Capstone Scholarship & Discovery Course

CSD FAQs-Students

Do I have to complete a Capstone Project if I already conducted research projects before entering medical school?

The Capstone Scholarship and Discovery Course and project are designed to help students develop, improve, and maintain skills during medical school that will better prepare them for the next step of their professional career. Many of our students come to medical school having experience in research, community service, and other topics that might be related to a Capstone; the context of those, however, was quite different. Completing a Capstone supports students to maintain these interests, or identify new ones, and develop them in the context of someone who is progressing through medical school to the next step in their professional career, with a longitudinal relationship with a self-identified advisor. It is the longitudinal development that is the reason a student may not complete and submit a Capstone project immediately following summer research that occurs between 1st and 2nd year. The Capstone project must be completed through the filter of clinical experiences, career decision-making and transitioning to post-graduate education.

How much time is considered appropriate for the Capstone Project?

It is natural for people to ask how much time is considered appropriate to work on a CSP. This will differ based on any given student’s project. The goal is for students to make what they do ‘count twice’ as they follow their passion. Thus we anticipate and recommend that students will build on time they are already spending on related work. For instance, a student’s project should build on elective experiences, volunteer activities, classes, research, community projects, patient care, etc. to which they are already devoting time (e.g. a summer program between 1st and 2nd year, as part of an interest group, learning community, population health clerkship). Students could reasonably build on this by adding just a few hours a month during most of the year, with additional time in FCEs and the AS month.

How do I find a Capstone advisor?

We would like the CSP to be a project in an area of your own interest, as it is the opportunity to develop and grow your own passions in medicine. Another goal is to support your networking skills, which is an important piece of professional development. A good first step after identifying an area of interest is to visit the website for the department that fits best with your interest to identify the department chair and its faculty who are doing work in the area. Spend time reviewing research described on the site, and contact any who share your interest.

Can I complete a Capstone Project based on work for which I am being paid?

It is appropriate to relate your Capstone Project to work for which you are being paid or receive funds. Some examples of this situation may be being employed by an academic department, engaging in a summer research fellowship, participating in a community assistantship, or obtaining travel funds for Global Health. All of these opportunities provide for experiences that can be developed into Capstone Projects.

Do I have to complete a Capstone Project if I entered medical school before the class of 2016?

The Capstone Project is required of those students who entered medical school with the graduating class of 2016 or after. If you entered the program with an earlier graduation date you do not need to complete a capstone project.

How do I develop a longitudinal project based on work I completed during the summer between FOM1 and FOM2?

If you conducted research during the summer after FOM1, you may follow-up on that research by developing a project focused on what changes have occurred in the field since completing your initial project. You may design an experiment which addresses an unanswered question, even if you are not able to complete the research. As part of the project you will want to familiarize yourself with the literature published after your initial work. Additionally if you went on a trip with UMMS to a foreign country you may want to discuss the changes in healthcare since your visit. There are many ways to continue learning about a topic that you focused on after your first year of medical school.

Do I need UMMS Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval?

The UMMS IRB must be consulted for any research involving human subjects. The IRB will make one of the following decisions:
− The project does not meet criteria for definition of research with human subjects and thus does not require review
− The project meets criteria for definition of research with human subjects but is exempt due to educational nature
− The project meets criteria for definition of research with human subjects and requires expedited or full IRB review and approval before research may begin
Please see the UMMS IRB website and ‘investigator manual’ linked on the left navigation for detailed information: http://umassmed.edu/research/IRB/index.aspx.

How long does the IRB process take?

Submissions are assigned to pre-scheduled IRB committee meetings as soon as the pre-review process is complete. IRB committees meet twice monthly, the review can thus take several months depending on when your forms are submitted. Please plan accordingly.

Do I need to complete anything else beyond the UMMS IRB paperwork in order to move forward with my project?

Yes, all human subjects research requires that investigators complete CITI training; this is linked on the left navigation of the IRB website. Students complete this work as part of the PoP course, but may need to renew certification in the course of their Capstone work as original certification is valid for only 3 years. Faculty advisors for project requiring IRB approval must have CITI training as well.

Do I need UMMS Institutional Animal Care and Use (IACUC) approval?

If you plan to conduct research involving animal subjects, a specific IACUC research protocol must be reviewed and approved by the IACUC prior to receiving animals and/or conducting of any research on existing animals. The protocol review and approval process is comprised of three main phases: administrative review, veterinary pre-review, and IACUC review that takes between 6-8 weeks to complete. This proposal should be submitted to the IACUC as soon as possible after your FOM2 Spring Capstone Proposal Form has been approved. Please plan accordingly.

Do I need to complete anything else beyond the UMMS IACUC paperwork in order to move forward with my project?

Yes, based on federal regulations, all individuals working with laboratory animals must complete IACUC training prior to being approved to work with live vertebrate animals on an IACUC protocol. This includes principal investigators, research staff, students and volunteers.

What additional considerations are required for a Capstone FCE?

  • FCE supervisor may be the CSD advisor, but we recommend identifying a different supervisor
  • Capstone FCEs must be able to stand on their own merit, though they can be used to support Capstone efforts
  • Capstone FCE proposals must be submitted at least one calendar month in advance of the FE term to allow time for CSD advisor review and approval of the proposal objectives
  • A maximum of two Capstone FCEs per student will be approved

See the "Designing an FCE" FAQ on the FCE Program website for more information.