Life as a CEFH-researcher at The Medical Student Research Program
Lise Andrea Arge is a student at MSR at the University of Oslo. She already knew in the first semester that this was something she wanted to do, she just had to find a project that matched her, and a good supervisor.
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Lise started at the Centre in August 2020 as part of the Medical Student Research Program (MSR). The program was established at the four institutions with medical educations in Norway, in collaboration with the Research Council of Norway, to reverse the trend in the 1990s where academic careers were declining, and the goal was to recruit more doctors for medical research / academic careers.
The purpose of MSR is to get young medical students interested in research. It has been shown that it often takes a long time before doctors generally enter research. A study from 2018 (Plos One) shows that MSR students are 10 times more likely to proceed with a doctorate. And those who proceed with a doctorate complete this in half the time compared to those who have not completed the MSR.
What does the MSR entail?
After the 2nd or 3rd year of study, you must do full-time research for one year. For the next two years, you must continue with 50% research. The goal is to be a first author or co-author with a significant contribution to at least one publication. There is no obligation to continue with a doctorate, but you have a great advantage if you do.
Up to 10 students start MSR each semester, half of them after the second year, like Lise, and the other half after the third year.
Why the MSR and why the CEFH?
- I am very fond of children and have always known that I wanted to have children myself. I’ve also always found biotechnology very intriguing, and from my early teens I have been interested in assisted reproductive technologies. My interest in this developed gradually until I suddenly on a two-hour train ride, read about the potential for working with fertility within the medical specialization in obstetrics and women's health. There and then I found out that I wanted to become a doctor and that this was my direction further on, Lise says.
Lise knew quite early on that she wanted to dive deep into statistics and literature in this field. Early after she became a medical student, she started to follow the overview of current projects that were posted for this research program. Here, universities and research institutions can provide information on current projects and interested students can get in touch. She knew what she wanted to work with, but little relevant came up. After a conversation with her mother, who works at Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), Lise was advised about the Center for Fertility and Health, and immediately contacted the Deputy Centre Director, Siri Håberg.
- I was so happy after my meeting with Siri, it was very nice to meet someone who was so skilled and engaged within this field. Then it was decided that I should start on what has now become my project, and my supervisor became Maria Magnus, Lise says. With Maria as my supervisor, I have had the opportunity to be very involved in the development of large parts of the project, and it has been incredibly educational. I want to challenge myself, and find out things on my own, and I have really been allowed to do so. Therefore, I feel a lot of ownership of the project, and for me that is a very important motivational factor. Maria is an amazingly good discussion partner and she has helped me when I am stuck. I know I’ve been very lucky, I have the most interesting project and the best supervisor.
In addition, Lise says that it is a great advantage to be able to discuss her topic with other researchers from other academic environments at the CEFH, and that she has solved project challenges at the coffee machine and during lunch breaks.
- Also, I have been so lucky and have had meetings with Allen Wilcox (niehs.nih.gov) and Olga Basso (mcgill.ca), who are two pioneers within fertility and women's health. The opportunity to get this type of input from others so early on is amazing and so educational, says Lise.
Spontaneous abortion and infertility
Lise started at the CEFH in August 2020, and during the summer she taught herself STATA, which is the analyzing tool she uses for this project.
- In my project I will look at how the number of miscarriages is related to later infertility, i.e. what chance you have of getting pregnant later, Lise says. Infertility is defined as spending more than 12 months getting pregnant. Miscarriage is quite common, but less than 1% have three or more miscarriages. I am comparing women who have had no previous miscarriages with women who have had one, two, or three or more. We are thinking that there may be differences in how long they take to conceive again. In particular, we suspect that having had many miscarriages may be associated with decreased fertility and a longer conception time to the next pregnancy.
In order to find results, Lise will use data from the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort study (MoBa), and during this autumn she has spent time to get to know the data and generate variables and do initial analyses. She says that she has been overwhelmed by the good MoBa data and she must try to contain her enthusiasm when she talks to other “outsiders” about her project and the data she uses.
Is the life of a researcher tempting?
The MSR is meant to give the students a taste of being a researcher. Lise is hungry for more.
- The experience I have so far, to get the opportunity to dive into a topic properly, is great. At this point I cannot imagine that I will have a life without research, but then again, I haven’t experienced being a doctor and meeting patients either, Lise smiles. But I'm very sure I want to continue with a PhD.
We at the CEFH definitely hope so!