Your S&D Experience

Beginning the S&D process can seem daunting. Students often have questions concerning selecting a project, identifying a mentor, and whether Track choice has implications for one's long-term career plans. In determining your path through the S&D curriculum, there are factors to consider while creating an appropriate plan. If you still have questions after reading the following guidance, please complete and submit the S&D Inquiry Form.

Interest

When students make their interests overly specific, it often becomes difficult to locate fitting projects. Before beginning the S&D process, it is important to contemplate broad interest areas where you seek growth. Once you have determined your wide scope of interest, you can begin searching for a mentor who works within these areas.

Mentor

In selecting a mentor, it is important to ensure that your mentor is "CAPE" - Capable, Available, your Project is of interest to her/him, and s/he is Easy for you to work with. Remember, the key to a successful S&D project is finding a mentor of best fit. The ideal mentor has one or more projects that are of interest to you, offering a work load that is reasonable for completion within your time frame as a student.

Feasibility

Considering the limited amount of time that you have, is it possible and practical to complete the project? Will this project require funds in excess of those already obtained by you or your mentor?  Due to these logistical limitations, it is often best to join an ongoing project or consider undertaking a smaller component of a larger project. Jumpstarting a Do It Yourself (DIY) project is not very easy and should be pursued with caution.

Back-Up Plan

Some projects may be very high risk. If so, it is best to discuss the "backup plan" with a mentor just in the case the project is never fully initiated or completed. Successful mentors often have many projects on which students can work, ensuring that a plan B is in place from the outset.

 

S&D Resources

To identify a successful S&D project, it is important to consider...

What are your BROAD interests?

When students make their interests overly specific, it often becomes difficult to locate projects. Before beginning the "S&D process," it is important to step back and take a large perspective, really contemplating what broad topics might be of interest to you. This flexible mindset will increase the likelihood and ease of you identifying a mentor with a project on which you can work successfully.

Is the project FEASIBLE?

Considering the time that you have, is it possible and practical to complete the project? Will this project require funds in excess of those already obtained by you or your mentor?  Due to these logistical limitations, it is often best to join an ongoing project or consider undertaking a smaller component of a larger project. Initiating a Do It Yourself (DIY) project is not very easy and should be pursued with caution.

Is there FLEXIBILITY?

Some projects could be very high risk. If so, its good to discuss with a mentor the "backup plan" in the case the project is never fully initiated. Successful mentors often have many projects on which students can work.

Is your mentor CAPE?

It is important to ensure that your mentor is Capable, Available, your Project is of interest to her/him, and s/he is Easy for you to work with. Remember, the key to a successful S&D project is identifying a mentor!

Finding the right mentor is a critical step in developing a positive scholarly experience. Historically, the term mentor can be traced to its origins in Homer's The Odyssey, in which he referred to an advisor. The long-standing and multifaceted role of a mentor is to guide and support you through your work, help you to maintain your focus, provide resources, advise you about dissemination opportunities, and also to offer valuable career suggestions. Guidance in finding a good fit with a mentor is always useful in cultivating this important relationship. Below are some tips from the S&D team.

Research

Start by creating a list of faculty members with whom you might like to work; this list might be based on alignment of overall interests or your attraction to past or current projects. Students most commonly identify their S&D mentors through guidance from the Scholarly Opportunities Online Catalog (where faculty members express interest in student mentorship), faculty websites, course directors, track leaders, and the S&D Team.  Further, former mentors, students, and course directors may sometimes provide referrals to mentors. Students can peruse faculty websites and also use PubMed to find publications of interest.

Contact

If a faculty member shares your broad interests, you might consider contacting her/him, always using professional standards for communication. Students can obtain e-mail addresses and other faculty contact information through the University of Chicago Online Directory.  Please anticipate at least 2 weeks until the first meeting occurs, being mindful of busy faculty schedules.

Meet

When meeting with a potential mentor, the student's aim is to determine whether the faculty member will be a good fit.  The acronym CAPE can help guide you in this process - is the mentor Capable? Available? Is her/his Project of interest to you? Is s/he Easy to get along with?  The following is a list of questions to use during your first meeting to help you to make this assessment.

