Frequently asked questions

Curious about how you can get involved in research in medical school? Have a look at some of our most commonly asked questions regarding options for research.

Table of Contents

  1. General questions
  2. Finding your own research
  3. Summer research scholarships
  4. BMedSc(Hons)
  5. Masters of Public Health (MPH)
  6. MD-PhD Pathway

General questions

There’s no doubt that research helps to bolter up a CV for specialty applications, and for some specialty colleges, publications/abstracts to scientific meetings/ presentations are becoming more necessary to be competitive. This will of course be very individual to the specialty you’re interested in. Would recommend having a look at the MUMUS careers portal or the specialty college websites for more specific information.

It depends on the college and their selection process—they will list the specific criteria on their CV requirements. For example, for general surgery, any medical research will suffice. Also, there are certain ‘expiry dates’ for some colleges, i.e. they won’t accept research published 10 years ago. In general though, even if your research in another field may not be able to go on your application it will still give you the skills and experience that make you a more attractive candidate.

An understanding of research is integral to being a good clinician, and the best way to develop this understanding is by performing research. Certain specialist training programs also value research experience during their application processes, and may ask for conference presentations or journal papers. Many training programs also require research as part of their completion.

Anytime you’re interested in starting! The EBM units in pre-clinical years are definitely a great intro to critically evaluating evidence. However, if you’re interested in learning more, MRSS has a number of resources/events to help support your learning. Feel free to follow us on Facebook to be kept updated on our upcoming events or take a look at the resources section on our site! Our resource section has links/info to help upskill such as: 

  • Short courses
  • Understanding stats 
  • Writing up research, submitting papers 
  • Coding

Similar to the previous question, workload varies significantly between projects/research types and across the timeframe of the research. It can be significantly less compared to the medicine degree at times but can also be basically the same, especially with research types where you have a lot of coursework on top of the actual research activities itself. For BMedSc(Hons) for example, for most of the year, people will be conducting their research activities e.g. data collection, lab work, data analysis etc. and there isn’t much coursework. Most of the year was probably less involved than the medicine degree but at times when presentations/ coursework is due, it can be pretty comparable. The good thing I found about the honour’s year was I felt that we had more free time on weekends/out-of-business hours!

We’d recommend reaching out to a consultant who is actively involved in research for the field of your topic. Send them an email with an outline of your idea, attach your CV, and see if you can schedule a meeting with them either online or in person. If you don’t already have a researcher in mind, you can have a look at Monash’s Supervisor Connect platform, or have a quick search online (e.g. “cardio research monash”).

Finding your own research

"Many of us have not had any opportunity to get involved in research at all this year. For those of us wanting to get some exposure or skills (even if not an actual project), do you have any tips? Many of the opportunities out there require prior experience or for us to be much older. How can we take some initial first steps?"

As a pre-clinical student, some initial first steps you could take include contacting a lecturer or tutor you like and asking if they have any projects you could be a part of. Some summer and winter vacation scholarships are also open to pre-clinical students. Don’t worry too much about not having prior experience. Most supervisors will be happy to guide you and teach you what you need to know - just preface this when you contact them!

For preclinical students—talk to lecturers and ask them if they have any small projects you can help out with, especially those that seem really engaged/passionate about their lecture content. Even if they aren’t able to take you on, they may be able to refer you to someone who can.


For clinical students—talk to consultants and senior registrars on the team and see if they know anyone that might need help with a particular project. Note that this will be more difficult in some specialties given that many registrars will be trying to complete their projects to gain fellowship. Contacting heads of units is also a time-savvy way to find a supervisor because they will often be able to direct you straight to the most appropriate person. You can also ask students who’ve done research for recommendations regarding research supervisors - it’s best to go with supervisors who have had students before/understand the process

Finding your own research opportunities (e.g. through lecturers) might be the best option for international students financially given that there are often no associated costs, with some even potentially offering remuneration for dedicated research assistants. Even though this may seem like a less “formal” route, it can still yield research output equivalent to those doing honours years, summer scholarships, etc.

