 - 3 months) to allocate towards completion of their S&D requirements, as well as which months of the year will be dedicated toward this process. The S&D Team recommends meeting with individual mentors and Track Leaders to discuss the status of any projects and to map specific plans for completion. Many students pursue their S&D work at various points from December through April -- after residency applications are submitted and required clinical rotations are complete, yet prior to the Senior Scientific Session.

Elective Coursework (100 Unit minimum)

Students can take a minimum 100 unit elective to enhance their understanding of a specific area related to their scholarly project or interests. Because interests are diverse, any nonclinical elective may apply to S&D requirements, so long as the student can provide rationale as to how it helps her/him to achieve S&D relevant goals. The elective cannot be a clinical rotation or the same elective that was applied toward the Basic Science requirement. 

Senior Scientific Session (100 Units)

In May, students who elect to present their work at the annual Senior Scientific Session (SSS) will receive an additional 100 elective units towards graduation. Students can indicate on their Learning Plan whether they are interested in participating in the Senior Scientific Session, as well as detail the project on which they plan to present. Please note that although participation in the Senior Scientific Session is not required, it is highly encouraged.

Final Submission

In early spring, a Final Submission assignment is due, which includes a structured Abstract, e-Poster, and Reflection Survey. This assignment serves as the S&D capstone, reflecting the culmination of each student's scholarly activities. Students are asked to submit the work that they feel is most reflective of their MS4 scholarly project (i.e., that which was originally proposed in the Learning Plan). If students have worked on more than one project in their MS4 year -- and seek feedback on multiple projects -- up to 2 abstracts and 2 ePosters may be submitted.


This is a 500 word abstract that summarizes a project that students have done during S&D (either MS2 or MS4 work). Abstract headings will include traditional research subheadings or descriptions of innovations for those pursuing this type of work in Community Health, Global Health, Medical Education, or Quality & Safety.


The e-Poster may be an update of the student's e-Poster from the MS2 S&D Spring Block, or it may be a new e-Poster based on MS4 work.

Reflection Survey

The Reflection Survey is a series of short answer and multiple choice questions about student progress, lessons learned, and suggestions for improvement. This brief questionnaire allows students to formally reflect upon their scholarly work and the impact that it will have on their professional development. Too, this serves as a venue to provide suggestions for the future classes of Pritzker students participating in the S&D curriculum.


ERAS Guidelines

  • Published manuscripts should be directly imported from PubMed to ensure information integrity, and listed separately from pre-published manuscripts.
  • Clearly differentiate published from non-published manuscripts and peer-reviewed from non-peer-reviewed work.
  • Provide separate listings for manuscripts, posters, and oral presentations.
  • Label listings as either “published,” “accepted,” or “in press”.
  • A hierarchical system with sublistings for repeat presentations and publications will help to avoid duplication. Double listing conference presentations as published manuscripts artificially inflates your research efforts.

Guidelines and language sourced from:

Grimm, L., & Maxfield, C. (2014). A proposal to reduce misrepresentation of medical student research activities in ERAS. Academic Medicine, 89(6), 833. 

Overton, R.B. (2014). In reply to Grimm and Maxfield. Academic Medicine, 89(6), 833-834. 

Presenting Scholarly Work on the Interview Trail

Pritzker's unique curricular emphasis on scholarly work often piques interest during residency interviews. Interviewers want to hear about the research that you have done, what you have gained from these experiences, and the momentum that you will carry forward into your training. See the tips below for guidance on how to effectively present your scholarly work during your residency interviews. If you seek additional guidance, your mentors and Track Leader(s) are able to provide helpful advice on this topic. 

Know Thy Work 

When speaking about your research, it is imperative that you are well-versed in your project and knowledgeable about the broader topic. Brush up on your project(s), especially if you haven’t worked on it in a while! This includes any work that is on your CV – even projects from undergrad on which you were a co-author. Be prepared to potentially be connected to experts in the field and speak knowledgeably about your work.

Create a Narrative Story Arc

While some students work on the same project from their MS1 through their MS4 year, others may help with several studies led by different mentors. Regardless of your project continuity, when relaying your scholarly experiences be sure that your story is a cohesive one that connects what you did to the specialty that you intend to enter. In other words, have an explanation prepared as to how it all ties together – whether or not the work is in the same field.

Caveat: Don’t go into too much detail. Construct an elevator pitch that is not boring. Most interviewers are educators – they generally ask out of casual interest, and are not seeking to know every detail on the topic. Don’t launch into a diatribe!

Keep it Positive 

Whether or not your experience was one that you would deem “positive”, there are always valuable skills that you have gained through your participation. Whether or not you enjoyed the experience, something useful came of it – your retrospective attitude matters.

Channel Enthusiasm 

Interviewers will pick-up on the tone in which you speak about your work. How you frame and convey your medical school research experience is a sign to interviewers of how earnestly you will approach your scholarly work throughout residency.

Do NOT offer a Paper (unless asked)

…or unless the specific paper comes up and your interviewer suggests interest in seeing it. It looks overly eager otherwise.

It’s not all about you!

Don’t forget to ask about the interviewer’s research, and/or research opportunities at the institution. Most people will welcome the opportunity to share their own expertise.

Do your Homework

With the advice to ask about research opportunities, do not ask for information that could be easily gleaned from the institution’s website. Scope out their pages in advance to see if there is a research day or a set of resident accomplishments. If this topic comes up, you can highlight that you’ve done a little pre-investigation, demonstrating your interest. You can also look to see if there is a specific research track that may be a good fit for you.

Steer Clear of Logistics

Do not ask about protected time or funding in residency; these are questions that are more appropriately reserved for when you meet with residents or Program Directors. 

Best of luck on the Interview Trail!