Scholars and professionals alike have long understood the importance of research in executing, advancing, and lending credibility to their field. Defined as “diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc.” research has long been regarded as critical for the success of any academic or professional discipline.
Pharmacy is no exception. Research experience will prove beneficial to your clinical practice once you become a licensed pharmacist, but it will also offer value right now as a prospective pharmacy student. This article will outline some of the advantages of pursuing undergraduate research, including strengthening your pharmacy school application.
Why Acquiring Pharmacy Research Experience Is Valuable
Let’s start by exploring why you should consider acquiring research experience and how it helps advance your candidacy as you approach pharmacy school, during your tenure there, and well into clinical practice.
You might be wondering, “Is research experience important for pharmacy school?” The short answer is yes! Sharpening your research skills can separate you from other candidates when applying to pharmacy schools. It can even help after pharmacy school if you are interested in pursuing a postgraduate residency, fellowship, or other career opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry or academia.
Research experience is fundamental to problem-solving—the ability to investigate scientific hypotheses and theories is paramount to solving complex problems in pharmacy practice. Developing the ability to solve complex problems will prime you for success in pharmacy school and beyond, positioning you as a future leader in pharmacy.
Demonstrating your research skills and experience in your personal statement will likely impress admissions committees at your chosen pharmacy programs, improving your chances of acceptance. Your pharmacy research experience also indicates to pharmacy programs that you possess the necessary scientific mind. It shows that you are curious about the world around you and are poised to have a similar enthusiasm for practicing and advancing the field of pharmacy.
Research experience typically involves the following broad yet highly sought-after skills by pharmacy schools and pharmacy employers:
- High-volume reading and comprehension
- Critical thinking
- Scrutinizing and cross-examining a range of sources
- Creating content-rich presentations
- Authoring journal articles and other publications
- Understanding the applications of clinical research
Moreover, the sooner you become aware of research methodology and carry out a research project, the longer you will have to master necessary research skills, such as data-driven decision-making and time management. These skills will set you apart in your pharmacy school application, clinical- rotations, pharmacy practice, and other areas you may pursue after obtaining your PharmD.
The skills and knowledge gained from undergraduate research experience will serve you well in your pharmacy school journey since they can help you excel in your coursework. Techniques learned in bench-top or public health-related research may be helpful in pharmacotherapy and research-intensive science courses in your pharmacy curriculum.
Once you complete your pharmacy school journey and eventually begin practicing as a licensed pharmacist, the above-mentioned practical skills will make you a much better clinician. As you begin to apply scientific findings from research to make informed decisions for your patients, you will feel increasingly confident to take on the many challenges of pharmacy practice and move the profession forward.
How To Acquire Pharmacy Research Experience
Now that you know how valuable pharmacy research experience can be for pharmacy applicants and pharmacy students alike, it’s time to explore how you can go about acquiring research experience, no matter where you are in your journey. Below are a few ways to acquire pharmacy research experience:
Ask introspective questions
First, ask yourself, “What kind of research am I interested in?” Are you deeply scientific in thinking about and processing information, or are you more of a visual analyzer of data? Which courses or topics are you taking as prerequisites for pharmacy school that intrigue you the most? Which ones make you feel like you can’t wait to do your homework to dive deeper into the lesson? Your answers will help you narrow down your research topic.
Reflect on your personal experiences
Another way to figure out what topics move you is to reflect on your unique life journey. Why are you choosing to become a pharmacist? Why do you want to work in healthcare? Are you driven by a personal experience with disease or illness via a family member or loved one, e.g., cancer, diabetes, etc.? Naturally, you might be motivated to research how new therapies and drugs might treat or, better yet, cure such life-altering ailments.
Engage with faculty
Search through your college website and databases to find faculty conducting the type of research you are interested in. Many colleges have departments dedicated to undergraduate research and may even offer faculty mentorship. Read current research endeavors and any publications by these faculty to understand their work and any research opportunities they may offer for students, including projects and coursework that will challenge you to write research papers, summaries, abstracts, and peer reviews.
Taking and succeeding in these courses will train you to leverage research to navigate academic problems posed by the course assignments, which will eventually translate into using research methodologies to navigate real-world medical problems in clinical practice.
There you have it! We hope you have gained some helpful insight on the value of research experience for your pharmacy school application and, ultimately, clinical pharmacy practice. Pharmacy is one of the most research-heavy sectors in the healthcare industry; acquiring pharmacy research experience can enhance your success as a pharmacy school applicant and beyond. Good luck!