Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI)

The MSCI degree is an innovative, 33-credit program that provides scholars with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in clinical research and the academic environment. Housed in the Clinical Research Training Center (CRTC), the MSCI is the largest master’s degree program at Washington University School of Medicine.

The MSCI  combines high-quality advanced coursework with a substantive research project, weekly seminars, and a formal mentorship program. Scholars gain knowledge in the core competencies of clinical research and investigation, including study design, research implementation, statistical analysis, scientific communication, literature critique, leadership, Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) and rigor and reproducibility, as well as opportunities for community engagement relevant to MDs, PhDs, and doctoral students from diverse disciplines. The MSCI student body represents over 15 different departments and 45 divisions within Washington University School of Medicine. WU has awarded over 200 MSCI degrees since 2006.

Applications are open September 15-November 1 for January start date, and January 1-April 17 for Summer or Fall start date.

Program Leadership:

Email Us: MSCI Program Inquiries » 

Benefits

  • Access to a multidisciplinary pool of highly qualified mentors who will guide research projects and career development.
  • Access to the Clinical Research Training Center. The Center provides computer labs, break-out rooms, a classroom, poster printing, and administrative office suites.
  • Most courses are offered during the evening, thereby accommodating either full-time or part-time enrollment for scholars at any point in their careers and those with clinical schedules.
  • Scholars have an opportunity to complete the degree anytime between 1-5 years, though typically degrees are awarded within 2-3 years.
  • Individuals who participate in a CRTC training program (i.e. Postdoctoral MTPCI, KL2, TL1 Intensive, or K12) are eligible to pursue the MSCI Degree as their didactic course of study and do not need to complete a separate application. The MSCI is also available as a stand-alone program to individuals not participating in a CRTC training program.

Program Requirements

Didactic Coursework

All MSCI Scholars must complete 33-credit hours of didactic coursework, including sixteen core credits, four credits of MTPCI Research Seminar, at least six credits of electives, and variable credits of mentored independent research (see MSCI course list). Scholars may pursue one of three concentrations: Translational Medicine, Genetics/Genomics, or Clinical Investigation. Each concentration provides focused training that is tailored specifically to a student’s interest within clinical and translational research. For additional information about the specific courses required for each of the concentrations, please see the MSCI Concentrations.

Thesis

Scholars apply the skills and knowledge gained through didactic coursework and mentored research to write a clinical research manuscript and submit it to an indexed journal for peer-reviewed publication (a thesis requirement). An alternate entrepreneurial thesis option is also available.

Scholars will form a thesis committee consisting of three faculty members and will meet with them at least twice per year. The thesis committee should include the scholar’s primary mentor, the MSCI Program Director, and a third faculty member in a closely related research field.  The committee meetings will consist of reviewing the scholar’s plan for completing and publishing a research project and manuscript. The final approval meeting will consist of a formal 15-minute presentation of the research followed by the committee’s discussion of the manuscript. Scholars will complete a Mentor form at the end of the program. See thesis guidelines for more detail. The thesis must be based on original human research conducted during the period of pursuit of the Degree.

CRTC Seminar

A weekly, multidisciplinary seminar offers scholars opportunities to present their research and obtain robust feedback from senior faculty, established investigators, and peers. During their first and second years of the Program, Scholars are required to present research-in-progress once each year. Feedback will be provided by the Directors, Mentors and peers in attendance.

Once a month, seminar devotes a session to career development and offer opportunities to learn best practices in crucial areas in clinical research such as grant writing, data management, intellectual property management, budgeting, and ethics. During these seminars, speakers will be invited from outside the MSCI Program to present.

Mentors

Developing a successful clinical and translational research career requires strong relationships with mentors and a research team. Each scholar will participate in a formal, structured mentorship program that offers an opportunity to work alongside faculty renowned for their innovative clinical research and teaching experience. This mentor will be the Scholar’s main source of research supervision and career development. It is expected that Scholars will meet weekly with their mentor and that the mentor will be available for consultation and support concerning the Scholar’s current projects and future progress. In addition to the Scholar’s research mentor, the MSCI Program Director will serve as a mentor to the scholar to further assist in each Scholar’s Career Development during the Program.

