Skip to main content

MSTP Courses

Students of Northwestern University Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) are required to take the following courses, which are specific to the program.

MSTP Colleges Curriculum

The Northwestern MSTP Colleges Curriculum was designed to provide students with learning and leadership opportunities in the context of the physician-scientist community at Northwestern. The college system will also build upon the existing MSTP-specific curriculum to promote the development of critical scientific thinking and help students develop the ability to formulate hypothesis-based research proposals. The curriculum was planned by MSTP students and implemented in the 2018-19 academic year.

The curriculum now consists of several learning forums, including entire program plenaries, faculty- and student-led journal clubs, grant writing courses, skills development sessions, social outings and student TED talks and includes activities relevant to all stages of MSTP training.

Curriculum Goals

  • Identify the most important questions facing life scientists today
  • Critically read scientific papers and assess their strengths and weaknesses
  • Develop cogent, hypothesis-based research proposals
  • Give clear, compelling oral presentations of the proposals and defend them
  • Participate in NIH study section-style peer review of research proposals
  • Provide a forum for students to engage, interact and seek mentorship from physician-scientists at different stages of training (e.g., PSTP fellows, junior and senior faculty)
  • Provide opportunities for students to get leadership experience through overseeing different aspects of the curriculum

MSTP Grand Rounds

MSTP Grand Rounds, under course director Benjamin Singer, MD, integrates clinical medicine with research and provides continuing clinical education for research-phase students. Ten grand rounds are held each year. MSTP students in all years of training are required to attend this two-part conference.

Part 1

A student in the clinical stage of training presents a clinical case as a diagnostic unknown with discussion of the differential diagnosis and workups encouraged throughout the presentation. Materials such as X-rays, CT scans, EKGs, gross and microscopic pathology and video recordings (e.g., of a patient with a movement disorder) are used in the case presentation. All preclinical students then collectively provide the differential diagnosis and suggest appropriate tests and exams to be performed. The presenting student then reveals the diagnosis and the diagnostic test and finishes with a short review of the disease pathophysiology as well as current therapy.

Part 2

A research-phase student gives a mini-lecture on recent breakthroughs in an area related to the disease in question, showcasing good science that has significantly impacted the understanding of a cellular-molecular aspect of the clinical diagnosis: pathophysiology, diagnostics, prognosis or management/treatment. Presentations end with a good, testable hypothesis that links clinical observation, the available scientific literature just reviewed and the student's own creative insight.


  • Prepare preclinical students to excel on the wards by teaching them how to develop a differential diagnosis, work up patients with various presentations and interpret clinical data
  • Review disease pathophysiology, diagnosis, prognosis and clinical management
  • Acquaint students with advances and unsolved problems in modern medical research
  • Hone skills in presentations, peer teaching and working in teams