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Discovery to Cure (DTC) High School Internship - Is It Worth It?

If you’re an ambitious high school student looking to get into an elite college, participating in a competitive summer program is a sound way to showcase your academic excellence and mark yourself as among the best in your cohort. Not to mention, they also prove demonstrated interest in a subject! 


In medicine, especially biomedical studies, working in a research laboratory or hospital can give you hands-on experience and a deeper understanding of what the profession entails. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, then you should consider applying to the Yale School of Medicine’s Discovery to Cure (DTC) High School Internship Program


What is Discovery to Cure all about?

Launched in 2003, Yale offers DTC to high school juniors interested in careers in science and medicine. The program runs full-time for six weeks and interns work in laboratories and complete a research project under the supervision of a mentor. Fields students can conduct research in include gynecology and reproductive sciences, pediatrics, neuroscience, pathology, oncology, biomedical engineering, chemistry, endocrinology, dermatology, and more. Apart from lab work, you can sit for lectures by professors and guest scientists, and network with past interns. At the end of the program, you must prepare a 10-minute presentation of the research conducted during the internship. 


Is the program prestigious?

DTC is highly selective and prestigious. The program accepts only 25 students each year and has an acceptance rate of less than 12%. Moreover, the Yale School of Medicine ranks #10 in the U.S., making DTC a highly sought-after program.


How much does the program cost?

The internship is unpaid. Yale does not provide any allowance for housing and transport.


What are the application dates?

Applications for the 2024 cohort shut on February 10, 2024. DTC will likely accept applications for 2025 in January-February of the same year. The program takes place in June-August. 


Who is eligible to apply?

Current high school juniors who are at least 16 years old can apply. While the program was previously open to students from across the U.S. and internationally, in recent years only students living in Connecticut were eligible to apply. You should contact the program coordinators directly to learn more about the 2025 intake criteria. 


The program is full-time, 40 hours a week for six weeks. DTC recommends students do not commit to conflicting programs during this time.


What is the application process like?

If you’re interested in applying, your school representative (counselor, science teacher, etc) needs to contact DTC and share information that includes the school name, location, and details of a contact person. DTC will then add the school to its distribution list and share information about the program. A school can nominate a maximum of two students for the program.


What will I do at DTC?

DTC is a six-week, full-time research internship. Here, you will work in one of Yale’s biomedical laboratories under the mentorship of a principal investigator (PI) in charge of a research vertical/ clinical trial at the laboratory. Before beginning lab work, you must attend a mandatory, day-long safety workshop. Once lab work begins, you will participate in ongoing research and pick an independent topic to investigate. Every Wednesday, your lunch hour will include lectures by Yale scientists and physicians, guest speakers, and past years’ interns. You must attend a minimum of five weekly meetings to complete the program. 


At the end of the internship, you will share your research findings in a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation. You can conduct research in gynecology and reproductive sciences, pediatrics, neuroscience, pathology, oncology, biomedical engineering, chemistry, endocrinology, and dermatology, to name a few, depending on mentor availability.


Previous research topics by DTC interns include bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a lung condition that affects newborn babies, the effect of dehydration on one’s mental state, diabetes and how it affects pregnant women, the bone-formation process, genetic abnormalities, and many more. You can see past projects here. DTC also maintains a directory of past interns’ contact information, which is a great resource for those wanting to know about their first-hand experiences at the program.  


Interested in applying to DTC? Here are some pros and cons of the program:


Pros:

  1. You participate in a prestigious and selective program DTC is run by the Yale School of Medicine, one of the best medical colleges in the U.S. and the world. The program is competitive: it accepts only 25 students annually and has an acceptance rate of less than 12%. Participating in it would add significant value to your CV and college application!

  2. You get to work in Yale’s state-of-the-art laboratories Yale’s biomedical laboratories conduct cutting-edge research in gynecology and reproductive sciences, pediatrics, neuroscience, pathology, oncology, biomedical engineering, chemistry, endocrinology, dermatology, and other fields, giving you valuable practical experience.

  3. You will be mentored by researchers and physicians During the program, you will participate in ongoing research under the supervision of a principal investigator in one of Yale’s biomedical laboratories, giving you a unique view to understand the different stages of clinical research. 

  4. You undertake an independent research project During the program, you pick a topic to investigate under the guidance of your mentor. Research topics by previous interns include dehydration and mental health, diabetes and pregnant women, bone formation, and genetic abnormalities, to name a few.

  5. You present your research to professors, mentors, and peers At the end of the program, you present your findings in a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation and field questions, if any. This presentation will add value to your portfolio and showcase your demonstrated interest in a subject.

  6. You can get a valuable letter of recommendation A recommendation letter from Yale researchers and faculty will go a long way toward being accepted into a premier college. It could also help if you decide to pursue undergraduate studies at Yale!


Cons:

  1. You do not get paid a stipend The internship is unpaid, and no allowance is provided for stay and transportation. This could deter deserving candidates who cannot afford lodging from applying and attending the program.

  2. In recent years, only Connecticut students could apply While students from across the U.S. and internationally could apply for the program, in recent years DTC has been available only to students in Connecticut high schools, limiting the number of applicants.

Our review — what do we think of the program?

Yale’s Discovery to Cure High School Internship is a sound opportunity for ambitious students serious about a career in medicine. You get to work in Yale laboratories, get mentored by researchers and professors, and conduct and present an independent project. The experience would add value to your student portfolio and help you better decide what field you’d like to specialize in. On the downside, the internship is unpaid and has been open only to Connecticut students in recent years.



Bonus — the Lumiere Research Scholar Program!

If you’d like to participate in a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you may want to consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!


Kieran Lobo is a freelance writer from India, who currently teaches English in Spain. 


Image Source: Yale School of Medicine logo


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