MD-MS Biomedical Sciences

Develop a research interest and perform a year of original research in a medically relevant field in the MD-MS program in biomedical sciences. Our 30-credit program prepares clinicians to be leaders in advancing medical research, practice, policy, and education. Students deepen their understanding of research methods and content, participate in seminar courses to enhance their written and oral communication skills, and attend and organize lectures given by top scholars at Columbia and beyond. 

Areas of focus include basic and translational science, clinical research, precision medicine, global health, medical education, narrative and social medicine, population health, and biomedical informatics. Students conduct original research under the supervision of a mentor or team of mentors in a medical field of interest. The curricular structure supports students with diverse research interests and enables them to:

  1. Articulate and develop a focused research question.
  2. Complete coursework.
  3. Conduct a year of mentored research that results in a master’s thesis. It is usually completed in five years, though select students do it in four years.

The program has three phases: pre-thesis development; thesis content courses; and thesis research, defense, and presentation. Most students complete this dual-degree program in five years; some finish in four years. 

Pre-thesis Development

This portion is completed within the first 1.5 years of medical school and includes three semester-long courses from the early medical school curriculum (10 points) and two months of research between the first and second years, culminating in a capstone report (3 points). Examples are:

  • Two semester-long graduate courses (6 points) cover content and approaches critical for future research scholarly development. Courses must include Biostatistics and/or Epidemiology and/or one additional graduate-level course of the student’s choice.
  • The year-long Medical Scholars Seminar (3 points) is where students formally develop and communicate their research interests, mentor selection, and thesis proposal.
  • The year-long Research at VP&S Lecture Series (two points) is where Columbia faculty describe and discuss their cutting-edge research to medical students in the Fundamentals curriculum. Students also present and discuss their work in journal club format.
  • Students interested in global health may elect to take Introduction to Global Health (3 points) and Research Methods in Global Health (1.5 points), in addition to or instead of the Medical Scholars Seminar and the Research at VP&S Lecture Series.

Thesis Content Courses

This portion is completed before or during the medical student's research year (1-2 points). Specific courses vary based on the individual's scholarly interest. Examples are:

  • Suite of courses on research practice, ethics, and conduct.
  • Advanced graduate course directly related to the student’s scholarly field.

Thesis Research, Defense, and Presentation

This portion is completed after the medical student’s major clinical year and before or concurrently with the final phase of medical training (5 points), as follows:

  • Mentored research (10-12 months).
  • Formation of and meetings with a Master Thesis Committee, which evaluates thesis progress, the thesis itself, and a public presentation of the work.
  • Student research symposium, where thesis work is publicly presented.

For more information, email Elizabeth Shane, MD, senior associate dean of student research, at