Student Research


What are the benefits of doing research as a medical student?

There are a variety of benefits of conducting research as a medical student, including:

  • Students can shape their curricula and cross-train in areas beyond the conventional medical curriculum.
  • Research should enable a deeper understanding of the clinical field by providing a period of learning with respect to critical thinking, reviewing and interpreting the literature, experimental design, data interpretation and communication.
  • Increased confidence to investigate conundrums encountered in clinical care. The ability to understand and integrate new knowledge into clinical practice is a necessary quality of good physicians.
  • By balancing research, course work, and rotations, students learn to juggle disparate obligations as a physician.
  • Exposure to physician-scientists as a career choice.
  • Exposure to student research may help in the required efforts to continually read and update one’s approach to patient care for retraining medical licensure and specialty board certification.
  • May lead to possible publication, which may positively influence selection into some highly competitive residencies (although, not necessarily in the primary care specialties).


What types of research are available?

Student research opportunities fluctuate both in quantity and type. Check out the list of departments that may have openings; students can be involved with anything from laboratory experiment techniques to chart reviews and clinical trials. Students are encouraged to be flexible in the type of research they are willing to pursue, as many specialties do not conduct research at UMKC or its affiliates. The Director of Student Research will help students find a project that can relate to those specialties. (For example, dermatology or plastic surgery.)

When can I start a student research project?

It is generally recommended for students to not start research until Year 3 due to the high academic load in Years 1 and 2; it is also recommended to initiate research prior to beginning Year 6. Years 1 and 2 is a great time to establish relationships with potential mentors and to decide if they want to pursue an original research concept.

Do I need research experience?

Students do not need any research experience prior to beginning their research experience as a medical student. Students with experience, however, may get matched with more advanced opportunities.

What is the expected time commitment?

Students have the opportunity to do two one-month research electives; in order to get credit for research, they need to speak with their advisor. These electives are very short so many students choose to do research for a longer period but on their own time (no additional credit); some students also choose to do research on the side (not by the elective) because they want to use that elective opening for something else they cannot do on their own. When doing research on their own time, students can work with their mentor on their availability.

Do I need funding to do research?

No, but students are encouraged to apply for a Sarah Morrison Award—a grant-like opportunity for students. The Sarah Morrison Award is a great resource for students who have their own research idea, but it can also be used to supplement an ongoing research project established by a mentor.

Is funding available for traveling to present research?

Students may contact the UMKC Office of Student Involvement (OSI) for research travel funding requests. Or see the OSI Travel Info Packet for more details.

*In the request to OSI for funding, it is important to emphasize that you will be presenting the results of your research and not simply just attending the conference as an attendee.

Where do I start?

Fill out the Student Research Information Form, print and send it for review to the Office of Research Administration. Together with Dr. Mike Wacker, Dr. Larry Dall, and Dr. Agostino Molteni, Director of Student Research, potential mentors will be identified. Let ORASOM know if students already have a mentor in mind and if the student has spoken with them. If students want to get credit for research, they should also speak with their advisor.

Do I need to have an original research idea?

No, students can be paired with a mentor who has their own ongoing research projects. If a student has an idea, Dr. Wacker, Dr. Dall, and Dr. Molteni will help to identify a mentor who will guide you through the research process. Students will original ideas are encouraged to apply for a Sarah Morrison Award—a grant-like opportunity for UMKC medical students.

Do I need to know anything about working with human or animal subjects?

Students may assist their mentor during the IRB (human subjects) or IACUC (animal subjects) application processes. Research at Truman Medical Center uses UMKC’s IRB, but research at Children’s Mercy Hospital should use the CMH IRB. For more commonly asked questions about the IRB, review this FAQ from Truman Medical Center.

Who do I contact and when?

Contact Office of Research Administration with your Student Research Information Form when you are ready to start a research project. We will turn your name over to Dr. Wacker, Dr. Dall, and Dr. Molteni who will work with you to connect with a mentor/researcher.