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Dean's Summer Fellowships

Overview of the Program

Each year 40-60 first-year UCSF medical students receive summer research fellowships through the School of Medicine's Student Research Training Program. This program is administered by the Office of Curricular Affairs, and applications to the program are reviewed by the Student Research Committee.

You may apply for fellowship support in any area of biomedical research, such as basic sciences, clinical investigation, epidemiology, health policy, and social sciences.

Each student who participates in the program receives a stipend of $3500. The stipend is for the student's living expenses during the fellowship period. The costs of any supplies needed to conduct the research are met through grants obtained by the research sponsors. Student trainees are expected to work full-time for eight weeks and may not enroll in summer courses or do preceptorships. Students who have completed a Ph.D. will be funded only if the field of the proposed research differs significantly from the field in which they did their thesis work.

It takes most students at least 1 month to choose a faculty sponsor, decide on a project, and write a description of the proposed research. For the 2012 deadline, click here.

Choosing a Research Sponsor

To apply for a Student Research Training Program stipend, first select a faculty sponsor. You can find information about faculty research interests in several ways. Descriptions of some faculty research interests are in the Faculty Research Database, but most students find it more efficient to go directly to departmental websites and review the research programs listed there. The Center for Social, Behavioral & Policy Sciences has a very up-to-date directory. Up-to-date information about the basic sciences can be found in the graduate program bulletins. Many students also ask Dr. Lowenstein (lowenstein@medsch.ucsf.edu) for advice and for names of appropriate contacts.

**If you are thinking about a summer research project in the department of Orthopedic Surgery, please contact Dr. Mohammad Diab (diab@orthosurg.ucsf.edu), to help you with your search.

Your sponsor must be a faculty member at UCSF or another appropriate institution. (If you are considering a project that would be conducted at a site other than UCSF, see the attached additional instructions). The sponsor must have all of the resources needed for the proposed project (e.g., supplies, lab space, or computer access) at the time the application is submitted. All projects involving human subjects require approval from the Committee of Human Research. Students proposing projects involving human subjects or animals must apply for the necessary approvals at the time the application is submitted and approvals must be granted before you begin work. If the necessary approvals have not been granted by July 1, the offer of stipend support will be withdrawn.

Most students interview several faculty members before choosing a sponsor. You do not need to have an idea for a research project before you meet with a potential sponsor. It is the responsibility of the faculty member to suggest one or more projects, to explain in broad terms what each would entail, and to suggest a small amount of appropriate reading for each project (for example, a portion of a grant application or articles already published by the investigator on the same topic). When meeting with a potential sponsor you should also discuss who will be working with you on a daily basis and how your project will relate to other work being done by the group.

Message for Sponsors/Mentors:
Please note the following points with regard to the help you provide to students who are submitting research proposals under your supervision:

1. The research should be hypothesis-driven with specific research questions to be answered within the time frame allowed. If two or more students are working on the same project, each of their roles needs to clearly delineated.

2. The project should not be purely descriptive unless there is very limited literature in the field of inquiry. For example, projects that are limited to only collecting information about attitudes, opinions or practices of healthcare providers, without any plan for studying an intervention, are generally not approved for funding.

3. The writing of the proposal should convey scientific rigor and provide sufficient detail to allow the reviewers to understand the nature of the question(s) being pursued, relevant background, methodology, and potential relevance/impact. In particular, the methods section should provide a clear and detailed description of analytic approaches, including statistical methods and justification for sample size if applicable.

4. If questionnaires or other written instruments are used in the project, samples need to be included with the proposal.

5. If IRB approval is needed, please submit the IRB application promptly so that approval is obtained before the student’s proposed start date. Lack of IRB approval at the proposed start date for the student will lead to a loss funding, and possibly full cancellation of the student research grant.

Download a preview of the online "Mentor Endorsement Form" here. You will receive an automatically-generated email with a link to the "Mentor Endorsement Form" and a copy of your mentee's application when your mentee submits the online application form. Please reply as soon as you can, no longer than one week after you receive the emailed link.

Completing the Application

After agreeing on a project, you and your sponsor should work together to develop a specific research plan and complete the application. You are responsible for completing the first two pages of the form, which include your summary of the proposed research. Your sponsor must complete pages three and four. Your sponsor should give you considerable help with your part of the application. In addition to discussing the project with you and providing appropriate references, your sponsor should read and help edit your draft of the proposal. Be sure you show your sponsor the final version of your proposal before submitting it. Students have been known to inadvertently introduce errors in their final drafts, and those errors have resulted in rejection of the proposals.

Your proposal includes:
a) Research Question,
b) Background,
c) Study Design and Methods, and
d) Significance.

The Research Question should be phrased as a question and should be no more than two sentences in length. The Study Design and Methods section of your proposal should be the longest section. The methods you plan to use must be clearly described. Your proposal must be written so that it can be understood by non-experts, so avoid jargon.

Learn more about how to prepare for and submit the online application here.

If you have any questions about choosing a sponsor or writing a proposal, please contact Drs. Lowenstein (lowenstein@medsch.ucsf.edu) or Beattie (Mary.Beattie@ucsfmedctr.org).

Additional Instructions for Off-Site Projects

Summer research fellowships are intended primarily for students who will be working under the direct supervision of a UCSF faculty member. If a project is done elsewhere under the supervision of a non-UCSF faculty member, the student must still identify a UCSF faculty member who will act as a liaison. Also, off-site projects need to fulfill the following criteria:

1. There is a compelling need to carry out the work at another site. Why would it not be possible to do the same project or a similar project at UCSF? If the specific goal is to study a situation in a different setting, such as a foreign culture, the application must demonstrate familiarity with the existing literature for this setting. In other words, the project must add new knowledge to the field, not just to the individual student.

2. Supervision of the student is adequate and well-documented. The sponsor need not be a UCSF faculty member. But the sponsor must be qualified to supervise the project and must provide a letter confirming his or her support for the project and specifying the amount of time s/he expects to be available to spend with the student. The Committee advises all students considering off-site projects to discuss the qualifications of the proposed sponsor with Dr. Lowenstein (lowenstein@medsch.ucsf.edu) before committing to the project.

3. Appropriate facilities are available. The sponsor's letter must indicate that all of the facilities necessary to the project are available to the student. This includes any necessary laboratory facilities, office space, specimens, access to study populations, computers, and any other facilities needed to complete the project. The student must either demonstrate fluency in the primary language spoken at the site of the project or must have guaranteed access to translators. If translators are needed, the sponsor's letter must state that translators will be provided and that all necessary arrangements will be made prior to arrival of the student at the site.

4. The scope of the project is appropriate to the time available and advance preparations are in progress. Our experience is that most successful off-site projects require considerable advance preparation and follow-up after the student returns to UCSF. You can increase your chances of funding by demonstrating that you have carried out the initial steps in the project. For example, if your project involves administration of a questionnaire, you should include a semifinal draft of the questionnaire (in both English and the local language) with your application.

5. For all human research projects taking place outside the United States, full approval must be designated by a Committee on Human Research at a U.S.-based institution (UCSF or other qualified entities.)

Updated: February 29, 2012
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