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The Foundations of Research and Critical Thinking (FRCT) course is designed to provide all medical students with the necessary educational and practical tools to pursue a highly successful and productive career in clinical or academic medicine by stimulating critical thinking and enhancing intellectual acuity and inquisitiveness. Our objective is to foster excellence in the development of clinicians, clinician educators, and physician scientists. The goal is to help students understand basic research principles, evaluate research and the literature, and understand how research findings will affect their clinical practice. The course has two components.

Didactic Component

The didactic component consists of a series of lectures, online modules, clinical correlations, and small group sessions. Topics covered include hypothesis testing and experimental design, epidemiologic study design, statistical methods, scientific writing, ethical and responsible conduct of research, impact of both basic and clinical research on patient care, how to read and critically evaluate the scientific literature, and more. This component is part of the Foundations Course in the Renaissance Curriculum.

Mentored Scholarly Project

Each student must demonstrate their ability to formulate a scientific hypothesis, describe the methods and procedures they would use to test the hypothesis, perform the background work, and write a final report describing their work. Dual degree students in the MD/PhD and MD/MS programs are not required to do a separate FRCT Scholarly Project. Importantly, the scholarly projects will add breadth to the academic portfolio of the students as they apply to increasingly competitive residency training programs.

Learn more about Mentoring for FRCT.

Certificate of Outstanding Achievement

To reward those students who have demonstrated excellence in their FRCT Scholarly Projects, we present the top 10% of the class with a “Certificate of Outstanding Achievement in Research.” Visit our Student Research Awards page to learn more.


Donald R. (Rick) Matteson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Physiology
Assistant Dean for Student Research Education and Dual Degree Programs
Course Director, FRCT