Courses, Events, & Expectations

Please consult either the Upcoming Events page for dates and times.

MSTP Courses

MSTP Mondays [MSTP:8515]

All MSTP students are required to attend the biweekly program-wide course called MSTP Mondays. In the fall and spring academic semesters, topics are chosen with input from students and fall into three major categories: clinical, research, and professional development. Recent topics have included discussions in rigor and reproducibility, how to be successful in clinic, wellness events, panel discussions with MSTP alumni, and a mock cancer tumor board. Starting in the 2020 summer session, MSTP Mondays will include workshops on RRR. MSTP Mondays provides a regular forum for vertical integration among students at different phases of training. Students receive a grade (P/F) and graduate credit is received. Feedback from student climate surveys have included comments such as “MSTP Mondays has been a great way to stay in touch and build relationships with one another across the years” and “it’s an opportunity for older students to get to know the younger students.”

MSTP Conversations in Research

Year 1 Fall & Spring & Year 2 Fall 

Students in Years 1 and 2 attend required biweekly lunchtime sessions entitled Conversations in Research. These sessions focus on issues pertinent to the selection of a research mentor and graduate program, as well as on building skills for professional development. Most fall sessions are informal meetings between trainees and MSTP faculty members who represent the spectrum of MSTP affiliated graduate programs. These meetings use a “chalk talk” or “white board” format to introduce trainees to possible thesis research opportunities. An effort is made to invite new mentors to ensure that trainees are well informed about emerging research programs. Several of our students have chosen their thesis mentor from a Conversation in Research session. Attendance is required unless arrangements have been made in advance.

Creative Communications Workshop

Year 1 Spring

Each spring semester, the 2nd year students transition into clerkships, leaving the 1st year students to transition from Convos in Research to the Creative Communications Workshop.  This innovative workshop was developed in 2013, taking advantage of the rich tradition of creative writing at the U of Iowa, home of the top ranked creative writing program in the country. Participation in Creative Communications Workshop encourages creativity and communication, emphasizing the program director's vision that communication is central to success in science and medicine. Student feedback from climate surveys has included comments such as “Conversations in Research is useful and a good way to be exposed to faculty looking for people to join their labs” and “Conversations in Research, the Creative Communications Workshop, and the Grant Writing Course have been great ways to build relationships with one another in the same class and with the classes above and below us." Attendance is required unless arrangements have been made in advance.

Analyzing and Presenting Medical Literature [MSTP:8513]

Year 1 Summer

This required course is taken during summer between Year 1 and Year 2. It is designed as a learner-directed journal club for students to develop their skills in critical reading, interpreting, and presenting biomedical research. The format was initially developed from a publication by Currier, R.L. entitled “Taking journal clubs off autopilot: A case study of teaching evaluation skills to preclinical MD/PhD students”5 and has evolved in response to student feedback and evaluation. Each student presents a paper and leads a discussion of a specific topic related to scientific and clinical investigation (e.g., patient/recruitment bias, peer review, conflict of interest, study design). A faculty member is invited to facilitate each discussion as a content expert. Students receive a grade (P/F) and graduate credit is received.

Grant Writing Basics [MSTP:8514]

Spring of Year 1 in PhD Training

This required course is held in the spring of Year 3 and is course-directed by Dr. Geyer and Dr. Christine Blaumueller, who directs the CCOM Scientific Editing and Research Communication Core[BC1]. This 11-week workshop-style course introduces the practical and conceptual aspects of the grant writing process. Workshopping of examples (from both current and past participants) challenges trainees to think critically about significance, innovation, and experimental design. The participation of MSTP trainees with diverse research interests underscores the value of relating critical information in concise and clear language. During weekly workshops, trainees present their research ideas to the group, giving and receiving scientific criticism. Trainees are introduced to sections of NIH fellowship applications, including the Specific Aims page, the Significance and Approach sections of the Research Strategy, the Training Plan, and the Biosketch. The learning objectives are to develop a Specific Aims page, learn how to provide constructive feedback to peers, and practice revision based on constructive feedback. Students receive a grade (P/F) and graduate credit is received. Sixteen current trainees have received F30, F31, or equivalent individual fellowship awards in the past year.