Summer research scholarships

"Can preclin students apply for scholarships that are advertised for older year levels? Is there a chance we will be chosen?"

Selection criteria are usually set. However, you could directly contact the supervisor of the project and express interest in it or ask whether there are any other projects available for pre-clinical students to participate in.

The application will ask why you are applying and how you think you will benefit from undertaking the project. Make sure that both of these elements are explicitly addressed in your application.

When explaining why you are applying, make sure that you read about the project from the scholarship page, and also investigate in more detail what kind of work the project and researchers have already completed, and what the lead researchers are interested in. This means that when you’re expressing your enthusiasm for the project or topic in your application, you can make it specific and demonstrate that you’ve done some research on the project as well.

The second element (how you think you will benefit from undertaking the project) is equally as important, especially if you don’t have prior research experience. The project page on the scholarship website will outline the types of tasks that research scholars might be involved with. Think carefully about what you hope to learn from this experience and highlight this in your application, as scholarships are not always awarded to the most experienced students, but sometimes instead the student who the lead researchers feel has the most to gain from the experience. 

You can also try emailing the supervisor directly (rather than just through the scholarships portal)—obviously don’t be too intrusive, but a polite email may demonstrate your keenness for the project. Potentially, the supervisor may also still get you involved in another project even if you don’t get the summer scholarship. Overall, persistence is the key! Summer scholarships can be very competitive so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get one—there are many, many more opportunities to be involved with research!

It depends on what project you go into and what stage that project is in. You could have a conversation with the project supervisor beforehand to understand what stage the project is up to, e.g. experiments, analysis, writeup. It is definitely difficult to experience all the aspects of a research project in such a short time frame.


We understand that the decision to complete an honours year is a pretty big one, so it’s only normal if you have lots of questions! We’ve broken down the most commonly asked questions into a few categories, with responses written by past BMedSc(Hons) alumni:

  1. Applying
  2. Research experience
  3. Practicalities

A good place to start is to think about specialties/topics that you enjoy e.g. surgery, neurology, paediatrics etc. MRSS runs the ‘Should I Do a BMedSc(Hons)’ Event each year to help connect you with past students. Faculty also run a more formal BMedSc info night with presentations from each of the sites that offer projects.

Other useful resources include: 

  • Monash University’s Supervisor Connect, where you can search for supervisors and projects according to research school/institute, project name, and whether the project would be suitable for a BMedSc(Hons) or PhD project. 
  • Clinician Scientists you come across during clinical placement will be keen to hear if you are interested in a BMedSc(Hons) project. It can be intimidating sending out emails to supervisors inquiring about projects, but the best advice is to spread your feelers widely and explore different options
  • Ask previous BMedSc(Hons) students whether they have any suggestions for supervisors or projects, or look at the MRSS BMedSc(Hons) Yearbooks

You are likely to have a lot of interaction with your supervisor in your BMedSc(Hons) year, so it is

useful to find somebody that you can build a good working relationship with. Useful questions to

clarify when exploring projects are:

  • The specifics of the projects, such as what an estimated timeline will be, whether ethics approval is required
  • If the supervisor has a preferred way of structuring their year when working with students
  • What a proposed week during the year would consist of
  • How often the supervisor has time to meet with their students
  • If the supervisor has the details of a past student who would be happy to contacted
  • Will there be support when learning and completing statistics or lab skills?
  • What the supervisor believes can be achieved with the project—could there be any opportunity for attending conferences, or possibly publication?

Not at all! If you have an area of interest in mind, you can try contacting a researcher in that area to explore if any projects interest you. Many students find that working with a supervisor they get along with is more important than having the specific project that you have in mind. If you would like guidance on who to contact regarding a certain area, MRSS would be happy to guide you in the right direction if you message our Facebook page.

Currently, you must have completed at least Year 3B of the BMedSc/MD program with a credit average, which is at least a 60 percent WAM. However, there is a limit to how many students can do a BMedSc(Hons) year and sometimes the cut-off WAM is higher than 60 percent. It is unlikely but possible that a few students may miss out if more students apply than there are spots available (although this is unlikely to be more than three to five students, if any at all). We recommend all students interested who meet the minimum credit average apply!

