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Christine Rarrick, PharmD, MBA, BCPS
Medical University of South Carolina
Charleston, SC

While it may seem like a daunting task, getting involved in research can be one of the most valuable extracurricular activities undertaken as a student pharmacist. Regardless of your future career path, participating in a research project offers opportunities to strengthen critical thinking and analytic skills, develop interprofessional relationships, work towards publication, and even qualify for grants and awards. Unfortunately, I did not realize these things until my final year of pharmacy school when I found myself scrambling to find a project that fit my interests and could be completed in a relatively short amount of time. Spoiler alert: it did not go as well as I had planned! Through this article, I hope to share things I wish I would have known to kick start my research career before entering residency.

  1. Start Early: One of the most important steps is to start early! It is never too early to explore available options. Go to student organization meetings, ask a peer who is already involved, shadow in a research lab, or determine if there are any residents accepting student help on their projects. There are many different ways a student can be involved in research depending on his or her interests and availability.
  2. Start Gradually: This is another reason to start as early as possible. I made the mistake of attempting to start my very first project from scratch with a tight timeframe. Some people may be very successful at managing their own project right off the bat, but I had no experience and did not know where to begin! Looking, back I would have been more successful in completing a high-quality project if I had gained initial experience shadowing or assisting a primary investigator before attempting to be one myself. Because of this, while completing research as a resident, I welcomed student involvement in protocol design, data collection, and even contributions to the manuscript, depending on the students’ interests and comfort level. If your program is affiliated with a residency, this can be a great opportunity to work on a well-developed project early on as a student so that you feel prepared to complete your own project in the future. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance— finding the right way to get involved can be very daunting especially as you’re determining your interests.
  3. Don’t Sell your Research Short: Completing a high-quality research project is a major accomplishment and while publication is a common goal, many people overlook the potential for other ways to share their hard work. CPNP accepts applications every year for a research award specifically for trainees. Applying for this award is not only a way to be recognized for your hard work. It also enables you to share your findings and impact with the CPNP community during the Annual Meeting. While taking home a blue ribbon was certainly exciting when I received CPNP’s Research Trainee Award in 2019, what I most enjoyed was sharing the impact of my project with a large group of students, residents, and specialists in a field that I am truly passionate about. If you are able to contribute to a project within psychiatry or neurology as a student or resident, I encourage you to apply for this award. All of the information about applying can be found on the CPNP website. Mark your calendar for the January application deadlines and get to work!
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