Frequently Asked Questions
Stipend and benefits
Selecting a laboratory
Beyond the Sarnoff Fellowship year
What makes the Sarnoff program unique?
A defining feature of the Sarnoff Fellowship is its focus on lifelong mentorship. This begins during the fellowship year as the Fellows are guided by the Sarnoff Scientific Committee, consisting of the nation's preeminent physician-scientists in cardiovascular science. A member of the Scientific Committee is assigned to be an Advisor to the Fellow to provide guidance throughout the Fellowship year. The Advisor assists the Fellow in choosing a laboratory, initiating the research project, and navigating any hurdles that may arise during the year. Advisors maintain frequent contact throughout the year to ensure that the experience is positive and productive. Fellows also have access to the other members of the Scientific Committee and other scientists affiliated with the Foundation, including Board and Committee members, and Sponsors and Preceptors. After completion of the research year, Fellows are encouraged to remain involved in the Sarnoff community through participation in the Annual Scientific Meetings and other Sarnoff-sponsored gatherings. These meetings provide opportunities for the Fellow to present his/her research, obtain career-development advice from Sarnoff Alumni of the program, and reconnect with colleagues.
What else is notable about the Sarnoff program?
Another important aspect of this Fellowship program is the opportunity to travel anywhere in the country to work with top cardiovascular scientists and investigators. This means that students have the chance to perform cutting-edge research and to find research environments that are optimally matched to their interests and mentorship needs.
Is this only for future cardiologists?
The mission of the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation is to engage medical students and young investigators in a personalized research experience with preeminent cardiovascular scientists, and to foster the next generation of leaders in the field. Nevertheless, our expansive view of cardiovascular science encompasses scientific investigation across many fields and disciplines, and Sarnoff Fellows perform research in a diverse set of laboratories. They also go on to productive careers in academic cardiovascular science as well as in other fields of research. Ultimately, we seek to inspire students to advance inquiry all aspects of cardiovascular medicine, and we welcome a broad range of interests.
What kinds of cardiovascular research are allowed? What if I'm interested in something clinical?
Please see the section on "What is considered cardiovascular research?" Sarnoff takes a broad view of the definition of cardiovascular research, and while traditionally many Fellows have chosen basic science laboratories, research projects in clinical and translational cardiovascular science as well as in epidemiology, health policy and clinical trials, are becoming increasingly common. Scientific Committee members and Sarnoff Alumni are available to discuss the range of options.
Do I need any previous research experience?
No. We are eager to foster an interest in research in students who have had little prior exposure.
What if I do have previous research experience?
While previous experience is not necessary, we will consider this as evidence of a consistent interest in research and it will not negatively influence your application. Exceptions are students enrolled in an MD/PhD program, who will not be considered for a Fellowship.
Do I have to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to apply?
When is the deadline?
Applications must be submitted no later than Wednesday, January 12, 2011.
At what point during medical school do most students participate?
Most students participate between the second and third or the third and fourth year of medical school.
What is the minimum amount of time required to do the program?
You must be able to participate in full-time research for twelve consecutive months.
When does the program year start?
Students generally begin between July 1 and September 1.
How many people from each school can apply?
There is no limit on the number of applicants from each school.
Do you need to attend an Ivy League medical school?
No. We encourage applications from all U.S. medical schools. The purpose of the program is to give students an opportunity to experience basic, translational or clinical research and foster future careers in academic investigation.
Does your school have to nominate you?
No. However, as discussed below, a faculty member from your medical school must serve as your Sponsor.
Do I need to have a Sponsor? Why? How do I find a Sponsor at my medical school? Does s/he have to be engaged in cardiovascular medicine and/or in basic science?
You do need a Sponsor, and the rationale underscores Sarnoff's focus on mentorship. A Sponsor is vital in helping you through the application process both by writing a letter of recommendation as well as by providing assistance with and feedback on your essays. Additionally, your Sponsor may be able to help you select a laboratory in which to complete your Sarnoff Fellowship. Please note that your Sponsor does not have to be affiliated with the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation, and does not have to be involved specifically in cardiovascular science or basic science. Rather, s/he should be a faculty member who can comment on your interest in research and potential for benefit from a Sarnoff Fellowship. Also note that your Sponsor cannot serve as your Preceptor for the year. There are faculty members at many of the medical schools throughout the country who are affiliated with the Foundation, either as Alumni, current and former Sponsors, Preceptors, Board or Committee members. If you are having trouble identifying someone at your school, please contact our Executive Director, Dana Boyd, at dboyd@SarnoffFoundation.org. We will be happy to help you find a Sponsor.
Aside from the Sponsor, who else is involved in the application process and beyond?
There are several individuals involved in shepherding you through the application process and, if successful, your Sarnoff research year. The Sponsor is your counselor and advocate from your home institution. If selected as a finalist, you will be interviewed by members of the Sarnoff Scientific Committee. Once accepted as a Sarnoff Fellow, you are assigned an Advisor, who is a senior cardiovascular scientist and a member of the Sarnoff Scientific Committee. S/he will assist you in selecting the right research opportunity, and will track your progress closely over the course of your Sarnoff Fellowship year. The Preceptor is the investigator in whose laboratory or research group you will spend your research year.
What do I write about in the essay? What if I am interested in a field in which I don't have experience? How do I find a topic I'm interested in? Should I write about a topic that I intend to investigate during my Fellowship year?
