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Basic Research

A researcher pours a clear liquid from a brown bottle into a clear bottle.
A researcher works in the lab.

The primary goal of the Basic Research Scholarly Activity Track is to expose UT Southwestern medical students to the fundamentals of hypothesis-driven research. Through a series of lectures and full-time exposure to laboratory research, students will better understand hypothesis development, research design, evaluating existing literature, the collection of data, and responsible conduct in research.

After completing the track, students will be able to:

  1. Appreciate the critical roles of basic science and research in understanding disease processes
  2. Identify a biomedical research question, formulate a hypothesis, design an experimental method, acquire data, and analyze the results
  3. Articulate the relevance of a research question with the field through extensive critical review of the literature pertaining to a biomedical question
  4. Identify and practice research ethics and responsible conduct in research
  5. Communicate research results to their peers and others in their field through an article-formatted piece of writing and an oral presentation

Methods of Instruction

During this block, students are expected to participate in full-time research for the full 12 weeks of the block, as well as participate in the lecture series and present their own research to their lab peers. Online articles and writing resources will be available for students as part of this activity.

Project Selection

Prior to beginning the course, students should meet with potential mentors to discuss the student’s basic science research interests and begin selecting a project. The Office of the Associate Dean for Medical Student Research can help guide students toward potential mentors, but it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to find a project.

Other resources to find mentors who have worked with students before are available in the project indexes.

The Research by Department list also can help you find clinicians who might be involved in basic research.

All projects must be preapproved by the Associate Dean for Medical Student Research. Projects should demonstrate the advancement of a hypothesis. The description, co-written by the mentor and student, should delineate the student’s anticipated project and include background, hypothesis, specific aims, study design, and disease relevance. The proposal needs to be tailored for a student research project and not a general lab abstract from a grant proposal. We value new, data-generating research.

During the Rotation

Students will work as a full-time research assistant for 12 weeks and are expected to work approximately 40 hours a week during this rotation. Students and mentors will set a schedule for their rotation on the first day.

Research mentors will be the day-to-day contact for the students and will be responsible for their education in research methodology. Mentors also are responsible for providing computer access (outside of EPIC) and any supplies needed as part of the research project. It is also recommended that the student name a department research coordinator as part of the application to facilitate any computer or IRB needs as part of this rotation.


At the conclusion of the scholarly activity project, each student is required to prepare and submit a report of 5-10 pages, excluding references and figures. This report should be formatted as a scientific manuscript and include:

  1. The problem explored
  2. The hypothesis tested
  3. Methods employed
  4. Results obtained
  5. Conclusions drawn

Students will also present their research report to a meeting of interested faculty, residents, and students. Students will be encouraged to disseminate their findings at local, national, and international conferences.

The grade for the scholarly activity track will be pass/fail, based on the student’s final paper and the evaluation from the primary mentor. The final paper will be graded according to established guidelines across all the scholarly activity tracks.