About the Mentor

  • What is your background? How did you become interested in this area?
  • How long have you been at the University of Chicago? Do you foresee any changes in your career?
  • What is your schedule like? (e.g., Are you in the office/lab every day? How often do you travel?)
  • How many students do you currently mentor?
  • How many students have you mentored in the past?
  • What qualities do you look for in a student mentee?

About the Research

  • (If the project is not clear from the outset): The Department website lists your current research projects as X, Y, and Z; is this your most current work? If not, what are you working on now?
  • Do you think that my research interests in areas A, B, and C are a good fit with your current project(s)?
  • Are there other staff or personnel with whom I may be regularly interfacing?
  • Are there specific skills that I should refine prior to beginning work on your project?

Initial Meeting

Meeting with your mentor soon after you have established the relationship will establish momentum and ensure shared goals. This meeting is integral to deciding specifically on what you will be working, any training or prerequisite skills needed, and the timeline over which these activities are expected to occur.

You may have a burning question that you have been waiting to tackle once you got to medical school, knowing that you’d have time dedicated to scholarship.  While this is not completely impossible, it can be extremely difficult. This type of independent scholarly activity is typically what graduate students do during their 3-5 years of dedicated scholarly activity as part of a PhD program. Having said that, if you are strongly considering a DIY project, please be aware of potential barriers...

Study Design

You will be asking and answering your own scholarly question, which will take skill, independence, and motivation. Do you have the necessary requisites to do this?

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Projects that involve prospective data collection need to be reviewed by the IRB and this can take at a minimum 2 months to obtain (1 month to write, 1 month to get approval), with time extending if the IRB board has any questions. Putting together an IRB proposal requires mentorship and skill. Do you have time to prepare your study and IRB proposal, and receive IRB approval before your dedicated scholarship time occurs?

Mentorship

You will need a faculty mentor to serve as a Principal Investigator (PI) on your IRB application. Most mentors are excited to take on students to work on their ongoing interests and projects since they have their own grants and deliverables on which they are working. Because faculty members volunteer to mentor students, faculty may be unlikely to invest in a project unless it is directly related to their own work. Mentoring a student on a project that is entirely from scratch is a bigger time commitment than most mentors are used to.  It is advisable to discuss your idea with a Track Leader or a member of the S&D Team to see if they might know of an appropriate mentor. Do you have a mentor to serve as the PI?

Funding

Finding funding for projects that are “out of the box” is equally as challenging as the project itself. Summer work is optional and summer funds for projects are not guaranteed. Pritzker does maintain limited funds to support students through a variety of mechanisms (e.g., Innovation Fund, Keith Edson) for projects that do not meet the requirements or rigor of  the larger Summer Research Program (SRP). The level of funding for an individual student through these mechanisms may be less than the SRP stipend, and the availability of these funds may vary on a year-to-year basis. Do you have enough funds? Are you okay with waiting to see if you are awarded funding?

Expectations

It is important to set your expectations and goals appropriately for your independent project. Publication is not required for S&D. However, many students want to aim for external dissemination. If this is a top priority, you might work on an ongoing project with a mentor who is experienced in publishing with students. Taking your independent project from inception to completion, securing mentorship, and trying to disseminate can be very overwhelming and often is not feasible during your time in medical school. Do you know what you want to get out of your scholarly experience?

Dissemination

Congratulations, you have got your own project, and now you are working on it independently!  No one but you is invested in obtaining or disseminating the results. It is all up to you! Do you have the project management skills you need to get the work done?  Do you know how to write up your results, and further, go about publishing them?  

If your interest persists...

  • Meet with the relevant Track Leader or the S&D Team (if the appropriate Track Leader is unclear). In so doing, you may obtain guidance and support on whether your idea is viable in the constraints of the time you will have to devote to scholarly work.
  • Consider whether your timeline is feasible given the challenges with IRB, etc.
  • Understand funding limitations and be flexible with funding constraints; this may mean seeking multiple funding sources at once or having a back-up plan if funding is necessary.
  • Set expectations of your progress and scholarly products in a realistic way, accounting for the greater barriers to completing your work.

No matter which path you choose, we wish you a successful and fulfilling experience!

Please be aware that portable data is vulnerable data and that the leading cause of data loss is stolen or misplaced personal computing devices. Moving data, especially protected health information (PHI), poses unique security risks for the University. Failure to abide by a few common-sense principles could result in disastrous consequences.

