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Student Responsibilities & FAQ

In the Area of Scholarly Concentration program, students are required to develop a research project with a Northwestern University faculty mentor.

Students will work closely with a Northwestern University faculty mentor to:

  • Develop the project and submit a formal proposal.
  • Discuss the project with their AOSC thesis adviser prior to submitting a proposal in February of the M1 year. (Student proposals cannot be taken directly from a faculty mentor’s grant proposal.) The individualized nature of the project and the role of both the student and mentor should be directly discussed.
  • Work on the project for five hours per week during the M2 year.
  • Present data at a poster session in the fall of the M2 year
  • Present an oral presentation in small-group sessions during the M2 year.
  • Submit a thesis outline one month following the M3 year
  • Submit a thesis of approximately 10-20 pages plus references by January of the M4 year
  • Attend small-group sessions with their AOSC thesis adviser focusing on project development, data analysis, critical thinking and assessment of project progress.

All submitted documents will be formally evaluated by members of the AOSC Committee and may require recommended revisions. Students in the same cohort may not work jointly on an AOSC project. All proposals should be reviewed with the faculty mentor prior to submission. All thesis papers will be reviewed by members of the AOSC Committee; acceptance of the thesis by this committee is a requirement for medical school graduation.

Expectations & Important Dates

For more information, review responsibilities and timelines by class year: M1, M2 and M3-4.


The following are frequently asked questions for students of all years in the AOSC program. 

 Who is required to participate in the AOSC curriculum?

The AOSC is a mentored, four-year longitudinal project that culminates in the submission of an AOSC thesis. All FSM students who are not currently in dual-degree programs are required to participate in the AOSC. Previously obtained Masters, PhD or other degrees do not qualify for exemption from the program. If a student leaves a dual degree program, they are required to perform an AOSC project and must contact the AOSC Curriculum Coordinator. Although dual-degree students are not required to participate in the program, all medical students are required to attend the M1 research lectures which focus on important biomedical research topics.

 When should I begin looking for an AOSC mentor?

You should begin contacting potential mentors after the first AOSC M1 small group session on August 14, 2020. This session will outline the process of obtaining a mentor and will address any questions that you have regarding the AOSC program. You will be assigned an AOSC Small Group faculty member prior to the first small group. This faculty member will assist you in your progress and with any problems that arise throughout your four years.

 How should I contact potential AOSC mentors?

You will be instructed in the recommended process for contacting potential mentors at your initial small group session. Potential mentors should typically be approached by sending an email. A sample email is made available to you on eMerg, although this format is not required. In addition, there is an AOSC contact list of specific faculty members who are interested in serving as AOSC mentors. This list is located on the AOSC Home Page. Students are encouraged to contact faculty members on this list, however, your mentor can be any Northwestern University faculty member and is not limited to those individuals on the list.

 Is there a list of other faculty contacts for various Northwestern Departments, Divisions, Centers or Institutes?

There is also a list of staff or faculty contacts from various FSM and Northwestern University Departments, Divisions, Centers or Institutes that you can contact regarding available AOSC opportunities. You can find this on eMerg, which is accessible through the FSM Education Portal. Once logged into eMerg you will find it under Foundations 1 -> Professional Development -> PD-AOSC Week 1. The list of faculty contacts for various departments/divisions/centers can be found under resources.

 Are AOSC mentors required to be Northwestern University faculty?

All mentors must have a faculty appointment at Northwestern University, either at the Feinberg School of Medicine or any other school at Northwestern University.

 Are there resources to assist in finding an AOSC mentor?

AOSC small group faculty leaders are available to assist you in all aspects of finding a mentor. Other available resources include NU Scholars and the Northwestern Faculty profile pages. There are also available lists of interested faculty as noted above.

 If I am having difficulties with my AOSC project, should I contact my AOSC small group leader?

Yes, your small group leader is available to meet with you regarding difficulties that you may have finding a mentor, as well as with any other AOSC issues or problems.

 How do I change my AOSC project?

You should initially discuss this issue with your current AOSC mentor and AOSC Small Group faculty leader. If you wish to change your AOSC project, a new project proposal and justification for changing your project must be submitted and formally approved by the AOSC committee. A request form and details are available on the AOSC home page. Students cannot retroactively change their AOSC projects post-publication or after research has been completed.

 What are the timeline and due dates for AOSC assignments?

These due dates are available as a PDF.

 Am I required to attend all AOSC small-group sessions?

Yes. All students in the AOSC program must attend all small-group sessions.

 If I submit a manuscript, will this meet my AOSC requirement?

If you submit a first-authored manuscript on your AOSC project, you may request that the AOSC committee accept the manuscript in place of a thesis. The manuscript must have been previously submitted to a peer-review journal, although acceptance of the manuscript for publication is not required. All manuscripts will be reviewed by the AOSC committee and if approved, you will receive a formal notification that the manuscript has been accepted to fulfill the AOSC thesis requirement.

