A common question that I get from my students is whether or not research is required for dental school, and how to land a research position with little to no experience.
First, let's make this point clear: research is NOT required to apply to dental school. However, having research definitely can open new doors for you when it comes to applying to dental schools.
The reason that research experience can help win an admissions offer is because:
Research experience shows that you are interested in the sciences.
It shows you pursue new knowledge and are hungry to learn.
It develops your understanding of the scientific method (a method very similar to the method that doctors and dentists use to diagnose and treat patients).
Many of the best dental schools are research-focused, and would like their students to understand research and contribute to their mission of discovering new knowledge.
So clearly, if you can get research experience, you definitely should.
How do I get research experience?
To land you first research position, first make a well-crafted résumé. If you're having a hard time writing and designing your résumé to highlight your experiences with the proper way to "sell" yourself in a grounded manner, reach out for a quick résumé consulting session.
After your résumé is completed, start thinking about what fields of research interest you. Are you fascinated by stem cells? Coral Reefs? The human brain? Find a topic that genuinely interests you and look up professors in those departments on your university's website to find what kind of research they do, and see if you'd like to work in their lab.
I advise my students to make a document that prioritizes a few professor's research topics and then start emailing them. While I provide my students with an email template and documents to guide them through the process, a kind, genuine email that expresses your interest tends to work well. Keep in mind that professors are busy people, and they may take a week or two to get back to you.
Do I have to do dental-related research?
When it comes to doing research, all subjects are weighed the same. Whether it be psychology, marine biology, or even electrical engineering, all topics are weighted the same by admissions committees because it's the principles of research that matter, not the actual topic. For that reason, find a topic you're genuinely passionate about, and pursue research in that field!
Make your résumé, find some professors, and start sending emails! If you need help with any part of the process, feel free to reach out to and I'd be happy to help!
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About the Author: Andrew Ghadimi
Andrew is the National Pre-Dental Liaison for the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), the same organization that runs the dental school application, ADEA AADSAS. He also serves on the District 11 (California) ADEA Council of Students, Residents, and Fellows Board, as the Pre-Dental Chair. Ghadimi is a dental student at UCLA's School of Dentistry and is the Founder and President of Predenting LLC. He has helped 700+ pre-dentals on their journey to dental school over 4+ years.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to UCLA School of Dentistry, ADEA, or any other organization.