By Manveen Puri, HBSc, MD, CCFP, MPA Candidate (Class of 2018)

After completing an undergraduate thesis project in Cell Biology at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto during his third year, Manveen pursued a second undergraduate thesis project in his fourth year at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health in Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Peter Singer, a world-renowned expert in the field of global health.

In this piece, Manveen discusses his motivation for pursuing research in global heath, what he learned, and the advice he has for students looking for similar research opportunities.

Global health is a broad field that draws on expertise from multiple disciplines, including the life sciences. Many of the grand challenges in global health require innovative technical solutions that a degree in the life sciences allows you to appreciate, especially since not everyone in the field is a scientist. However, it is important to remember that global health is truly a multidisciplinary endeavour and many ideas have failed to take off because of inadequate emphasis on political, cultural, and economic factors.

I was attracted to global health because it allowed me to ask broad questions on a global scale. Additionally, I had completed a thesis project in cell biology and wanted a different challenge. From a technical point of view, my global health project allowed me to gain experience in qualitative research that is widely used in medicine. I have since utilized those skills to complete another summer research project during medical school. On a more personal note, I learned that I was passionate about the social and cultural determinants of health and that I wanted to be able to make an impact on those in my future career.

Are you interested in pursuing a similar experience? I would suggest that you apply broadly for your first research position, since you will often need to take what you get. This may mean accepting a volunteer or part-time position that entails doing lab chores to get your foot through the door. I discovered this after receiving multiple rejections for a research position during my first summer. After being part of a few projects, you may be fortunate enough to choose your next position. Pursuing a thesis project is an ideal way to further develop and refine your research interests. As you progress in your research career, it becomes increasingly important to understand yourself and appreciate what truly excites you. Seek mentors and gain skills through varied experiences over a period. These experiences will help you decide on the role that research will play in your future career.

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