MD with Special Training in Research


The Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry (FoMD) at the University of Alberta offers the MD with Special Training in Research Program (MD/STIR) to undergraduate medical education (UME) students. This program is designed for those students who wish to participate in research above what is offered within the UME curriculum. UME students join a research team and directly engage in biomedical research while concurrently fulfilling MD/STIR requirements (application, presentations, reporting, defense). Students that successfully complete their MD degree and all requirements of the MD/STIR program receive the designation of "Special Training in Research" on their degree parchment and transcript.

Objectives of MD/STIR:

  1. To foster a greater awareness of the importance of research to UME students
  2. Provide opportunities for UME students to participate in fundamental or clinical research during a 24-week research program
  3. Provide formative feedback to help develop UME student skills in critical thinking, writing and presentation
  4. Provide formal recognition of students that show a good practical understanding of the scientific process, including development, formulation and testing of hypotheses, experimental design, validation, presentation, analysis and interpretation of results

Action items to fulfill Program requirements:

1. Identify a research supervisor. The MD/STIR program is made possible by the participation of supervisors and their research teams. Supervisors direct MD/STIR student research activities and in some cases contribute to stipend support. It is imperative that the MD/STIR applicant identifies a strongly supportive research supervisor.

  1. The supervisor must be a full-time academic member (A1.1 or C1.1 appointment) of the University of Alberta (UofA) who is eligible to supervise research students. If necessary, supervisors may involve collaborators outside of the UofA to participate as co-supervisors, but the primary supervisor must be at the UofA.
  2. It is extremely important that the supervisor has a strong research program and is willing to put in the time to guide the student through the program. The student should consider supervisors that have (i) peer-reviewed research grant support, (ii) successfully supervised research trainees, (iii) published from their own group (typically as first- or last-author), (iv) published with their trainees.

2. Apply for summer student stipend support. All MD/STIR students must receive summer student stipend support when they are engaged in the full-time summer research portions of the program. ALL students must apply for an Alberta Innovates (AI) summer studentship award. Students must watch for the AI summer studentship announcement and application deadline. Application deadline is usually, but not always, in February. Students should also apply to any other studentship stipend competition as identified in consultation with their potential supervisor.

  1. If the student is unsuccessful in obtaining an AI award, the top 10 unfunded students that have applied to the MD/STIR program will be supported by the FoMD for 50% of their stipend provided that the supervisor contributes the remaining 50%. To be eligible for this funding, students MUST have applied for an AI summer studentship.
  2. If unsuccessful for the above 50:50 support, the supervisor may opt to contribute 100% of the summer stipend. If no summer stipend support is obtained for the student, the student is ineligible for the MD/STIR program.

3. Apply to the MD/STIR program. This application is due by 4 p.m. on February 15, 2021 to Nicole Kosturic, The applications are assessed by members of the MD Research Committee. The student will receive feedback and may be given the opportunity to submit revisions. The application consists of:

  1. Research Proposal:
    1. The student and supervisor must discuss potential projects that fit in the supervisor's research program.
    2. The student is responsible for writing the research proposal. The proposed research must be hypothesis-driven and requires collection of primary data.
    3. It is imperative that the supervisor spends time guiding the student during the writing of the proposal. If the supervisor or a delegate of the supervisor does not have enough time, then the student should re-consider whether this is the best environment for a successful MD/STIR.
    4. It is highly recommended that the student starts writing the proposal two months before the due date.
    5. The reviewers will assess the scientific merit and feasibility of the project.

  2. Ethics approval:
    1. The student MUST attach documentation that all ethics approval is in place or pending.
    2. If the supervisor does not have or is not actively applying for ethics approval for the STIR project, the student should re-consider whether this is the best environment for a successful MD/STIR. Lack of timely ethics approval is a major reason for student withdrawal from the program.
    3. The application will not be approved without ethics approval.

  3. CVs:
    1. Student CV. No previous research experience is required. The reviewers will assess the feasibility of the project with respect to the student's background.
    2. Supervisor CV. The reviewers will assess the supervisor with respect to (i) peer-reviewed research grant support, (ii) successful supervision of research trainees, (iii) publications from their own group (typically as first- or last-author), (iv) publications with their trainees.

  4. Indication of research timeline: The research requirement is a minimum of 24 weeks of research experience (excluding vacation time) through flexible timelines (outlined below). All MD/STIR students engage in ~16 weeks of full-time research in the summer after first year of medical school. The remaining ~8 weeks of research can be conducted via three alternative options:
    1. full-time in the summer after year 2 (Option A), or
    2. part-time during academic year 2 and part of the summer after year 2 (Option B), or
    3. part-time during academic years 2 and 3 (See Option C).


4. Complete research component:

  1. The proposed research must be novel, hypothesis-driven and requires collection of primary data. The reviewers will assess the scientific merit and feasibility of the project.
  2. Consists of a minimum of 24 weeks of research experience (excluding vacation time) through flexible timelines.

5. Complete student presentations/reports:

  1. Two oral presentations to fellow MD/STIR students in the format of a "3 minute pitch" at the beginning of the program (beginning of the first summer) and at midpoint (end of the first summer).
  2. Midterm report submitted by July 1 of the first summer
  3. Oral presentation to an appropriate group (e.g. lab meeting, group meeting, conference) arranged by the supervisor.
  4. Poster presentation at FoMD Summer Student Research Day or equivalent as outlined in the application form.

6. Submit final written report:

  1. The final research report is in the form of a research manuscript consisting of an abstract, introduction, methodology, results, discussion, figures, figure legends, tables and references. It is approximately 10-15 typewritten pages in length (double-spaced) excluding figures, tables and references.
  2. Attach an additional one-page titled "Student contributions to research" that clearly describes the student's technical and intellectual contributions to the project. Any work done by others must be clearly indicated. The student should indicate any oral or written presentations relevant to the project that are additional to the MD/STIR requirements.
  3. The supervisor must send a confidential Student Evaluation form directly to Nicole Kosturic,

7. Complete oral defense:

  1. Student delivers a 10-minute seminar to the examining committee.
  2. Student answers questions during a ~10-minute question period. The student is expected to understand the basis and selection of methodologies used, the interpretation of results and the impact of findings.
  3. Student leaves and committee deliberates.
  4. A decision letter is sent to the student and supervisor ~2-weeks later.

Pros and Cons of participating in MD/STIR:

  1. Pros:
    1. Opportunity to participate in the design and execution of a peer-reviewed research project, present results and defend conclusions. This is a deeper learning process than the "typical summer student project".
    2. Time commitment of 24 weeks dedicated to research provides opportunity for student to become a valued member of a research team. Allows time to explore research networks and establish relationships.
    3. Opportunity to assess interest and aptitude for research that may influence future career decisions. Students may decide to pursue postgraduate research to increase their impact in their chosen field.
    4. Formative feedback helps student develop skills in critical thinking and communication. Feedback from the student's own Research Group and members of the MD Research Committee strengthen the student's professional skills.
    5. No risk to enrollment. Student transcript only recognizes successful MD/STIR completion. No indication if the student withdraws from the MD/STIR program.
    6. Formal recognition of research training with the notation of "Special Training in Research" on student MD degree parchment and university transcript. Recognition is a well-earned asset.
  2. Cons:
    1. Time commitment of 24 weeks dedicated to research may be a challenge to students wishing to participate in other UME programs, e.g. extra clinical electives.


  1. Application form
  2. Midterm Report form
  3. Supervisor Student Evaluation form
  4. Checklist for completion of MD/STIR