MU VRSP FAQs for applications
What is the basis for selection of students for fellowships?
Technically we will accept all students into the VRSP Program since our goal is to expose veterinary students to research opportunities and develop a community of veterinary research scientists. Unfortunately it costs money to do research and provide a summer fellowships. The application process helps us determine which students to fund for fellowships with the limited resources available. However, even if you do not get a fellowship from VRSP funds, you may still be able to participate in a research experience. You might consider some laboratory volunteer work or some faculty will fund student fellowships individually either full- or part-time and you can participate in VRSP activities with the permission of the faculty member funding your program.
Are grades the most important factor in getting a VRSP fellowship?
Not the most important criteria but grades are important to consider regarding the extra time commitment of the Foundations in Veterinary Research and Discovery course, which is required for VSRP funding, as well as the extra time usually required to finish your project and then present it at The CVM Research Day during your second year. If you are struggling with the veterinary curriculum in year one we do not want to add additional responsibilities to your second year. We recognize that grades are not always the best indicator of whether you would be a good VRSP fellow but being successful in veterinary school is the priority and we get nervous if your GPA is below 3.0
Do out-of-state students have an advantage because of need?
Out-of-state students seem more motivated to be involved in VRSP possibly because they need to earn money to qualify for in-state tuition for next year. However, your state of residence has no impact on the selection process.
I have some research experience; will that hurt my chances for acceptance?
No. Some, but not all of the funds within the VRSP Program must be dedicated to first-time research experience. Thus, there will always be an emphasis on first-time research experience but diversity of experience level is preferable for the program overall.
How important is the letter of reference for my application?
This letter is important in the evaluation process. They can come from CVM faculty who knows you and with whom you have talked about your goals and aspirations for the VRSP program. It is less helpful to the evaluation committee if the letter simply addresses your class work at the CVM. Alternatively, you may get a letter from a previous mentor who can comment on your research interests. It is important these outside letters address your motivation and not simply your grades in a class.
How important is my Interview?
Will having a mentor before I apply increase my chances of getting accepted?
No, although it helps the selection committee match accepted students with mentors since they are both excited and motivated about working together.
What is the acceptance rate?
We try our best to find funding for all students interested in doing summer research and stretch the money we have as far as possible. Over the last few years, about 2/3 of students that apply receive fellowships and several others receive funding directly from mentors. Obviously that number will change as more students apply and the amount of money we have available stays the same.
What if I’m not sure what mentor I want to work with?
No problem. We strongly suggest you talk to few mentors prior to applying to get an idea of what their research interest is and how the two of you might relate. You can they establish a pre-match. Alternatively, at the time of application, you can select four mentors whose work seems to interest you and we will try do our best to match you with one of those individuals. In the big picture, it really does not matter which mentor you select or match with since the goal is really to gain research experience. Sometimes learning something outside our comfort zone is more valuable and enriching. Challenge yourself everyday!!
MU VRSP FAQs for Program Structure
Do I need to enroll in the course “Foundations in Veterinary Research and Discovery”?
Yes. VRSP scholars (from MU) are required to enroll and attend this course. Exceptions can be made for pre-vet scholars or VM2s if conflicts with other classes exist. The Foundations course allows us to introduce concepts (hypothesis testing) and methods (statistics, graphing etc) during the school year so you can hit the ground running once you are free this summer. Scholars from schools other than MU will begin participation in this course upon arrival and do not need to enroll.
Will I get a grade for this course?
Yes, although the only way you will not do well is if you do not attend.
Once I am part of the VRSP, what should I do?
You will receive a guideline (before and during the Foundations course) for how to proceed with starting your research activities. The single most important thing to do is establish expectations and set a regular weekly meeting time with your mentor . Get to know them and start brainstorming about your research project.
How will I learn all the methods I need to complete my project?
