ILS attracts the most talented, creative, and accomplished students in the life sciences, the vast majority of which are intending to ultimately pursue rewarding careers as research scientists (Ph.D.), physicians (M.D.), or physician scientists (M.D./Ph.D.) following their undergraduate studies at Maryland. The particular academic interests of ILS students range from molecular biology and biochemistry, animal physiology and bioengineering, to evolutionary biology and ecosystem studies. ILS is thus designed to provide an innovative education for talented students interested in all disciplines in the life sciences regardless of their particular majors or career objectives.
Health Professions including Medical School
It is an exciting time for undergraduate students to consider potential careers in the health professions. We are experiencing an extraordinary outpouring of new knowledge relevant to human health coming from more traditional disciplines like biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology, as well as from emerging disciplines like genomics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, biomedical engineering, and bioinformatics. To meet the challenges of contemporary training for pre-medical, pre-dental, and other pre-health students, the Association of American Medical Colleges has published a recent report entitled Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians (2009) that identifies the overall competencies and learning objectives for training pre-med and other pre-health students. These learning objectives are intended to serve as the basis for designing the new version of the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) that will be first administered in January 2015. It turns out that these learning objectives are almost entirely coincident with those expected of rigorous undergraduate majors in the life sciences at the University of Maryland, including Biological Sciences (BSCI), Biochemistry (BCHM), and Bioengineering (BIOE). Thus, ILS offers the appropriate academic training for preparing pre-med and pre-health students.
Furthermore, ILS does offer those students interested in medical careers several special opportunities:
- ILS has partnered with the Health Professions Advising Office (HPAO) to provide early advising for pre-medical students during their first-semester on campus. The HPAO provides directed workshops and individualized counseling to all students independent of their major and/or living-learning Program. These workshops focus on such topics as initial planning, internship experiences, service opportunities, medical school application process, and medical school interview preparation.
- ILS has developed mentoring programs in campus research laboratories and at federal research and biomedical institutes. Some of these research experiences provide unique opportunities for preparing for medical school.
- ILS advising is designed to help ILS students identify appropriate co-curricular clinical, service and research experiences needed to develop strong applications to medical school and other health professions schools.
Graduate Programs in Life Sciences
Many ILS students have achieved academic excellence in the life sciences, and consequently, they are interested in ultimately pursuing advanced graduate studies in life sciences culminating in the Ph.D. degree. Several reports, such as BIO 2010 (2003) from the National Academy of Sciences and Vision and Change (2010) from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have emphasized the critical role of mathematics, physics, and chemistry in preparing undergraduate students for advanced research degrees in the life sciences. Thus, the ILS academic program is focused on integrated multidisciplinary training in the life sciences.
In addition to a strong academic record, the most critical characteristic for being admitted into a first-rate graduate program in the Life Sciences is to have done a significant piece of undergraduate research. The ILS staff makes a major commitment to help ILS students to identify, apply for, and successfully complete meaningful research internship experiences that will further their ability to acquire a deeper appreciation for the research process and to achieve their professional goals.
ILS students are supported in identifying internship opportunities in many ways, including:
- ILS students are encouraged to enroll in BSCI279H Catalyst Seminar in the Spring semester of their first year. This 1 credit seminar course takes each student step-by-step through the process of successfully obtaining a research internship.
- ILS facilitates personal contacts with UM faculty or off-campus researchers, who are participating as mentors in the ILS program.
- ILS has partnered with the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences to connect ILS students to the network of on-campus research opportunities in the life sciences.
- ILS maintains an extensive searchable catalog of relevant internship opportunities in federal research laboratories, private companies, and non-profit research organizations in the DC metro area.
In addition, the ILS internship experience prepares ILS students to apply for the departmental honors program in the department that most aligns with their research interests. Typically intended for juniors and seniors, departmental honors programs provide research-intensive experiences, including proposal writing, experimental work, data analysis, and seminar presentations in professional settings. Students participating in departmental honors are expected to write a high-quality honors thesis describing their research.
Lastly, ILS advising is designed to assist ILS students in identifying appropriate co-curricular experiences that will support their interests and professional goals and allow them to develop a strong application for graduate school.
For other helpful tips visit the College of Computer, Math and Natural Sciences Academic Planning webiste.