Clinical Connections [MSTP:8512]

Fall & Spring of Years 2 and 3 of PhD Training for four semesters total 

Clinical Connections [MSTP:8512] is a highly successful required component of the MSTP that allows students to maintain clinical exposure and experience during graduate training. Students in the graduate phase of training choose a clinical preceptor from a pool of faculty members chosen based on their ability to be inspiring teachers and role models. Many Clinical Connections preceptors are active physician-scientists. Each student is required to complete four rotations in Clinical Connections (beginning the second fall semester of their graduate work). Each rotation consists of a mentored clinical experience (either inpatient or outpatient) one half-day per month for one semester. Four weeks of clinical clerkship credit are awarded by the CCOM for participation in Clinical Connections. Students receive a grade (P/F) and credit is received. Some students elect to participate in more than four semesters of Clinical Connections, often to explore additional clinical specialties. For more information, click here:

Descriptions of these courses can be found in the UI Course Catalog here:

MSTP Annual Events

MSTP Grand Rounds

MSTP Grand Rounds is a highly successful forum that highlights the connections between science and medicine for the entire biomedical campus. Held three to five times per year during MSTP Mondays, MSTP Grand Rounds is comprised of two 25-minute presentations: one by a senior MSTP student in the clinical phase of training and the second by an MSTP student in the graduate phase of training. The first student presents a patient for whom he/she has cared and who exhibits an interesting medical problem. The second student follows with a presentation of basic scientific issues related to the patient’s disease.

MSTP Grand Rounds highlights significant breakthroughs in treatment or diagnosis and suggests new frontiers for investigation. A special effort is taken to ensure that these presentations are of the highest quality. Students meet multiple times with faculty advisors to enhance effective content delivery to a wide range of audience members, including clinicians and basic scientists. A historical list of previous grand rounds topics is available.

MSTP Grand Rounds has generated enormous enthusiasm in the CCOM. Discussions after each presentation are lively and interactive, covering a range of issues from basic biology to biomedical ethics and effectively demonstrating the interrelationship of medicine and science. Attendance by all students is strongly encouraged.

MSTP Student Thesis Defenses

The final examination for doctoral degrees is the defense of the thesis accompanied by public presentation of the thesis work (see upcoming thesis defense schedule here).  Presentations are typically 45 minutes in length and allow sufficient time for questions following the presentation. MSTP students are encouraged to attend the denfenses of their colleages.

MSTP Medleys

MSTP Medley is a new program-wide social event, developed in response to MSTP student desire for informal gatherings. The Medley & Social Events Committee is responsible for planning quarterly medleys. Past Medleys have included trivia night, bowling, badmitten, and axe throwing. Attendance is optional.

I 'Heart' Science

This annual event is held close to Valentine’s Day. The MSTP Seminar Committee invites a high-profile speaker. Following the lecture, the MSTP holds an I 'Heart' Science poster event, where graduate-phase students share their ongoing research projects. Attendance is required except for those in clinical rotations.

MSTP Annual Retreat

The annual retreat incorportates two elements: a scientific component and a social outing component. The scientific portion is a one- or two-day research retreat for students and faculty, held at the end of the summer semester, allowing the new M1G trainees to interact scientifically and socially with colleagues in all phases of training. MSTP students give oral and/or poster presentations highlighting their research accomplishments. The formats and themes are chosen by the student-run Retreat Committee, reflecting student interests and creativity. Attendance is required except for those in clinical rotations.

The second part of the retreat is a social outing, sponsored by the MSTP. Past activities include tailgating before and then attending an Iowa Hawkeye football game, travelling to the Wisconsin Dells to Mt Olympus Park, camping excursions in a state park, and visiting a brewery for lunch and a tour. About two-thirds of the students in any given year enjoy the social part of the annual retreat.