Students work on a longitudinal project through all four years of medical school and are mentored by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine faculty. 

Students are advised to become familiar with faculty research interests prior to meeting with the “primary contact.” A student may want to meet with several potential faculty mentors or learn more about the Longitudinal Research Project before deciding on a project.

A Guide for Mentors

Thank you for your interest in the Longitudinal Research Project, a vital research and educational component of the medical school curriculum and a requirement for graduation for our students. The Longitudinal Research Project is conducted by the student under your guidance, and is formulated in conjunction with you. The Student Research Program Directors provide oversight for the individual projects, and will offer guidance regarding the students’ successful completion of the project. Please keep in mind the following when designing a Longitudinal Research Project with your student:

  1. Each student will have a different degree of familiarity with research. The best project is one in which the student can learn the required techniques for relatively easily, so that most of the time can be spent on data generation and analysis.
  2. The best project for a student is one that already exists in some form within your research portfolio, and for which a modification of some form can be created for the student. This approach maximizes your “Buy-in” the project, and makes it more likely that funding as well as ethical approval are available. Please refer to our UPSOM Research Opportunities website.
  3. Longitudinal Research Project students are not Graduate Students. They are medical students that are performing their Longitudinal Research Projects. Because they will be spending so much time completing their medical school requirements, they will have varying amounts of time available to spend on their project, which will be determined by where they are in the academic calendar. However, their high commitment to the project, and to you as their mentor, should not decrease, and so you should expect ongoing communication in person and electronically throughout the course of the project.
  4. Longitudinal Research Project students are researchers. They are expected to devote time and energy to their projects, and to be part of a published manuscript of some sort at its completion.

What constitutes an acceptable and successful proposal for the Dean’s Summer Research Program (DSRP) or Longitudinal Research Project (LRP)?

There are three key components:

  1. A new and important idea
  2. An interested student
  3. An interested mentor

Focused, longitudinal medical or health-related project undertaken with the mentorship and support of a faculty member.

The vast majority of research projects will be a “carve-out” or extension of the mentor’s ongoing work.

The project needs to be focused and interesting to emphasize that the student doesn’t need to do ground-breaking original research. It’s much more important that they have the experience of doing the work, even if the project will provide preliminary data or involves re-analysis of data that had been previously collected. There should be a component identified that the student does independently, as opposed to collaboratively with someone else on the team, but nevertheless faculty mentored

The research problem or question: Traditional laboratory or clinical science research studies, and quality improvement projects must have a hypothesis. Projects involving medical education or development of patient educational materials will need to incorporate an assessment of the effectiveness of the teaching materials. If the project doesn’t seem “testable”, then the student will need to discuss it with one of the course directors or SRP directors.

Qualitative research projects are designed to understand the beliefs, feelings, perceptions, behaviors, motivations and/or culture related to a group of people/situation/topic. In this case, often when little is known about a topic, qualitative methods are used, to provide a context necessary to understand quantitative findings, to identify variables important for future clinical studies, to ask “why?” and “how” questions, to provide rich descriptions of observations. Qualitative projects do not require well-defined hypotheses but should clearly describe what specific questions the student proposes to explore. Additionally, students should describe why a qualitative approach is most appropriate to address their research questions. Dr. Judy Chang, one of the Assistant Deans of Medical Student Research, is available as a resource for students interested in pursuing qualitative research projects or those wondering about the appropriateness of the design or approach (

Appropriate ethical approvals. Note that Pitt Medical Students need approval from the University of Pittsburgh IRB to use research conducted entirely at another institution for their DSRP/LRP.

How to make sure a student’s project qualifies as “Research”:

  1. A project that produces educational material is acceptable, but the student will need to do research to show the product they are making is grounded in science (e.g., prior research shows that brochures are effective patient teaching tools for some other condition) and test its effectiveness as part of their project.
  2. Case reports are NOT acceptable
  3. Purely artistic endeavors (novel, film, etc.) are NOT acceptable.
  4. Most importantly, the project must be feasible for the time frame available. The student is encouraged to work with the mentor to reduce the scope of work.

Mentor Step-by-Step Instructions for the DSRP or LRP Proposal Process

Mentor instructions:

Guide your student during the proposal development.

  • Wait until you receive a proposal approval email request from the system
  • Click the link in the email: Cut and paste the link into your browser address bar if not "clickable"
  • Log into your student's site using your Pitt username and password. (If you do not recall these credentials, please contact the Pitt HELP DESK (624-4357) and they will be able to assist you)
  • Open and review the proposal document under "Project Proposal"
  • If proposal is acceptable, click "Approve" button
  • If proposal needs revision, click "Return" button. Click "+New Entry" under "Discussion" area to post your feedback

Questions/problems: Please contact Suzann Beardsley (, Longitudinal Research Project Administrator (412) 648-9639

Find a Mentor

Watch the video below to learn more about how to find a PREP, Deans Summer Research or Longitudinal Research Project mentor, the Do's and Don'ts of the mentor process, and general information on the research process.