Frequently Asked Questions

Program Structure

What is the average time to completion of the MSTP at UAB?

The majority of UAB MSTP students average 7-8 years before graduation, and students usually complete and defend their PhD thesis before beginning their clinical rotations in the last 1 – 2 years. A unique component of the UAB MSTP training is the combination of medical school classes and graduate degree classes during the first two years of training. This allows most of the formal class requirements to be completed prior to entering the laboratory years. Students are required to pass part I of the National Board Medical Licensing Examination before commencing full-time laboratory research.

How will I be supported during my training?

UAB MSTP students are fully supported through the entire program, both tuition and stipend, by a combination of funds from a National Institute of Health training grant, individual faculty grants, and the School of Medicine. UAB also provides monies for purchases of required books and medical equipment throughout the training years.

What is paid for by the UAB MSTP?

Students who matriculate in the MSTP will receive three major financial benefits so long as they remain in good standing in the Program. The first is a monthly stipend, the amount of which is to be determined and announced annually. The current annual stipend is $26,500 (annual appointments are renewed from July 1st through June 30th). Stipends are issued on a monthly basis and paid at the end of the month, with direct deposit available. UAB makes a continued effort to provide competitive stipends. The second major benefit is the payment of all tuition, individual health insurance, and student fees. The third major benefit is the availability of an educational enhancement fund. This money can be used to pay for required books, medical supplies, computers, and travel. The current total of the educational enhancement fund is $4000 per student (total for all years of the program).

How do the laboratory rotations work?

During the first year of the program, students meet with Departmental chairs and research faculty and participate in research seminars and group meetings, so that the students will have an excellent idea of the research programs available at UAB. Students also meet with potential rotation mentors during their first and second visits to UAB during the application process. Students generally do three rotations, one 6-week full time rotation, prior to the fall of the first year and two 10-week full time summer rotations following the first and second years.


 

Graduate Programs


Can I apply to the MSTP after starting graduate school?

Yes! Applications are accepted from students currently enrolled in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Graduate School or who have completed more than 2 years of their PhD program. Applications are NOT ACCEPTED from students who have already passed their qualifying exam and advanced to candidacy. Applicants must apply through the common AMCAS website and are subject to normal UASOM application deadlines.

Can I get a PhD outside the thematic programs offered by the School of Medicine Graduate Biomedical Sciences Program?

Yes! One of the unique aspects of the UAB MSTP is its close affiliation with Departments in other schools, including Biomedical Engineering, Biostatistics, Public Health, Medical Sociology, and Computer Science.

Currently, we have students working on PhDs in biomedical engineering, health care and occupational policy, nutrition sciences, and bioinformatics in addition to graduate biomedical sciences tracks. Of those students in the aforementioned PhD programs, one is in England (NIH OxCam), and two are in Africa (K-Rith Lab and Doris Duke Scholar).

Are there teaching requirements?

The MSTP itself has no specific teaching requirements, but some MSTP students choose to serve as teaching assistants for medical or graduate school courses.


 

Admissions


How many applicants do you interview and admit?

Usually we invite about 50 students for interviews. Our first year MSTP class averages 8-10 students per year.

Can I apply to the MSTP after starting medical school?

Yes! The MSTP invites "internal" applications every year from medical students in their preclinical years who have made a commitment and contribution to a research-based career.

Can I apply to the MSTP after starting graduate school?

Yes! Applications are accepted from students currently enrolled in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Graduate School or who have completed more than 2 years of their PhD program. Applications are NOT ACCEPTED from students who have already passed their qualifying exam and advanced to candidacy. Applicants must apply through the common AMCAS website and are subject to normal UASOM application deadlines.

How do I find out about the status of my application?

Beginning with an initial email to acknowledge receipt of your application, you will receive an email update from the MSTP Office each time there is a change to the status of your application as it moves throughout every phase of the review process. Each email will indicate a timeframe in which you can expect additional notification; however, if you have not received any updates within the specified timeframe, please call or e-mail our office, and we will be happy to provide you with information regarding your application status.

What is the "Chalk" talk that is part of the MSTP interview and how should I prepare?

As part of the MD/PhD Program admissions process, our admissions committee needs to get an in depth understanding of your research, your understanding of the research, and your commitment to a career that combines both research and medicine.
  

During your interview day you will have a one-on-one interview with each of four admissions committee members.  In order to keep you from having to tell your research story four times, we instead have you do a 8-minute presentation of one of your research projects (your choice) to all four committee members at once (Note: the other applicants will not be present during your talk).  