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

Scholars are required to complete the course M17-510 Ethical and Legal Issues in Clinical Research during their time in the Program as part of their training in the Responsible Conduct of Research.

IRB Approvals

Scholars are required to obtain IRB approval for all research conducted as part of their MSCI Degree and to provide documentation of current IRB approvals for their research project(s) to the MSCI Program.

Individual Development Plans

MSCI Scholars must develop an Individual Development Plan in consultation with their mentors and must submit the plan by July 1st each year. The plan should include individual development goals for the next 1-5 years, career objectives for each goal, research activities/projects that will assist the Scholar in meeting the objectives, and an overview of the courses, workshops and other educational/training activities that the Scholar plans to pursue. For each objective, the Scholar should indicate what individual products (degrees, publications, presentations, grants, etc.) are expected. A timeline should be constructed to display the individual objectives, educational activities, research activities and products.

Career Development Retreat

All MSCI Scholars are required to attend the annual Retreat hosted by the CRTC. During the late-afternoon event, speakers will highlight topics of relevance to Scholars’ Career Development and Research.

Research Training Symposium and Poster Session

In October of each year, the Washington University School of Medicine hosts a school-wide, half day Research Training Symposium and Poster session. All MSCI Scholars are strongly encouraged to submit an abstract and present a poster at the Symposium each year of their appointments. Scholars are given the option to have their research considered for an oral presentation.

Program Evaluation

Scholars are expected to complete required Program evaluations twice per year. These evaluations are administered online and are mandatory for all Scholars. Scholars are also required to complete an exit interview one month prior to completing their Degree.

Eligibility

Level of Education

MSCI candidates must either be enrolled in a pre- or post-doctoral mentored research program at Washington University School of Medicine or hold a post-doctoral appointment in health science at Washington University or one of the ICTS affiliates.

Citizenship

Eligible applicants must be citizens or non-citizen nationals of the United States, or have been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence and have in their possession an Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-151 or I-551) or other legal verification of admission for permanent residence. Individuals on temporary or student visas are eligible provided that they hold a valid US visa and a postdoctoral appointment at Washington University or one of the ICTS affiliates. The MSCI Program is unable to sponsor visas. Typically, students who desire to enter the Program obtain a visa sponsored through their research department.

Research Project

All applicants must be conducting clinical and translational research.  Clinical research is defined as patient-oriented research, that is, research conducted with humans subjects or on material of human origin such as tissues, specimens and cognitive phenomena, for which as investigator or colleague directly interacts with human subjects.

Mentor

Applicants must have an established relationship with a senior faculty member prior to beginning the MSCI Program. Applicants should look for mentors that match their research interests. You should contact each mentor you are interested in working with directly stating your interest in their research and your desire to work with them. Suggested mentors can be found under mentor profiles. If you are having problems finding a mentor, please contact us.

Apply

Applications are open September 15-November 1 for January start date, and January 1-April 17 for Summer or Fall start date.

Seven items needed for a complete application:

  1. Application form
  2. Current Biosketch or CV
  3. Individual Development Plan – including a course plan
  4. Research Plan
  5. Mentor Letter of Support
  6. Department Chair or Division Chief Recommendation Letter
  7. Official Transcripts

Application

Only complete applications will be reviewed.  Applications will not be considered complete until all supporting documents have been submitted.  All application materials must be submitted online. Supporting documents may be updated and resubmitted online prior to the application deadline.  Please note that the selection committee will only receive the latest version of each document that is uploaded to the online site.  Applicants may also attach notes within the online application system after the application form has been submitted if they wish to include additional information (i.e. awards, publications, etc.) for consideration during the selection process.

Current Biosketch or CV

Applicants must upload either their NIH Biosketch or an updated version of their Curriculum Vitae in the Washington University format.

NIH Biosketch Template and Example »

Individual Development Plan

A three-page career development plan (timeline and references are not included in page count) should include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Career goals
  • Past research experience and relevant past graduate coursework
  • Research mentor(s) and why they have been selected
  • Planned coursework to be taken during the Postdoctoral MTPCI, and how this coursework is beneficial to the identified research project
  • Add a timeline for planned coursework and research activities – up to one page

Research Plan

The required Research Plan should follow the standard NIH format (PHS 398).

Please note the new NIH requirements for this section around Rigor and Reproducibility.

