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Getting Started

Start early. Begin your search the semester before you intend to register. It may take multiple contacts before you can find a research project of interest that is compatible with your schedule.  The entire process of finding an advisor, meeting with him/her, selecting a project, and completing the required paperwork (if non-Rice) can take from weeks to months.

Find a starting point. Look at the various research summaries of the faculty on the web.  Look for a project that is interesting to you. Prehospital medicine research varies from research about patient care practices and protocols, provider education, EMS devices or pharmacology. Talk to alumni about their research experiences. Which projects do they recommend? Discuss your research interests and goals with one of the course personnel, and ask which projects or Faculty might be a good match. If you are serious about joining a particular research project, ask to meet the people already working there.

Decide what you want out of your research experience. Are you looking for a job for extra money or do you want research experience? Do you want to be performing research as part of an ongoing project? Do you want to work for pay (including work study) or course credit? Projects may offer some paid research positions over the summer, and you may stay on to participate, but you may not work for pay and receive academic credit concurrently.

Narrow your search. Think about what sort of research might interest you or would further your educational goals. Prehospital medicine research can take several approaches.  Retrospective chart review is a valuable tool to measure patient care practices, scene management, provider efficacy, and patient outcome.  Medical device research about a new tool for EMS providers helps improve the practice for the future.  New pharmacological options for prehospital care involves training providers and reviewing charts measure patient outcomes.  Some research projects may have more than one goal.  Prehospital medicine research may have a goal of promoting evidence based medicine, improve EMS tools, and/or education care providers more effectively.

Do not be overwhelmed by your choices. If you have not developed a preference for any particular area of research, you still can narrow your search by the recommendations of your peers or by viewing the research summaries of the faculty in the department.

Know how to contact a professor (principal investigator- P.I., the head of a project). Do your homework. Most positions are not advertised, but are filled from among the students who contact the professor. Read about the professor’s work and, if possible, talk with people working with them to get a feel for the personality and expectations of this individual and the project. Write a personal email to the professor. Do not send a mass email to multiple faculty members or your email will be considered spam and ignored.

Your introductory email conveys an important first impression and can influence how easy it will be for you to find a viable project. All faculty will have an MD, a DO, and/or a PhD degree and should be addressed as “Dr.” or “Prof.” and not “Ms., Mrs., or Mr.” In your email, tell the professor who you are (name, year at Rice), why you are looking for a research project, and why you are interested in his or her area of interest or project. Include mention of any relevant course work or prior research experience, even if it was in high school. You also may want to include whether you are looking for a short (1 semester) or longer experience, whether you prefer to work for credit or for money (if you have a preference), and how many hours per week you would like to devote to this project. Your application will be viewed with greater favor if it appears that your motivation is scientific interest rather than a desire to pad a medical school application. If you are considering graduate school after Rice, include this interest in the letter.

Double-check your schedule. Research requires quality time. If you will not have a few free mornings or afternoons in your schedule, you will probably not be able to dedicate quality time to your research. You should design your research schedule in blocks of at least 2-3 hours each. Longer blocks are better, and at least some of these blocks will need to be during daylight hours when your research mentor is more likely to be present. Don’t try to find time for research in one-hour chunks between classes. If you are already carrying 15 or more hours, you should think seriously about waiting a semester or eliminating another course from your schedule before enrolling in (EMSP 491/492).

Register for EMSP 491/492. Once you have found a project, you must obtain a signed special registration form (obtained from the registrar’s website). Submit an EMSP 491/492 application to Lisa Basgall, the EMS Director, at least three weeks before the start of classes.  After receiving your application and registration form, she will contact your off-campus professor to confirm that they have agreed to supervise you in the research project.

Projects completed by EMSP 491/492 students recently include: 

  • Surveying health care providers to assess for subjective reactions that patients may elicit in  providers, and how this may/may not effect care
  • Assessing evaluation of chest pain – comparing blood tests and cardiac risk scores with patient outcomes
  • Comparing patient outcomes for patients treated for hemorrhage control with tourniquet vs QuikClot
  • Assessment of ECG findings in chronic dialysis patients to identify chronic hyperkalemia
  • Surveying orthopedic injury patients to assess the efficacy of BLS prehospital treatment
  • Interviewing ER patients to determine whether they were indirectly referred (told to go to another ER without formal transfer paperwork)
  • Analyzing Yelp hospital reviews to discover themes in U.S. healthcare trends