Summer Program for International Research Internship and Training (SPIRIT)
SPIRIT is an intensive 10- to 12-week summer research program for undergraduate medical students. It is designed to provide international research experience and mentorship for students interested in basic or clinical research. Under the guidance of a research mentor, students will work on a research project and present their findings at a competitive poster session.
The SPIRIT program contributes to Alfaisal University's vision in creating physicians who actively contribute to medical research. Currently, there are over 10 participating institutions and more than 30 summer research internships offered with some of the most prominent researchers in various fields of basic and clinical research.
OBJECTIVES OF THE SPIRIT PROGRAM
To build and encourage research practices among students, mainly through:
1. Inculcating a culture of evidence-based research practices among medical students from an early stage in their careers.
2. Encouraging and supporting students and mentors to publish high-quality research in reputable journals as well as to present them in national and international conferences and symposiums.
3. Providing a platform for active student researchers to network within and beyond their specialty of interest.
Please note that it is mandatory for all SPIRIT students to present their research in the form of oral or poster presentations at the Annual Alfaisal Research Day.
SPIRIT PROGRAM DATES
The SPIRIT 2023 program runs from Monday, June 12, 2023, to Friday, August 25, 2023. Students must commit to the entire duration of the program in order to participate.
The deadline for applications for SPIRIT 2023 is Thursday, February 9th, 2023, at 11:59 PM.
SPIRIT SCHOLARSHIP AWARD
Because SPIRIT is a scholarship program, we have standards in place to ensure the careful selection of meritorious students based on their track record in the College. The scholarship award criteria include the following - but are not limited to - academic standing, research experience, volunteering and leadership activities, service to the college, and financial need. However, it is important to note that the scholarship awards availability is limited and steps are taken to ensure that the scholarship award process is fair. Additional important points about the SPIRIT scholarship award:
1. You do not have to apply separately for the scholarship award.
2. The scholarship criteria are applied after the selection process is complete.
3. Selected students will be informed about the scholarship award along with their acceptance to the program.
4. All selected students will receive a minimum scholarship award.
5. Previous SPIRIT participants who intend to re-apply to SPIRIT are not eligible for the SPIRIT scholarship award but can still reapply given that their application shows significant improvement in comparison to their previous applications. Their applications will be dealt with in the second cycle.
ELIGIBILITY AND SELECTION CRITERIA
Applications generally open during the Fall Semester to provide ample time for the selection and visa process. The criteria for acceptance into the programs offered are highly competitive; every year several students from all academic years apply to the various programs offered.
Each applicant is first evaluated anonymously using an objective-based assessment for the program matching process then an interview is conducted. Applicants are evaluated based on the criteria mentioned below and points are awarded accordingly.
Percentages allocated for each domain (i.e. academics, research experience, voluntary service, and letter of intent and interview) are enclosed within parentheses. Significant achievements in one domain cannot compensate for another since they each carry a different weightage. Applicants need to meet the minimum requirements of each domain.
Applicants must fulfill the following eligibility criteria to be considered as “eligible” applicants:
1. Have a minimum cumulative GPA (cGPA) of 3.0 out of 4.0 by the end of the Fall 2022-2023 semester.
2. Have no incomplete or summer courses pending at the end of the Spring 2022-2023 semester. Students that incur a summer course after being accepted into a SPIRIT program will be withdrawn from their respective program*.
3. Have no record of misconduct with our university or during any national or international research or clinical activities organized by the Medical Student Association (MSA) or the College of Medicine.
4. Previous SPIRIT participants who intend to re-apply to SPIRIT need to show significant improvement in comparison to their previous applications, especially, in domains such as Research and Voluntary Service Activities, to be considered as eligible applicants.
5. Fourth-year students need to present a stronger application in terms of research preparedness and volunteering in MSA to be considered eligible.
6. Fifth- and sixth-year medical students are not eligible for the SPIRIT program due to clashes with the internship schedule.
*This is because the dates of the SPIRIT program will overlap with the dates of the summer course. We have strict instructions from the CoM Assessment office to verify that all SPIRIT participants do not have any pending summer courses.
Applicants will compete with each other within each domain (academics, research experience, etc.). An applicant that receives the highest points in a given domain will set the standard for how all other applications will be evaluated.
All applicants are required to provide sufficient proof for the experiences stated in their applications (research, voluntary activities, etc.). Any mismatch may provide sufficient ground for immediate revocation.
1. Students will be given points for their academic performance, which is determined by their cGPA. Awarded points are directly proportional to the student’s cGPA. Even a small difference in cGPA translates into a significant difference in the total awarded points.