The Research Plan includes:

Section of Research Plan Page Limit
Project Summary/Abstract 1
Specific Aims & Research Strategy (Significance, Innovation, and Approach)* 5
Protection of Human Subjects, Inclusion of Women and Minorities, Inclusion of Children, Vertebrate Animals 3
Targeted/Planned Enrollment Table 1
Bibliography and References Cited/Progress Report Publication List (include PMCID # if applicable) and Consortium/Contractual Arrangements No Page Limit

 

A justification of sample size, including power calculations, should be described if quantitative analyses are proposed in your research plan.

***All applicants must be conducting clinical, translational research. Clinical research is defined as patient-oriented research, that is, research conducted with humans subjects or on material of human origin such as tissues, specimens and cognitive phenomena, for which as investigator or colleague directly interacts with human subjects.

Mentor Letter of Support

Proposed mentors are required to submit a letter of support. Applicants must establish a relationship with the proposed mentor prior to submission of the MSCI application. Please do not select a mentor without his/her prior approval.

The proposed mentor must provide a letter of support by the application deadline. Upon submission of the online application form, an e-mail will be automatically generated to the mentor with guidelines and instructions on how to upload the required letter. It is the responsibility of the applicant to verify that the identified mentor has received the e-mail. Applicants may view a confirmation of the documents that have been uploaded via the online application site.

Mentor Letters of Support should address the following items: 

  • The Mentor’s research qualifications in the area of the proposed research.
  • The candidate’s potential and his/her strengths and areas in need of improvement.
  • Plans for monitoring and evaluating the scholar’s progress toward independence.
  • Description of the quality and extent of the mentor’s proposed role in providing guidance and advice to the candidate.
  • The Mentor’s previous experience in fostering the development of independent investigators.
  • The Mentor’s previous research productivity and peer-reviewed support.

Department Chair Recommendation Letter

Each applicant’s Department Chair or Division Chief is required to submit a letter of support describing the applicant’s potential for participation in the MSCI program. This letter of support must be uploaded by the application deadline. Upon submission of the online application form, an email will be automatically generated to the identified Department Chair or Division Chief with guidelines and instructions regarding how to upload the required letter. It is the responsibility of the applicant to verify that the identified reference has received the email. The online application site provides applicants with a checklist on which they may view confirmation of the documents that have been uploaded to their application.

Department Chair/Division Head Letters of Support should address the following items: 

  • Intent to support the matriculation and continued studies of applicant in the CRTC MSCI program.
  • The applicant’s potential for an independent clinical research career in academics.

Letters of Recommendation must:

  • Be uploaded by the Department Chair or the Division Chief, not the applicant
  • Include the Department Chair or the Division Chief’s signature
  • Be submitted on letterhead

Required Format for Supporting Documents

  • Black font of either Arial, Helvetica, Palatino Linotype or Georgia
  • Font size of 11 points or larger (a symbol font may be used to insert Greek letters or special characters; the font size requirement still applies.)
  • Type density, including characters and spaces, must be no more than 15 characters per inch
  • Single spaced paragraph type
  • Margins should be at least one-half inch margins (top, bottom, left, and right) for all pages, including continuation pages
  • PDF versions are encouraged for supporting documents to form to preserve page limits and formatting; Alternate formats are allowed
  • Appendices are not allowed

Transfer of Credit

A maximum of 9 graduate credits may be transferred from another Washington University degree program or from another university. Transferred credits are approved on an individual basis. Transfer credits will only be accepted if they were earned in the last 5 years. To transfer credits, a copy of the course syllabi and a copy of your transcript should be provided to the Program Coordinator. The Program Directors will review and approve all courses and determine what degree requirements (core courses, electives, etc.) they will fulfill. Transfer credit will not be accepted for the Certificate in Clinical Investigation.

Timeline for MSCI Spring Application Cycle

  • January 1-April 17– Applications Accepted
  • April 17, 5:00 pm (CST) – Due date for submission of complete application materials
  • April-May – Internal review and approval
  • Late May – New MSCI Scholars Announced
  • June – Mandatory Scholar Orientation
  • July 1 – Scholar start date
  • Mid-August – Required attendance begins at the weekly, Tuesday Research Seminar

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