Medical schools value research in part for what it reveals about the researcher; for example, pursuing research may provide evidence of your intellectual curiosity, commitment to learning and discovery, ability to work in a team, and ability to read and critique scientific literature – but if you don't think that research is for you, these are all traits that you can demonstrate through other means. The Princeton senior thesis, for example, is a crowning achievement that allows you to demonstrate your academic passion, critical thinking, and communication skills.
For those who would like to try out research during the academic year, the Princeton Office of Undergraduate Research is a great place to begin. Many first-years and sophomores stay on campus as participants in their ReMatch program.
As you consider your major, it may help to read the independent research guides for departments of interest. Our Majors and Medicine guide also provides examples of health/medicine thesis topics in a number of departments, from Anthropology to Engineering.
We also encourage pre-health students to apply for summer programs in academic medical centers where it’s possible to interact with medical students, residents, and physicians, to see how education, clinical care and research interact, and to gain insight into their potential next educational setting. Working at such a setting also makes it much easier to add a few hours of volunteering to summer plans. Many research internships won’t include opportunities for direct patient interaction, so we recommend applying to do a volunteer shift in the evening or on the weekend alongside the research opportunity.