Meeting weekly with your mentor gives both you and the mentor an opportunity to see “where you are” in that research area. Your mentor will not expect you to know how to do things but will be checking to see whether you have any background in the subject area and will then suggest things to read so that you can appreciate the concepts behind your research project. Researchers do this “checking” all the time so it is not a test but a way of finding where to start. It may even be possible to spend a few hours a week in the laboratory, shadowing other laboratory personnel to learn some of the techniques before your summer starts. Also, don’t be surprised if these laboratory personnel play a big role in training you how to do procedures. Researchers depend on graduate students, technicians and postdoctoral fellows to keep the laboratory running while they attend meetings and teach your classes.
Do I have to design my own project?
No, you will be given a project to do and in most cases this will be a part of an ongoing larger project in the laboratory. Research is always completed in small pieces and then hopefully one day all the pieces fit together and have significant meaning.
Will I work alone on my project?
This will depend on the laboratory, the project and your independence. Some projects are best done by one person, start to finish. Others are completed by teams because it takes more than two hands to do something. Castrating a pig for example might require a team of researchers for part of the procedure but only one person to process the tissue samples. You might share the tissue samples between 15 different laboratories and researchers who all study a different component and then get together once a week to share data and discuss findings. There are many different ways to do research so be flexible.
How many hours do I need to commit?
Your time in the laboratory will vary considerably from laboratory to laboratory and depend greatly on your project needs. You can discuss expectations with your mentor but be sure if the experiment you are doing is not finished at 5PM you will be expected to stay and finish it, especially if all the data would be lost if you stopped!! Also, some procedures might require scheduling at times other than normal working times. The VRSP is a FULL-TIME COMMITMENT.
Are all VRSP scholars expected to work the same number of hours?
Each year some students seem concerned because another student appears to be working more, but usually less than they are. Science and research know no clocks!!! Depending on the project your fellow student may be working 3 hours during the day and another 6 hours at night because they are studying the effects of nocturnal behavior. You cannot judge without walking in their shoes. Really all you can do is work the best and hardest at YOUR project and not worry about someone else’s time. We don’t.
Can I take a vacation?
Because summers are so short and your time in the laboratory so important we discourage students from trying to take significant time off for vacations. However, we recognize that sometimes things like weddings and family events are scheduled long in advance. Time off should be approved by the mentor and a “VRSP Leave Form and Plan for Make Up” submitted
Do I have time for another job?
NO! The VRSP is a FULL-TIME COMMITMENT.
Do I have time for my other Vet school clubs and activities such as the VET orientation?
It is common for the same students who eagerly want to try research to be the same students who wanted to participate in VET or who are active in several labor intensive school clubs. We acknowledge you are the big achievers. We ask that you try to limit your activities in these other events and dedicate yourself to the VRSP experience, after all it may be the only time you have for such as experience while in veterinary school.
Do fellowships apply to out of state residency applications?
In the past the always have!! Each time you are paid during the summer, you will receive an email from MU Accounting indicating your payment was deposited into your checking account. When you petition for Residency, the residency office requires two items to prove your pay: the aforementioned emails you receive from MU Accounting and each bank statement which shows each payment that hit your account. More information about gaining Missouri Residency can be found here: Missouri Residency or you may ask Shelly Nail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
When do I get paid? Are there taxes?
You will be paid three times during the summer, with the third and final payment being contingent upon your mentor’s approval. You are not an employee, therefore you will not receive a W-2, rather, you will receive a 1099 from MU Accounting around the February following your participation. This tax form will report your earnings from the program. You are responsible for keeping track of the payments you receive, determining the taxability of the payments and reporting those payments on your tax returns as appropriate. Work with your accountant, a tax expert or tax preparation service if you have questions about filing your return. MU Extension often offers free tax preparation help. Visit http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/ to find a location.
Who pays for travel to the Veterinary Scholars Symposium and other field trips?
All travel and housing expenses are paid for by VRSP.
Who pays for laboratory supplies and the costs of making a poster?
Your mentor pays all the expenses associated with your research project including the costs of making a poster. When you meet with your mentor, costs of research might be one topic for discussion.
Will someone teach me to make a poster?
Yes. We will have sessions on how to make a poster and you will get lots of help from CVM postdocs and past fellows as well as other laboratory personnel. NO WORRIES!!