2. Applicants will be required to upload their latest transcript as proof of their cGPA.
3. All information about cGPA and summer courses will be verified through the CoM Assessment office.
Research Experience (30%):
SPIRIT internships are for those students who have developed their research skills and mastered them through various training courses (e.g.: AMERC, ASPiRE-MERT, ASPiRE-BRT, ASPiRE-CRT) as well as research opportunities provided in conjunction with national institutions (e.g. LRTIP) and are now better equipped to work in an international setting. SPIRIT can be thought of as the highest step in the ladder of research internship opportunities provided at Alfaisal.
Objective evaluation of research experience is done as follows:
1. Research experience carries a weight of 30%. Additional achievements in other categories such as volunteering, academics, etc. cannot compensate for one’s research experience points. Applicants need to meet the minimum research experience requirements of the program they intend to apply to.
2. Research Experience is mainly assessed through the applicant’s participation in active medical education research, basic research, or clinical research projects. Applicants are expected to have mastered the basic concepts of conducting research, including literature search and review, study designs, critical appraisal, scientific writing, etc.
3. Points will be given based on the number of active projects and the phase of each project (e.g. research proposal, data collection, submission to a journal, etc.) the applicant was involved in.
4. Please note that all ongoing and/or published research projects mentioned must be accompanied by valid proof. Any form of falsification or fabrication of the information provided will result in the rejection of an application.
a. For incomplete projects, the mentor/research supervisor will be required to fill a Letter of Confirmation, confirming the student’s participation in that particular project.
b. For published research, a link of where the research paper can be found is an acceptable form of proof in addition to the Letter of Confirmation.
5. Points will also be given to those applicants who have presented their work in national and international conferences and research symposiums. Additional points will be awarded to those who have won awards in oral and/or poster presentations.
Voluntary Service (20%):
We value students with both intellectual and interpersonal strengths. We are seeking students who have given back to our university and the community through their voluntary services since SPIRIT opportunities are created out of voluntary efforts as well. Your participation in extracurricular activities within and outside the MSA will strengthen your application and tell us more about how willing you are about using your skills to benefit your university and community at large.
Objective evaluation of voluntary service is done as follows:
1. A greater emphasis will be placed on voluntary services giving back to the College of Medicine first (i.e., voluntary work in MSA), giving back to the University second (i.e., voluntary work in other university committees), followed by voluntary activities in other external organizations.
2. While awarding points to applicants for voluntary service in clubs and associations, we consider the position(s), and the term of the position(s) held.
3. Special emphasis is placed on involvement in virtuous acts, such as community service activities, curricular and extracurricular teaching, and similar activities. While awarding points to such activities, we consider the activity, and the number of hours volunteered.
4. When awarding volunteer points for organizing medical conferences, we consider only the hours invested. No points will be awarded for attending a conference/symposium.
5. Please note that proofs need to be provided for all voluntary work mentioned as a mode of verification. Certificates or photos of plaques are considered a valid form of proof. For ongoing memberships in MSA, the mentioned information will be verified by the Committee Directors. For Non-MSA memberships, a certificate of membership is acceptable. Any form of falsification or fabrication of the information provided will result in the rejection of an application.
Letter of Intent & Interview (30%):
We are looking for the most eligible students who have the utmost academic and professional ability and potential to be offered a research seat abroad. The letter of intent and interview will contribute heavily to our assessment of the applicants’ eligibility and will help in selecting those most representative of our university.
A letter of intent and interview reflect an applicant’s personality and potential in a concise and comprehensive manner. Before writing your letter of intent, it is important to recognize that it differs significantly from a personal statement.
A good letter of intent is one that:
1. Outlines why you believe you are fit for this position
2. Is professional, comprehensible, and concise
3. Has a 500-750-word limit
Furthermore, the interview will reveal how applicants communicate on a one-on-one basis and it will reflect their interpersonal skills. The interview gives applicants the opportunity to express their passion in the subject area. Due to the high volume of applications, not all applicants will be invited for an interview, rather the high-ranking applicants only.
However, more interviews may be conducted as vacancies become available. A final interview with the program director/mentor might be required to be finally accepted into the program.
Awards and Recognitions (Up to 5% bonus points):
Applicants may be awarded bonus points for exceptional academic or professional college or pre-college awards, or recognition they have received. Kindly note that the Dean’s Scholarship award does not fall under this category.
1. Previous SPIRIT program participants will receive a deduction in points from their overall score depending on the number and the type of SPIRIT program(s) they participated in.
2. Previous SPIRIT participants who intend to re-apply to SPIRIT need to show significant improvement in comparison to their previous applications to be considered as eligible applicants, especially in domains such as Research and Voluntary Service Activities.
The above criteria are a summary of the objective evaluation we use while grading the applications we receive. This is to give applicants an idea of what we look for in applications. It does not cover the minute details of the evaluation and matching process itself since the application process is further compounded by the number and nature of the applications we receive.