Grad School for Tinnitus Research — Looking for Advice

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by Hudson, Jun 27, 2013.

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    1. Hudson
      Cowboy

      Hudson Member Benefactor

      Tinnitus Since:
      2003
      Hello all,

      I have been giving a lot of thought to going to graduate school lately. I make a pretty good living working where I currently do, but I would like to do something that I find personally rewarding. Tinnitus research interests me very much. I enjoy reading published papers, as I understand much of what I read fairly easily.

      I'll give you some background. I majored in Biological Systems Engineering as an undergrad. It was a new engineering discipline, in that it was partly based in Ag Engineering, but focused much more heavily on biology and chemistry instead of the agriculture part. I did a lot of math and statistics along with the degree, as well as general engineering courses. As an undergraduate, I also worked as a researcher within Virology, specifically on Potato Virus Y. I was published on a couple papers, and I enjoyed the lab side of things very much. After college, I have worked doing automation engineering for high throughput laboratories on their liquid handling robotics. Currently, I have been doing a lot of informatics related work, doing statistical analysis and some software development for a large biotech seeds and chemical company.

      While I enjoy my current work, I feel that I could be more rewarded and better apply my skills to a field where I could make an impact and help people. This is where tinnitus comes in. I am afflicted by the condition, and therefore I have a good deal of interest in it.

      I recently spoke with Dr. Tyler at the University of Iowa Tinnitus Clinic (I'm taking part in a research study at the University of Iowa through their Tinnitus clinic on Biolipoflavanoids. I am keeping an open mind about the study as I wish to be as impartial as possible, but I must admit I agreed to take part in the study more so I could speak with the researchers than what I feel the product can do for me.) about possible avenues to pursue for a graduate degree. He suggested going the otolaryngology route, but I don't know if I want a medical degree or if I want to work in a clinical setting. The question he posed to me which I felt is a good starting point was "Do you want to do research on animals, or people?" His attitude was that he wants to find treatments for Tinnitus patients soon. Not in 10 or 15 years, but in less than 5. He felt that animal studies have not panned out as well as everyone had hoped, and there may be more promise in studying tinnitus in patients themselves. I'm definitely interested in the microbiology and neuroscience side of tinnitus, because I honestly think that will be where the best solutions will come from. Then again, according to Dr. Tyler, there are probably better chances of helping people by working and studying on them directly as opposed to animal models.

      I would like to get some feedback concering what people think about this. What would be a good route for me to pursue? I'm going to take the GRE here soon, so getting in mind some programs to actually apply to might be nice.

      Thanks!
       
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    2. mick

      mick Member Benefactor

      Location:
      USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2012
      For selfish reasons, I'd like to see as many people researching T as possible, and it would be best if those researches have T in my mind. From that perspective, I say go for it. On the other hand though is the simple question of what do you want to do with the rest of your life. What makes you happy?

      While an undergraduate I wanted to be a biomedical researcher, and I had a fellowship to do that when I graduated. I decided, however, to get some real world experience as an chemical engineer for at least a year and then make up my mind. I went to grad school at night during that year. After experiencing what it was like to have money and time on my hands, I changed my mind about pursuing research even though I sometimes felt I was giving up on a life goal. In the end though I reasoned that I should do what makes me happy, and not going back to school full time made me happy. It turned out well for me.
       
    3. jazz
      No Mood

      jazz Member Benefactor

      Location:
      US
      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2012
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      eardrum rupture from virus; barotrauma from ETD
      Mick's right. You must do what makes you happy!

      You should also consider expenses and time commitments. Look for a program with stipends or, better yet, fellowships to help defray the costs. Be aware too that people can lose almost a decade in PhD and MD programs.

      I did the graduate route. You do need a PhD in order to conduct independent research. The time commitment for a PhD and an MD is probably similar given your scientific background.

      If you want to pursue a graduate degree, one popular field is neural engineering--where you might focus on neuromodulation. University of Texas at Dallas features two of Microtransponder's creators, one of whom has a background in microbiology. You might write to Michael Kilgard, PhD, about your interests. He's young and seems approachable. (http://www.utdallas.edu/ctech/projects-overview/vagus-nerve-stimulation-for-tinnitus/)

      Auditory neuroscience or auditory physiology, however, might be closer to your interests. Tinnitus is being researched in both fields. There are several prestigious programs in these areas.

      If you go the graduate route, professor selection is critical. Research who's who in each field and examine their interests. Research the specific programs, talk to their graduate students, and try to meet with their professors. Even top graduate programs differ in their requirements, and how many years it takes to get a PhD.