This is where your Sponsor can help provide guidance. You can write about any cardiovascular topic that you find interesting, including epidemiology and health policy, or clinical, translational, or basic science. You might find a topic of interest during a medical school lecture, while caring for a patient on the wards, during discussions with a faculty member or mentor, or by reviewing a cardiovascular journal. You do not need to have any personal research experience on the topic, and this essay is not meant to define your future project should you become a Sarnoff Fellow. The purpose of the essay is to give the Scientific Committee an opportunity to see your scientific reasoning and ability to approach a scientific question, as well as to learn about what types of research interest you.
When do you conduct the interviews? What is the purpose of the interview?
Finalists are invited to interviews with the Scientific Committee. These will take place in Boston during the weekend of March 4-5, 2011, with travel expenses paid for by Sarnoff. The purpose is for the Scientific Committee members to meet with applicants and to discuss their interests in research and the impact a Sarnoff Fellowship may have on their careers.
If I am accepted, may I defer my Fellowship for a year?
No. If you are unable to participate in the year for which you are selected, you will have to reapply the following year.
If I am not accepted, may I reapply the following year?
Stipend and benefits
What is the stipend for Sarnoff Fellows?
A stipend of $28,500 is provided.
Is the stipend taxable?
Generally yes, but check with your accountant or tax professional for definitive advice.
What other benefits are provided?
Other benefits include:
- allowances for travel to select a Preceptor and Fellowship laboratory, and for moving expenses, health insurance and computer equipment
- financial support to attend the Sarnoff Annual Scientific Meetings (Fellowship year and subsequent years), the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the NIH Clinical Investigator Student Trainee Forum
- funds for travel to present a paper, based on Fellowship research, at two national conferences
What about my student loans?
Check with your school's financial aid office or registrar. Most schools have a status that allows you to take a year to perform research while remaining matriculated and maintaining student status.
Selecting a laboratory
Do I need to have a lab or Preceptor picked out before I apply?
Absolutely not. In fact, we encourage Fellows to be open-minded and to visit several labs before making their choice, a process that starts after the Fellowship has been awarded. To this end, Fellows are provided with an allowance for travel expenses related to finding a Preceptor and laboratory.
How do I go about selecting a Preceptor?
You will be assigned an Advisor from the Scientific Committee, based on your specific interests. Your Sponsor and Advisor will help you to identify several potential laboratories that are doing leading work in the field you wish to pursue. You will be funded to travel to various labs to meet with the principal investigators, allowing you to find the best project and environment for you. In addition, you will have access to a fund of knowledge from other Scientific Committee members and former Fellows (Alumni) who may have worked previously in the lab.
Do I have to go to another institution?
Fellows are required to conduct their research year at an institution not affiliated with their medical school. Rare exceptions may be granted for extenuating circumstances. The purpose of this requirement is to expose the Fellow to a new academic environment and to ensure that the Fellow is able to work in the best laboratory or research group in his/her field of interest. If personal circumstances make leaving the home institution a significant hardship, the applicant must detail the circumstances and the potential hardship. Exceptions will be granted on an individual basis. If an exception is granted, the medical student will be expected to investigate labs in the same geographical vicinity as his/her medical school. If there are other suitable laboratories in the applicant's geographical area, the applicant will be expected to spend the research year in one of those venues.
How does the Scientific Committee help?
The Scientific Committee carries out the process of reviewing applications and interviewing and selecting students. Once accepted, each Fellow is assigned an Advisor from the Scientific Committee. The Advisor provides the opportunity for a one-on-one mentoring relationship that will continue throughout the year and after the Fellowship has ended. The Scientific Committee Advisor acts as the Fellow's advocate and maintains contact with the Preceptor. Among the many duties of the Advisor is to conduct a site visit, during which the Advisor visits the Preceptor's laboratory, to ensure that a favorable research and mentorship environment exists. Additionally, the Fellow has access to other members of the Scientific Committee, who can provide additional guidance and advice.
What kind of research groups or labs can I select?
We take a broad view of cardiovascular science. (See section on "What is considered cardiovascular research?") Any laboratory or investigator conducting leading work in basic, translational, or clinical research in a cardiovascular-related field may be considered. This also may include laboratories that conduct research in epidemiology, health policy, and clinical trials. Keep in mind that your Sponsor and Advisor are important resources in evaluating the range of options available to you.
Beyond the Sarnoff Fellowship Year
What does 'lifetime commitment' mean?
Involvement in the Sarnoff community extends beyond just a year of research. Fellows have continued access to a large network of Sarnoff affiliates, including current and former Scientific Committee members, Sponsors, Preceptors, and Alumni. Each spring, we conduct an Annual Scientific Meeting (funding for travel and lodging are provided for all Alumni). We also hold regional mini-reunions of Sarnoff Fellows, Alumni and affiliates. These gatherings serve as opportunities for continued mentorship and guidance regarding career development, and allow for the rekindling of friendships and professional affiliations. This concept of "family" remains unique to the Sarnoff Fellowship.
The Sarnoff Scholar Fellow-to-Faculty Transition Award is another feature of the Foundation's commitment to individuals who have completed the Fellowship Program. This opportunity is available exclusively to former Sarnoff Fellows (Alumni) and is intended for those who are embarking on post-doctoral work and anticipate a future in academic cardiovascular medicine. The Scholar Award provides funding during the important transition from clinical fellow to junior faculty. For more details, please click here.
What if I am interested in a second year?
Fellows may apply for an additional year of funding from the Sarnoff Foundation to support continuation of their research project.