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Nov 19 / WSU Pre-Health

Ugh, Do I Really Have to Do Research?

As a pre-health student going into the world of medicine and the like, research is no doubt a huge part of it. I get it; you want to be a physician or pharmacist, not a research scientist. So why do so many students take part in undergraduate research? What do I benefit from doing research as a pre-health student? First of all, we are at an amazing research university where the opportunities are countless. It would be a waste not to utilize our great resources since research has the ability to enrich your undergraduate pre-health experience. You’re put in a position to have responsibility, but not so much as to where you become accountable; so the important thing is that you’re still learning, and it is acceptable to make mistakes. Sometimes school takes away our love for learning by drowning us in work and stressing us out with exams, and we forget what it feels like to learn for the sake of learning. Research can rekindle that love for learning and become curious. A research environment also makes you appreciate academia and, as an undergraduate, being able to work with brilliant and talented individuals can be inspiring.

Research also benefits a student when they are applying to graduate schools. It is shown that medical school admissions elevate an applicant who has shown experience with research. To admission committees, applicants with research prove that they have valuable qualities like being able to interpret data, willingness to learn, curiosity, and the inclination to gain a better understanding – which are qualities all key to progressing medicine. When you can talk about a research project you have worked on and maybe even published, it shows your diligence and dedication to working hard outside of your classes and challenging yourself. So when paired with a decent GPA & MCAT/PCAT/DAT/GRE score, research can really make an applicant stand out and give an added boost an application.

After researching for almost three years as a pre-med student, I have found that research improved my overall lab skills and grades for both chemistry and biology labs. Aside from helping with course work, research also gives your the opportunity to travel and present at various conferences which, in return, increases your public speaking skills and gives you access to a larger academic network. I have presented at five different conferences, and have even been funded by Wayne State to present nationally at the University of Kentucky. I am not someone who generally likes speaking to large crowds, but forcing myself to present my research helped me break out of my shell. Wayne State has an entire program devoted to undergraduate research. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) gives a variety of resources to help undergrads with their research – including scholarships! They give out about 60 to 70 scholarships throughout the school year to aid with academic research. On top of that, UROP also hosts the Undergraduate Research Conference at Wayne State every Fall, and if you apply to present at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research that takes place in the Spring, UROP will fund your travel and staying expenses. There really are multiple opportunities that Wayne State provides for their students when it comes to research.

So how exactly are you supposed to get started with research? The UROP website has a new research faculty finder so you can see departments and topics that you might be interested in. Another good way is to ask students who are in research right now if they know any faculty willing to take undergraduates. The Fall 2014 Undergraduate Research conference took place on November 14th, so I suggest that if you are ready to commit to taking on an undergraduate research position in the future, that you talk to faculty face to face and even the students that presented. That way, you are aware of labs that are currently working with undergraduates, and you can express your interest. Find out students who are about to graduate and, if you’re still and underclassmen, it’d be perfect for you to fill in their spots. Most labs will require an informal interview and will tell you about their time commitments (most of the time you will find that they are flexible to work around your schedule).

Research can be intimidating at first, but once you get started you will find that it opens new doors for you and benefits you as a student. You might not think research is for you, but you don’t know until you try. As a pre-health student, you should at least give research a chance as it will give you an appreciation for all the work that goes on behind the scenes. Take advantage of the opportunities Wayne State offers before it’s too late!


Nov 17 / WSU Pre-Health

Medical School: The Beginning

I am now into my third month of medical school and it still feels a little surreal that I am there. Granted, the hours I have put in studying or the exhaustion I feel is all too real, but it is still hard to fathom that I am officially on my way to becoming a doctor. The past three months have been a crash course into what the next four years will be: long hours, hard work, and lots of new experiences. Some of these experiences will be exciting such as meeting with patients or volunteering at clinics, but others will be more intimidating.

My first day in anatomy lab was just that – a little nerve wrecking. I remember being nervous about having to encounter, touch, and dissect an actual human body. Thankfully, we were able to keep the face covered which allowed me to further distance myself from the fact that it was an actual person we were cutting open. I know that sounds bad but I think it’s necessary. If I don’t, I don’t think I would be able to learn from the cadaver as much as I could. Each new lab allows me to fully appreciate the intricacies of the human body, and also how miraculous it is that we are actually alive and functional.

This is what the next four years will be about: how to appreciate and care for the human body in the best possible manner. I know it will take a lot of hard work, but I am ready for the challenge. However, I don’t think I can do it alone; thankfully, I have my family and friends to help support me. Both of these groups of people are really important because they help me make a semblance of balance in my life. At home, with my family, I can relax and take some much needed time off to do something besides study. As school, with my friends, I can complain – which helps me de-stress – and study with them; which makes the whole process a lot more fun. I mean, in the end, medical school should be fun – or at least I hope so…


Apr 21 / WSU Pre-Health

Need a Productivity Boost?

