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As this is my first post, I’ll start off by introducing myself. I graduated from Michigan in 2012 with double degrees in biomedical engineering and honors mathematics, with a minor in French and Francophone Studies (actually, according to my senior yearbook, I minored in French cellular communications due to a typo stating I minored in “French and Franco Phone Studies). I took last year “off” to work full-time in my lab, which researches bioinformatics-based protein structure prediction.

I was very happy to not be taking classes while interviewing for MSTP programs. Their interviews are typically longer (~2 days) than MD interviews since applicants usually meet with research faculty and MSTP admission committee members, in addition to the MD admission interviews. When travel is added in, interviews take more and more time, leaving less for studying and attending class.

As an MSTP, I had the option to do a research rotation during the summer before medical school starts. I chose to complete this while working in my same lab from undergrad. Whether or not you choose to complete a summer rotation, I would recommend coming to Ann Arbor at least a week or two before orientation starts to acquaint yourself with major landmarks (and grocery stores).

MSTP students attend a weekend retreat each year – this year’s was at Higgins Lake near Roscommon, Michigan (about a three-hour drive from Ann Arbor).

In addition to poster sessions and student presentations, there are social activities and a keynote address. The speaker was Baldomero Olivera, PhD, a professor at the University of Utah, with an unprepossessing title: “Venom peptides from fish-hunting cone snails: connecting Biomedical Science to Biodiversity.”

Going in to the presentation, we weren’t expecting much. Dr. Olivera, however, caught our attention right away by discussing snails (yes, snails) that kill and eat fish. These snails produce venom that is at least as powerful as the venom of cobras and puffer fish combined! Some of them even shoot miniature harpoons containing the poison like a hypodermic needle! Another interesting fact: when Dr. Olivera returned to the Philippines after a post-doc at Stanford, he did not have money for high-tech equipment, so his main assay for determining the dose-depended toxicity of the snail venom was measuring how long it took for mice to become paralyzed and fall from a wire mesh after injecting the venom – and the time for mice to fall actually follows Michaelis-Menten kinetics!

The retreat lasts from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning, unless you are an entering first year. In that case, students leave immediately after Sunday breakfast in order to return to Ann Arbor in time for the White Coat Ceremony. Our white coats and stethoscopes were sponsored by medical school alumni and clinical departments to signify our welcome into the Michigan medical community. It was a wonderful ceremony, and we were all pumped to start orientation the next morning.

Orientation was a lot of fun but exhausting (especially the scavenger hunt that took us all over Ann Arbor on foot – even to the Big House!). We spent lots of time introducing ourselves and, by the end of the week, had probably introduced ourselves to the same person multiple times! Needless to say, we will probably be stumbling around in our attempt to remember each other’s names (and how to navigate the labyrinthine hallways). As classes get rolling and we are inundated by requests to join myriad student organizations, our lives will get busier and busier – and I can’t wait!

Sara is a fourth-year medical student at UMMS. When not in the hospital, she can usually be found on the golf course or at a Michigan sporting event cheering on the Wolverines.