 How many weeks of AOSC research time is required at the end of the M1 year and must this research be continuous?

The last four weeks of the M1 year are dedicated to active work on your AOSC project. It is recommended, but not required, that these four weeks be continuous. The project must be performed on-site at the Northwestern University campus, and the specific times for the performance of this research at Northwestern must be arranged with your mentor. If students receive formal summer fellowships at other institutions, participate in Global Health Projects relevant to their AOSC project, or are required to perform specific AOSC research at other locations, this should be arranged with their AOSC small group leader and approved by the AOSC Director.

 Are stipends available to perform an additional four weeks of AOSC research during the summer?

M1 students who are interested in performing an additional four weeks (beyond the required 4 weeks) of continuous AOSC research on-site at Northwestern University are eligible for a $1,500 stipend. The stipend must be used for research on your approved AOSC project.

 How long should the AOSC thesis be?

There is no required length for the AOSC thesis. However, your thesis must address all sections detailed in the AOSC thesis outline. Most theses are between 10 to 20 single-spaced pages, including references. Figures and tables should be embedded in the thesis.

 Can I submit my AOSC thesis prior to the deadline as an M4?

Yes, you may submit your AOSC thesis at any time after completion of your project.

 What is the process for obtaining statistical support?

Statistical support is available for all AOSC projects; more details are available alongside the Stats Proposal Form.

 What is the process for obtaining funding to attend a local or national meeting where I am presenting my AOSC research?

Due to social distancing guidelines, we will only consider requests to attend a conference that is held virtually until further notice. Please use the Conference Attendance/Pre-Registration Request form to request approval. You can find more information on the Registration Request process here.

 Can I perform research other than my AOSC project?

Yes, you can perform research in addition to your AOSC project. However, you are still required to fulfill your AOSC project requirement. Research performed outside of the AOSC program cannot be retrospectively applied to meet the AOSC requirement.

 How can I receive elective credit to perform research?

Learn more about receiving academic credit for AOSC and non-AOSC research. Students may obtain elective credit for both AOSC and non-AOSC research. Total elective credit for research (AOSC-related and non-AOSC) must not exceed 12 weeks.  Students may do up to one month of research in 2-week blocks (i.e., a total of two, non-contiguous two-week blocks is allowed. All other research electives must be taken in at least one-month blocks. Flex time can always be used to conduct research (including one week at a time). 

 What if I have a question regarding the IRB, or want to know if my project is IRB exempt?

For all questions regarding IRB issues, please directly contact the IRB.

Direct IRB resources include:

Main number (Biomedical): 312-503-9338

Social and Behavioral IRB: 847-467-1723

 How can I get funding for Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) Data Pulls from a Northwestern Medicine EDW Analyst?

As a student, you are eligible for 12 hours of EDW analyst funding if you complete the EDW Pilot Data Program application.

 What if I have a question regarding the EDW, patient information security, PHI/HIPPA or the process for obtaining data from electronic or paper charts?

For all questions regarding patient data security, EDW, electronic and paper medical charts and PHI/HIPPA, please directly contact Northwestern IT at ( Questions about Feinberg IT Security policies or resources can be addressed to FSM IT Policy.

 What type of Statistical Software is Available to Medical Students?

The AOSC program budget does not support student purchasing of statistical software packages for personal use. Many statistical software packages are available on the public computers on the University Library Computers for student use.

The University also offers discounts for students if they do feel they need to purchase their own license to specific statistical software. More information for software available for student purchase can be found here:

 Am I required to present my AOSC project at a poster session?

All students are required to present their project at an AOSC poster presentation in fall of the M2 year. These poster presentations will be formally evaluated. Since some projects may be more difficult to initiate, the assessment for the poster does not include the quantity of data presented.

 Am I required to present my AOSC project as an oral presentation?

All students are required to present their projects as oral presentations at an AOSC Small Group session during the M2 year. These oral presentations will be formally evaluated. These sessions will also allow students to acquire skills in the evaluation of oral presentations.

 What should I do if my mentor leaves Northwestern University?

You should initially discuss this issue with your AOSC Small Group faculty leader. They will assist you in developing a plan to continue your project, or in finding an alternative project. A new or modified project requires the submission of a new project proposal which will be evaluated by the AOSC committee. A request form and details are available via the AOSC Home page.

 Can my project involve the acquisition of data of Feinberg or Northwestern University students?

If you wish to perform an AOSC project that involves FSM students as subjects, you must have prior project approval from Sandy Sanguino, MD, MPH, Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education. You are free to perform AOSC research that involves NU students outside of FSM as subjects.