It’s time for another edition of my productivity posts!

Have you tried the Pomodoro Technique but still saw yourself drifting off into the vast depths of the internet?You may want to try a site blocker. If the thought of it gives you memories of when your parents limited your internet access, then give yourself a pat on the back. It’s exactly what it looks like. Although restrictive (and very irritating) at first, I felt myself become more productive during the times I couldn’t access the time-sinking sites I frequently use. Here are some site blockers to try:

Morphine for Google Chrome: I featured this in my Pomodoro article, but it’s a great extension to mention again. This extension is a great alternative to Strict Workflow when paired with any of the first three timers. Morphine gives you free time on the internet if you stay off distracting sites for a given amount of minutes. The extension also has a site blocker as well to help you resist the urge to browse. On Morphine’s settings page, set your intervals to be every 25 minutes and your charge size to be +5 so you save minutes for your big break and still take your small 5 minute breaks.

LeechBlock for Firefox: This is your standard site blocker. Just enter in the sites you want blocked for which times of the day, restart your browser, and Leechblock will start to block those sites. To discourage your from attempting to bypass it, I recommend you to go into LeechBlock’s options, click on the “Access Control” tab, and checking both boxes off. This will prevent you from changing LeechBlock’s settings during times when it is blocking sites, and prevents you from using Firefox without add-ons.

Nanny for Google Chrome: As this extension is based off of Leechblock, I like to imagine the nanny to be a human-sized leech wearing Mary Poppin’s outfit. Humor aside, it really is Google Chrome’s version of LeechBlock. There’s even an option to have it enabled when in Incognito mode to prevent being tempted to use a loophole around the siteblocker. The only difference Nanny has is that it is capable of hiding its options like LeechBlock, so Nanny can be disabled very easily.

Productivity Owl for Google Chrome: I hate this extension. And when I mean I hate it, I mean it is a very effective site blocker. The owl is a fickle bird to deal with. Like LeechBlock and Nanny, you can create a schedule, which sites to block, all of that jazz. The twist is that if you linger on any site or sites for too long, the Owl swoops across your browser, closing all current tabs and bringing you back to your home page. Rude, right? Luckily, there’s a whitelist so you can put all of your school-related sites there (Blackboard, WebAssign, etc.), but for all other sites you have a limited amount of time, so you better grab the information you need and get out. The Owl gives you sass when you attempt to access blocked sites or try to get around it by disabling it. The more you use Productivity Owl and stick to your schedule, the Owl will be more lenient with the time it gives for browsing. Respect the bossy Owl overlord.

StayFocusd for Google Chrome: If you don’t want an Owl telling you to stop aimlessly browsing the internet, try StayFocusd! Its setup is similar to Chrome Nanny, what sets this apart is this beautiful thing called the Nuclear Option. This option will block all sites on your blacklist, regardless of whether the site is allowed, and there’s no way to cancel the block once the Nuclear Option is activated.

Cold Turkey: A downloadable site blocker that affects all browsers on your computer. You select which hours to block on which days on a spreadsheet-esque grid, and being a visual person, I really liked seeing my block hours that way. For a program similar to this for Mac users, try Selfcontrol. As I am not a Mac user I can’t give you my opinion on it, but since the creators of Cold Turkey recommend it, it should be just as effective.

Freedom: Have to study for an exam in 8 hours and you’re still aimlessly browsing the internet? Use Freedom. Freedom is (and should be) a last resort. Only use Freedom when you are in dire need of help from you internet procrastination. Just set how many hours you want Freedom to block your internet access, and then start it. Upon activation the only way to turn off Freedom before the time block is finished is to completely shut down your computer and boot it back up again, and restarts don’t count. This is so it discourages the user to not attempt to procrastinate further, and I can say that is has worked for me.

I personally use Freedom in studying for my Microbiology exams. I already had all of the powerpoints downloaded, so what was the point of keeping a browser open? Despite blocking all internet access, services such as Spotify and Skype still work. As I use Spotify nearly every day, I was very pleased with this. When you first download Freedom, you are given a trial version, and to get unlimited uses you have to pay $10. For me, it was definitely worth the price.

I have a lot of sites that eat up a lot of my time, and I wanted to turn those hours of internet drifting into something more productive. I’m a person who is prone to finding their way around a site blocker, so Cold Turkey and Freedom worked the best for me. If you’re not as susceptible to being carried away by internet distractions, Productivity Owl is great for maintaining that habit.

If you try any of the apps or extensions listed, please leave a comment with your results and reviews! Just pick one and try it for a week. If it works, great! If not, try another one and see how it goes.

