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Lehre@LMU

Cultivating curiosity

München, 08/13/2019

Most medical students want to treat patients. That’s a well-known fact. Only a small minority of budding physicians wish to devote themselves to research. Professor Michael Meyer and Dr. Johanna Canady at LMU’s Medical Faculty want to change this mindset. At the ScienceCon medical students have the opportunity to report on their own projects. The idea is to encourage physicians in training to gain hands-on knowledge of the world of medical research.

Best Talk and Best Poster: Not only the student research achievements, but also the presentations are honored at the ScienceCon.

Most medical students want to treat patients. That’s a well-known fact. Only a small minority of budding physicians wish to devote themselves to research. Professor Michael Meyer and Dr. Johanna Canady at LMU’s Medical Faculty want to change this mindset. At the ScienceCon medical students have the opportunity to report on their own projects. The idea is to encourage physicians in training to gain hands-on knowledge of the world of medical research.

When Ayse stood in front of an audience of her peers for the first time, she became aware that her knees were not entirely under her control. She had of course realized from the beginning that her research project was unlikely to produce really startling results. Nevertheless, she couldn’t help feeling a sense of pride in what she had done. She had tested an experimental method that was designed to measure cell damage, and had devoted more than 500 hours in the lab to the task. This was her first project and the first set of results that she had acquired on her own. “I had always thought that exciting research was something one got to do as a doctoral candidate, at the earliest,” she says. “As a student, it is very easy to forget that even the best researchers were once beginners.” The primary goal of the Students’ Research Conference (ScienceCon) organized by the Faculty of Medicine is to remind medical students of that very fact.

The first ScienceCon took place in 2017. Ayse attended the event, but she didn’t play an active role. However, the realization that students in their fourth semester were among those who presented their work certainly made an impression on her. Dr. Johanna Canady, a project coordinator in the Faculty of Medicine, stresses the importance of bringing medical students into direct contact with research early on. “Many students find the very thought of research intimidating. They regard it as an activity that is reserved for overachievers. But research involves experimentation, and experiments don’t always pan out as planned. Failure is not a disaster. It’s part of the job – because one can learn from one’s failures. That’s the reason why we encourage students to tackle small research projects early in their courses.”

A good way to begin is to sign up for the Research Module (Forschungsmodul), a voluntary practical class that lasts for two semesters, during which medical students work on research problems of their own choice. Both the Research Module and the ScienceCon are funded under the auspices of Lehre@LMU, and are primarily intended for students of medicine at all stages of their education. Students of Dentistry, as well as those taking Master’s courses in the Health Sciences, can also participate in the ScienceCon.

Research is a test of mettle
 

science_con_260_webThe organizers of the ScienceCon: Johanna Canady, Ayse Yenicelik and Professor Michael Meyer (Dean of Studies in the Faculty of Medicine).

In the end, all Ayse’s work – and her brief bout of nervousness – paid off. Her presentation won the award for the Best Talk in 2018. A crucial component of the ScienceCon lies in the extensive feedback that the participating students receive from a committee of experts chaired by Professor Michael Meyer (Dean of Studies in the Faculty of Medicine) – and prizes are awarded for the best presentations. “I was flabbergasted to receive the award for the best talk. It was a complete surprise for me,” Ayse recalls. “It’s also tremendously helpful to receive comments on one’s work from representatives of so many different departments.” From Professor Meyer’s point of view, the benefits are not restricted to the fact that both the Research Module and the ScienceCon disrupt the traditional approach to the study of medicine. They also help to close a gap in the medical curriculum. “Elements drawn from active research programs are largely absent from the study of medicine,” he says. “In the absence of appropriate opportunities, there is a danger that students will lose their intrinsic research orientation.”

In 2019, Ayse didn’t have a project of her own to present, because she has not been directly engaged in research this year. But she still managed to contribute to the latest ScienceCon. As a Student Coordinator, she was involved in the planning stages and helped participants to find their bearings during the course of the event. In addition, she served as a member of the jury charged with assessing the projects presented. In this capacity, she had to familiarize herself with all of the projects submitted. She asked lots of questions, provided feedback and was very pleased with the level of commitment shown by her fellow students. Next year, financial support for the Research Module and the ScienceCon runs out. But Ayse, Canady and Meyer hope that both initiatives can be continued. All it takes is more mettle, more departments and more willingness to stray off the beaten path.

Lehre@LMU is made possible by the "Quality Pact for Teaching", which is a joint initiative of the States and the Federal Government. The program supports a wide range of measures designed to promote student research projects and innovative approaches to teaching, extend existing mentoring concepts and provide aid for students who find themselves in particularly trying circumstances.

For further information on the MMS ScienceCon and the Research Module (Forschungsmodul), consult the LMU Medical Faculty’s website.