Research experience

No. The majority of students do not have a background in research. This can lead to a steep learning curve at times, but if you find a supportive supervisor there will be no issues. In fact, it is the perfect year to dedicate time to gaining research skills.

Each year MRSS hosts a "Research in Medical School" event where you can learn about the various options for research involvement in more detail. A brief overview of your options:

  • The Summer and Winter Research Scholarships through Monash University
  • Side projects during clinical placement – can be more difficult to complete alongside placement
  • Extending your BMedSc(Hons) project into a PhD, which can be accelerated from >3 years to 2 along the MD-PhD pathway, and is an excellent opportunity to truly hone your research skills
  • Master of Public Health (MPH) that can be completed in an accelerated one year as opposed to two alongside the Monash BMedSc/MD.
  • Time! The SIP is only six weeks, an extremely short amount of time in terms of research making it hard to appreciate what is truly involved
  • Output – the SIP results in a 2,000-4,000 word report, as opposed to a 15,000 word Minor Thesis, and the possibility of opportunities to present your research with a BMedSc(Hons)
  • Choice – not everybody gets much choice with the SIP, while with the yearlong BMedSc(Hons) you can choose your project and supervisor, and take much more ownership over the project
  • Additionally, at this point in time you can return to your supervisor and project from your BMedSc(Hons) year for your Year 5D SIP

The degree length is 1 year (well technically, it follows roughly the university dates, i.e. March to the end of October) however project lengths can be variable. Some people will do shorter projects which they may finish within the first 6 months, after which time they may choose to pick up another project or just relax for the rest of the time. There are course requirements e.g. literature review, presentations, and minor thesis that have set due dates scattered across the year.

The BMedSc(Hons) consists of two units, MED4031 (25% of the year’s mark) and MED4032 (75% of the year’s mark). MED4031 consists of a 10-minute Departmental Oral (25% of unit) and the 7,000 word Literature Review which outlines the literature surrounding your project, and where there is a gap in knowledge (75% of unit). MED4032 consists of a second 10 minute Departmental Oral (10% of unit), the 15,000 word Minor Thesis (80% of unit), and a 5-minute Faculty Oral Presentation and Poster Presentation presented to all BMedSc(Hons) students at the end of the year (5% each). For more information:

Different supervisors, different units, and different institutes provide different levels of support. Many skills you learn on the job (with support from your supervisor and other members of the research labs). The Faculty holds information sessions on how to write the Literature Review and the Minor Thesis. We would recommend enquiring with your potential supervisors and research institutes about what support will be provided.

It depends on your personal preferences—there are always opportunities for those who enjoy ongoing patient interaction. For example, at the School of Clinical Sciences, there are optional weekly bedside tutorials to still allow you to practice clinical skills in a guided manner. There are also seminars that serve as lecture material to refresh your knowledge on various topics. Depending on your supervisor, you can also ask to tag along with them on visits to clinics. In fact, as part of your project, you may see more than what a normal medical student sees, e.g. a kidney transplant.

Certain clinical schools run clinical tutorial programs throughout the year to ensure you do not lose too much clinical knowledge. Some projects and supervisors may provide opportunities for clinical work, and this is something to discuss when meeting potential supervisors. Additionally, getting involved in study groups, or tutoring younger students through PSPs or the Academic Mentorship Program (AMP) can help keep your knowledge sharp.

In terms of returning to clinical placement, some may find it to be an adjustment, however after the first week or so back on the wards you feel back at home.

Yes! Doing the BMedSc(Hons) after year 4D gives you the option to continue onto the accelerated MD/PhD pathway where you can extend your BMedSc(Hons) project over an extra 2-3 years to complete a PhD. Visit the Monash MD-PhD pathway website for more info.

In general, it depends on your project, how you decide to schedule your time, and outlining your expectations with your supervisors early on. 

The workload for a BMedSc(Hons) is really variable; as it is self-managed, you can come into the hospital and leave whenever you want with a typical day starting around 9 am. Things were less relaxed when nearing coursework deadlines. 