Some Guidelines:

Personal computing devices are becoming more and more portable and securing sensitive information stored on those devices is more important than ever. We are all at risk and the stakes are high. Secure your device by following the steps outlined in the device-specific guidelines from the BSD Information Security Office.

All devices (laptops, computer, tablets, phones) must be password protected AND encrypted. If you lose a device that is encrypted, it significantly decreases the burden of proof about data loss. Although it may seem obvious, do not write the password on the encrypted media. 

Never email PHI to someone outside of the University. If you must email PHI, the Secure Email Portal provides a secure way for employees to email restricted information, such as PHI, to recipients outside of UCM and the BSD. For more information, visit the UCM Information Security Office Data Guardian Program webpage

Everyone must enroll in 2Factor Authentication (2FA). 2FA enhances the security of your CNetID by using your phone to verify your identity. This prevents anyone but you from using your account to log in to University websites, even if they know your CNetID password. 

Never store restricted information in an unencrypted state where it might be compromised. This includes removable media such as flash drives and CDs. UChicagoBox - a cloud-based file storage and sharing service - is available for storing patient information. Please visit this page for instructions on how to use the UChicagoBox, as well as a step-by-step guide on how to secure restricted information.

If you suspect that your data has been compromised, report it immediately to your mentor/PI and the departments below:

BSD Information Security Office

UCM Information Security Office     Phone: 2-3456

Office of Corporate Compliance     Phone: 1-877-440-5480

Information for Mentors

We hope to provide you with details about the Scholarship & Discovery program, along with the necessary information to help guide the Pritzker medical students. Your commitment to our students is critical to the success of this initiative - we wish to recognize the time and energy that you devote to shepherding a student through this process!

We encourage mentors to familiarize themselves with the Timeline by Year; this information will help you to understand the milestones expected to be reached during each year of the curriculum, as well as to plan your schedule when mentoring a student. Below, we have compiled the most Frequently Asked Questions that we receive from mentors.

As developing and improving this program is an iterative process, please let us know if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions by emailing scholarshipanddiscovery@bsd.uchicago.edu. We look forward to hearing from you!

Students do not select their "Scholarship and Discovery" project until the beginning of their second year. This means that the second year student would continue working on the project or related projects in your lab during their MS2 year; however, the majority of time devoted to the project is spent during a 5-week block of class-free time at the end of Spring quarter ("Spring Block" is between taking USMLE 1 and starting third year).  Students may also return to continue the project in the 4th year and receive 100 credits towards continued work with you; students may also earn an additional 100 credits through participation in the Senior Scientific Session. As many of you have already experienced cultivating a longitudinal relationship with a student, you will likely find your role to be similar. 

It is possible that students who you did not work with over the summer may identify you to be their Scholarship and Discovery mentor; this may either be because they have changed their interests or they did not participate in SRP (summer work is not required). In this case, your goal is to evaluate your ability to mentor the student as you normally would. As mentioned, the majority of project work for the student will occur during the MS2 year, primarily during the 5-week Spring Block (May - June), as well as some time during 4th year. 

We understand that, for several reasons, certain projects may be unsuccessful. For the S&D program, the results are not as important as the effort invested in producing the results. Depending on where the student is in her/his progress, we can work with you to develop an appropriate plan, which may include working on a related project with you or a faculty colleague. 

Fourth year students who have completed their project may either: 1) work on a related project with you; or 2) work with their track leader to identify an alternate activity to enhance scholarly skills (e.g., reading elective, additional coursework, etc.).

Students are not required to produce a publication. Students are required to submit a Progress Report  and e-Poster at the end of their second year and also at the end of fourth year. The S&D Team hopes and anticipates that many students will participate in the scholarly process of dissemination, whether through presenting at national meetings, contributing to or authoring publications. We also encourage students to disseminate their work at the annual Senior Scientific Session during May of the fourth year.

If your student is accepted to present at a national conference, Pritzker offers limited funds to provide financial support. Students can apply directly for funding via an online Application for Student Travel Funding. Contributions in-kind are also encouraged. Please send details regarding the presentation to scholarshipanddiscovery@bsd.uchicago.edu so that your mentee's accomplishment can be documented centrally.