At Northwestern University, Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) students have a robust system of advising resources to support and guide them as they move through the various phases of the training program. The resources here are specific to the MSTP and supplement those also provided to students by Feinberg School of Medicine, The Graduate School and individual graduate programs.
The MSTP director and associate directors play a large and proactive role in guiding students throughout every stage of the program, and each director provides a unique perspective and skill set that enhances the training environment and advising students receive. The directors work as a team to ensure the success of MSTP students by meeting regularly with them throughout the year in both formal, structured advising meetings as well as in less-structured individual and group interactions. The program has numerous advising initiatives in place to track student progress and address any issues that may arise during training. Meet our leadership team.
MSTP College Mentors
Each MSTP student is assigned to one of five MSTP colleges. Each college is led by faculty mentors, the majority of whom are physician-scientists, who have been carefully selected by students and leadership based on their demonstrated track record of mentoring and their extensive interest in the success of physician-scientist trainees. These mentors meet regularly with the members of their college to discuss research projects, recent high-impact papers, grant writing workshops or life as a physician-scientist. They are also available to assist with rotation and thesis lab selections, review progress and discuss students' Individual Development Plans (IDPs). Meet the MSTP college mentors.
Thesis Advisers & Committee Members
One of the most important mentors in an MSTP student's training is the thesis adviser, with whom students meet frequently during the research phase of training. The thesis adviser has a deep impact on a student’s future, as productivity during the research phase is a major determinant of long-term commitment to and success in research. Northwestern MSTP students have a tremendous amount of flexibility to choose a thesis mentor or co-mentors who will help them pursue a research project in their specific area of interest.
Current students are expected to complete three four-week rotations before choosing their thesis adviser, although fewer or additional rotations can be completed with the permission of MSTP leadership. Most students complete their first rotation in the summer before starting the first year of medical school and then complete two more during the summer between the first and second years of medical school. Students choose their mentors during the second year of medical school and begin planning their transition into lab.
Each student also has a thesis committee of four or more faculty members who advise the student during the research phase of training and ensure training milestones are met. MSTP students are required to meet with their thesis committee every six months once they complete their qualifying exam. The biannual reports of the thesis committee are submitted to the MSTP office to monitor progress. Associate Director Melissa Brown advises students on the thesis committee selection process. Students are required to have at least one physician-scientist on their committee or another faculty member who can advocate for the dual-degree pathway and can communicate the student’s unique needs and training time considerations to other members of the committee.
Finding a faculty mentors can be a daunting task, but there are many resources, events and advising programs to aid students in this process, including:
- Meet the Current MD-PhD Thesis Advisers
Current advisers have a strong record in training MD-PhD students and are a great place to begin your search.
- Attend an M1 Year Blitz Talk Event
Blitz Talks are organized by Student Council to expose new students to as many Northwestern scientists as possible.
- Contact MSTP Leadership
Our leaders have years of experience in advising current students on making this decision.
MSTP Peer Mentors
The MSTP recognizes the critically important role peer (e.g., student-to-student) mentoring plays during training and encourages students to build relationships with fellow trainees across all phases of the program. The MSTP does this through formal programs such as the MSTP Big Sib-Little Sib Program, which helps incoming students transition into the program by pairing them with a student mentor in the G1 cohort who shares similar research interests. Other programs, such as the MSTP Lunch Buddies program that provides money for groups of students in different cohorts to share a meal together, also help promote peer-to-peer interactions and mentoring relationships. The annual MSTP Passing of the Wisdom, during which graduating M4s share the lessons they have learned during their training with students in the program, is another such opportunity for students to learn from their colleagues.
Feinberg School of Medicine College Mentors
Every medical student at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is assigned a society. Within these societies, students have access to college mentors, who meet with students on a regular basis and provide support in areas such as career planning, academic counseling and remediation. MSTP leadership attends regular meetings with Feinberg college mentors to stay informed about the progress of students in the medical phase of training and to advocate on their behalf.