This presentation is designed to be informal and most applicants actually say it is one of their favorite parts of our interview process.  You should not prepare any "formal" presentation materials (i.e. PowerPoint slides, handouts, etc.).  You will be allowed to use a marker board to draw diagrams or briefly represent important results.  

It is an important point that the committee members are all scientists, but may not be specifically familiar with your field.  Therefore, start your talk off with critical background information and the overall goals of your research.  

In general, the committee holds any specific questions about your research until the one-on-one part of the interview, so this "chalk" talk is not designed to grill you on your knowledge, just to get to know you and your research a little better.

What does the MSTP admissions committee look for?

Besides qualification for admission to the medical school itself, the single most important component of an MSTP application is (as above) a previous sustained and productive research experience.

Is there any preference for Alabama residents?

No, the UAB MSTP welcomes applicants from all over the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other US Territories. While it is true that our straight MD program does tend to give preference to Alabama residents, that is not true of the MSTP. In 2013, we had applications from 40 different states and the 2014 entering class of 7 students came from 5 different states.

What is the earliest and latest MCAT dates that will be considered for application for the 2015 entering class?

Scores from the November 7, 2014 MCAT dates are the latest that will be considered. A 2012 MCAT scores is the earliest score considered for the 2015 entering class 

Do you require a GRE score in addition to the MCAT?

The UAB MSTP does not require the GRE. If you have taken the GRE and want us to consider your score as part of your application, please include it as additional information on your secondary application.

Do I have to choose a PhD program/interest on the AMCAS application?

No. The UAB MSTP is designed so that you do not have to choose your PhD program until the middle of your second year of medical school.

What happens after you receive my AMCAS application?

Once we receive your AMCAS application, it will be reviewed to determine if we think you would be successful in the UAB MSTP. Applicants who pass this first screen are then requested to fill out a supplemental application from the UAB MSTP. This supplemental will be e-mailed to you after this initial review. Once we receive this information and all of your letters of recommendation, we then do a more in-depth review of your completed application. At this time, a decision will be made to (1) invite you to an interview with our program in Birmingham, (2) hold your application for a potential interview slot, or (3) not further consider your application. Once we offer you an interview, then you will be required to fill out the University of Alabama School of Medicine (UASOM) secondary ­ which is an online form. We wait for you to fill out this UASOM secondary until you are actually under serious consideration, as you also have to submit a secondary fee with this UASOM secondary. This stepwise consideration therefore saves you some money if you are not actually under serious consideration for a slot in our MSTP. There is no fee to submit the MSTP supplemental (when it is requested).

Can I apply to both the UASOM MD-only program at the same time I am applying to the UAB MSTP?

No. The AMCAS will only let you apply for one program (either MSTP or MD) at a time. Therefore, if you apply MSTP your application is first considered for the MD/PhD program. If we look over your application and decide to not offer you an interview, then you will be given the choice at that time to switch your application to MD only. We usually make final interview decisions by late November – so that still leaves a lot of time to have your application considered for MD only if necessary. If you get an interview with the MSTP, then during the interview process you will actually do the full MD interview, as well as extra interviews for the MD/PhD program. We do this, so that if you do not get an offer for a position in the MSTP, then the MD program already has interviewed and ranked you –so if we say no for the MD/PhD, you can at that time still “switch” your application to MD only. Then, based on your ranking the MD program, they will make an offer decision. 


Students and Student Life


Will I have special responsibilities as an MSTP student?

Yes! Besides the obvious challenge of balancing graduate and medical training, we ask all MSTP students to play an integral role in the recruitment, education, and evaluation of incoming MSTP applicants. UAB has a long history of student involvement in all levels of the MSTP program, and student committees and advisors meet routinely with the Program Director to give advice and help guide our unique program.

Why would I want to live in Birmingham?

Birmingham is the largest city in the state of Alabama, but it is still one of the most affordable cities in the U.S., making it easy to live on only your MSTP stipend. Birmingham was founded in 1871 and due to its astonishing pace of growth has been nicknamed the “Magic City”. Birmingham was recently named one of America’s most livable cities due to its commitment to diversity while retaining its southern charm.  Visit the Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau Web site to find out more about Birmingham.

Will the program pay for health insurance?

We consider health insurance an essential component of all graduate training programs. The program covers the entire cost for individual students.