As I have now covered ways to keep you productive and distraction-free as finals are about to roll in, next time I’ll review ways to keep track of all of the things you have to do in your busy college life!


Apr 14 / WSU Pre-Health

MORE Advice I Wish I Had Received as an Incoming Freshman

Hello everyone!

I volunteered at a few of the Honors Convocations in the last few weeks, and a lot of the students had some really good questions about college life and living on campus. I decided to expand on my list of tips for college freshman from January based on those questions and concerns. I hope you find these beneficial!

1. Bring a doorstop. If you are living on campus, bringing a doorstop will help you meet people in your hallway. A large part of the college experience is meeting new people, and everyone is especially eager to make new friends during the first few weeks of school. Don’t be afraid to go around introducing yourself because others will be doing the same, and those who are not introducing themselves are probably just waiting for someone to introduce themselves first. Take initiative and make some new friends!

2. Believe in yourself. (Lame heading, I know). I have test taking anxiety and have difficulty overcoming it. What really has been helping me recently is posting a sticky note on my desk saying that I will earn an A on the upcoming exam. I prepare for the exam with the mindset that I am aiming for an A, and every time I look at it, I am reminded to study well and use my time wisely to help me earn that A. It sounds silly, but that sticky note has really decreased my stress level, and I find that I have more time to study because it reminds me to not waste time. Try this out, and let me know if it works for you! Do you guys have any stress-reducing study tips?

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re having trouble with anything, know that there are people who can help. Your friends, advisors, counselors, and professors all want you to succeed and will try their best to help you out. The only stupid thing to do when you are feeling bogged down is to not talk about it and let it fester inside of you. There are people who care, and you are not alone!

4. Work on your college resolutions. Everyone says that they will mend their study habits when they get to college, but few succeed. College is a fresh start, and you only get to live your freshman year once. You have the power to make your own decisions (especially if you’re living in the dorms). You can stay up all night marathoning “The Office”, but should you? Make the most of your freshman year, and enjoy your freedom.

Good luck!

Apr 7 / WSU Pre-Health

From Procrastination to Plan of Action

Perhaps the most valuable piece of information I learned from my biology teacher my senior year of high school was the fact that I had been mislabeling myself as a procrastinator my entire high school career. He always used to say “it’s not procrastinating if you plan on doing it”, and that’s when I realized that instead of procrastinating, I just plan on doing things at the very last minute.

There may not seem to be much of a difference between the two, but let me show you where I draw the distinctions…

A procrastinator is a person who delays doing something of importance in favor of doing something more enjoyable. A last-minute-doer is a person who delays doing doing something of importance in favor of doing other things that are less important/more enjoyable and plans time to do all the tasks. The difference lies in the utilization of time.

By having a plan, as in a list of things that need to get done, one is better able to rank everything in order of importance and is in a better position to tackle everything on the list. A planner is very helpful. Where I get into trouble is when I have my list and decide to do everything that doesn’t require as much time first and leave the most difficult assignments for last. As I check off more and more of the smaller assignments and responsibilities, the dread of having to do the larger project increases.

There are two possible outcomes to this solution:

A. I crumble under the pressure and spend the next hour playing Candy Crush to avoid my responsibilities. As the due date comes closer and closer, I spend more and more time not working on the assignment (until the night before/morning of).

B. My plan of action included a break since I knew I would be tired after doing all of my minor assignments. I take a nap, grab something to eat with some friends, and head back to my desk to finish the assignment.

As you may have noticed, A is the procrastinator choice while B is the last-minute-doer choice. Students who choose A and students who choose B are both probably good students, but students who choose B know themselves better and are generally less stressed.

Now the question is, how do procrastinators become last-minute-doers, and how to last-minute-doers become less last-minute and more at-a-reasonable-time-doers?

The answer to both of these questions is creating a realistic plan and sticking to it. It is really easy to say “I’m going to start my homework at 9″ and then not do your homework at that time by pretending to not see the clock. By incorporating breaks into your study schedule, you will be more likely to stick to it. Also, try to break your larger assignments into smaller pieces. You will feel more accomplished, and you won’t freak out as much about having to do the assignment. (You’ll probably also get a better grade since you will be looking over your work more often – your first draft won’t be your final draft anymore).

Some questions to ask yourself while you’re making your list of responsibilities include:

  • Do I tend to study in the morning or later in the day?
  • When am I the most focused?
  • How long can I stay focused until my mind begins to wander?
  • Where do I like to study/Where am I most likely to stay focused?

There is always room for improvement when it comes to perfecting your study schedule, and the more work you put into figuring out how you like to study, the more productive and stress-free you will be. The hardest part about studying is getting started, so learn how to transform your apprehension into motivation.

Happy studying!

- Michelle