      Of course, there's always medical school. If you like research, there's the MD/PhD route. Many great program opportunities exist for researchers! There's also a NIH program that works with MD/PhD programs. You could do research at the NIDCD on tinnitus. (see http://mdphd.gpp.nih.gov/)

      Other academic areas might also interest you. These just came to mind. Good luck! :)
       
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    4. Karl

      Karl Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Chicago
      Tinnitus Since:
      10/2011
      Hudson -
      I'm very impressed! Ever think of getting an AuD? Two audiologists I know have been the most helpful to me. Audiologists deal with patients with tinnitus all the time.

      I originally got a science teaching degree, then I went back to college and got my engineering degree at your age. Now is the time in your life to do these things. You'll have a lot to contribute.

      Tinnitus is the "wild west" of medicine. Seems like there are many theories about tinnitus at this point time, unfortunately. I predict that in the next few years that medical professionals will come to a better understanding of what is THE cause of tinnitus and how to treat it.
       
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    5. Job
      Worried

      Job Member

      Location:
      U.S.
      Tinnitus Since:
      7/2009
      I like hearing that the researcher is motivated enough to say that he wants to find a treatment for T people within 5 years.

      Like some others here, I say do what makes you happy, but I also say do what you can manage. Med school costs a lot of money, as I'm sure you know. And it is stressful. Personally, I would be afraid of the stress and debt exacerbating my T, or my T becoming exacerbated midway through school and then having to deal with med school. Med school takes like ... 8 years? So, I have no recommendations as to whether or not you should, just offering something to think about.

      However, my only recommendation is that if you do go back to school, work on setting up a group that will be there to support you if times get hard. From day 1. Connect with people on facebook and stuff before you go there. People that will not necessarily help you with your T, but life in general.

      Also, just like jazz said, do your research on the professors you might work for. If you find one, then go that prof's group meetings, send him/her a bunch of emails, etc. And do all this before you go to the school, that way, you're not in a school and stuck with some professor you'd rather not work with.

      Now that De Ridder just went to New Zealand, maybe he's looking to take on some new students (sorry, this is just my imagination going wild ... unless you really would consider going to New Zealand ...)
       
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    6. Hudson
      Cowboy

      Hudson Member Benefactor

      Tinnitus Since:
      2003
      I might just contact Michael Kilgard and ask him about that. Neural Engineering might be up my alley because of my background in engineering. Then again, I would not be opposed to Auditory neuroscience or auditory physiology, either.

      Thank you all for the responses. This definitely helps!
       
    7. jes
      Familiar

      jes Member Benefactor

      Location:
      copenhagen denmark
      Tinnitus Since:
      10/2012
      Hudson you are made for that jes
       
    8. daedalus

      daedalus Member

      Location:
      Brussels
      Tinnitus Since:
      04/2007
      Oh nice !

      Except the ENT suggestion ( i have never heard of any ENT understanding anything to the neuroscience of tinnitus) you have been given interesting advice. I am not familiar with the US education system. I will pm you the email addresses of two leading tinnitus researchers.

      Finding the lead engineer of this project (halas offline) could be interesting: https://www.tinnitustalk.com/threads/implantable-electonic-tinnitus-detector-in-the-works.896/

      I will also ask someone from the other board who is very knowledgeable.

      :)
       
    9. Hudson
      Cowboy

      Hudson Member Benefactor

      Tinnitus Since:
      2003
      Well everyone, thank you very much for your advice. I am signed up to take the GRE in September, so we'll see how I do. I think I'll have a couple months then to get applications in. I'll keep everyone posted about my progress on this! Thank you all !
       
    10. Cher69
      Fine

      Cher69 Member Benefactor

      Location:
      York, UK
      Tinnitus Since:
      20/5/2013
      Good Luck and go for it @Hudson if you can fulfil an ambition and aim to help others then what better way to spend your time - 100% support your goal and wish you every success - a little envious too - cher x
       
    11. Hudson
      Cowboy

      Hudson Member Benefactor

      Tinnitus Since:
      2003
      @Cher69,

      I was thinking about putting in an application at UCL in London as well, just to see if I can get in. It depends on whether they'd take a yank like me though. :)
       
      • Like Like x 1
    12. LadyDi
      Busy

      LadyDi Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Florida, USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      06/2013
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Barotrauma/airplane
      I would agree that if you want to do a lot of hands-on work with patients, I would think about a AudD. I don't have anything to add to the other great advice people gave you other than: I think the most important thing is that you would be a professional who actually has experience with what you are researching/treating. I very recently was seen by a well-known inner ear specialist and surgeon who also has tinnitus. Your personal understanding will make all the difference in the world for patients.
       
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