If you are completing a gap year and finding your own research, this is pretty much the same as the honours year—you decide your own timetable.

You can do your honours year anywhere in the world as your location is determined by where your supervisor is; the only limitation is that your supervisor has to be associated with Monash—the best option is probably to find a local supervisor here and then ask if they have any connections overseas/if there’s any chance to do part of the project overseas. Many honours students do their year overseas. There’s also the option to undertake your honours year in bioethics at Oxford University via a faculty-backed ‘exchange’ program.

Masters of Public Health (MPH)

The pathway towards such careers isn’t too clear yet, but an MPH will definitely give you a big leg up in the application process to such opportunities.

The main advantages include being able to get scholarships more easily (the faculty helps set you up) and being able to complete a postgraduate degree in a shorter amount of time. In addition, the earlier you attain these qualifications the more you’ll be able to make use of them, e.g. in applications. It may also be difficult to find a full three years of dedicated time when you’re a practising doctor to complete another degree.

If you opt in to the MPH pathway, it will only take an extra 1 year. This is compared to doing the MPH separately post-graduate which will take 1.5 years. 2020 is the first year that Monash University has implemented this pathway!

"Why do a Master of Public Health? Does it necessarily lead to a field in epidemiology? What is a Master of Public Health like? What kind of research do you do there?"

The MPH is a broad post-grad that gives you skills in a range of public health areas, particularly—research, health promotion, and policy. Useful for people interested in careers in global/public health, those interested in research, and really anyone looking to become all-rounded doctors! A higher degree is mandatory for certain college applications e.g. the Australian College of Emergency Medicine, and public health physicians. It provides points for other colleges but is not necessary.

The MPH is a coursework-based degree—there are no large research projects. However, there are electives that you can choose that can get you involved in research projects and have the possibility for publication.

In earlier weeks of the semester, the timetable is roughly 1–2 hours per unit per week. In later weeks, 6 hours per unit per week with 12–15 hors spent on large assignments.

Generally not feasible; not entirely sure yet whether the program with the University of Warwick is in-person. Generally, this will be difficult anytime soon given the CoVid situation. Everyone doing their honours year overseas this year has had to return to Australia. Faculty/ Monash university policy isn’t acceptable for anyone to do their honours year overseas next year at the moment however this is certainly subject to change.

In general, it depends on your project, how you decide to schedule your time, and outlining your expectations with your supervisors early on. 

For an MPH, outside of scheduled tutorials and lectures, it depends on how much you want to do, so the workload is variable.

MD-PhD Pathway

PhD candidates will almost always have a scholarship. Faculty will support your scholarship.

The main advantages include being able to get scholarships more easily (the faculty helps set you up) and being able to complete a postgraduate degree in a shorter amount of time. In addition, the earlier you attain these qualifications the more you’ll be able to make use of them, e.g. in applications. It may also be difficult to find a full three years of dedicated time when you’re a practising doctor to complete another degree.

Unfortunately, a PhDs and MPHs can be quite expensive, especially when considering that such scholarships for international students are quite rare; hence, decisions to pursue such degrees would have to vary on a case-by-case basis. International students should contact the director of clinical research A/Prof Megan Wallace if interested in applying.

However, international students (interns) have suggested for those looking to apply for programs where publications are the key factor to talk to potential supervisors early on. A lot of doctors and consultants understand the struggles of international students and will try to help out.

It’s not possible to do an MD-PhD overseas given that you can’t convert your BMedSc(Hons) into the necessary qualifications for an overseas PhD. However, you can definitely still travel abroad for leisure during your PhD.

In general, it depends on your project, how you decide to schedule your time, and outlining your expectations with your supervisors early on.

The workload for a PhD depends on your project: labs are more intensive and generally take place every day; clinical projects are also relatively intensive; database projects depend on how much time you want to put into analysis. For Roshan, most days were spent analysing data, in meetings with supervisors, coordinating projects, and writing papers—essentially, you choose your workload.

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