Scholarly Project (Pathways/New Pathway)

The HMS Scholars in Medicine (SIM) Program is designed to provide every Harvard medical student with an opportunity to pursue a mentored scholarly experience analyzing a medical or health-related question, issue, or problem in depth. Students can approach issues through a wide range of disciplines in the biomedical sciences, clinical sciences, humanities, arts, or other field. The process of discovery is as important as the outcome; students and their mentors are partners in this process.

View a list of highlighted scholarly projects from the Class of 2017.


Objectives of the Scholarly Project

The scholarly project should meet the following objectives:

  • Addresses a problem or idea related to medicine approached from a variety of scientific or social science fields
  • Demonstrates original work by the student
  • Fosters an extended, mutually beneficial partnership between the student and faculty mentor
  • Sparks curiosity, develops critical thinking skills, and offers analytical tools for the future physician-scholar

The scholarly project can be completed in 4-12 months. Students submit a proposal at the beginning of their project that must be approved by a designated faculty reviewer and write a report at the end of the experience that is also reviewed by faculty.

Completing a scholarly project is a graduation requirement. MD/PhD students will fulfill the scholarly project requirement with their dissertation. London Society students submit a thesis meeting the scholarly project requirement. Students who complete the MBA, MPH, MPP, MPA, or MEd degrees during medical school will be expected to submit a scholarly project to Harvard Medical School. These scholarly projects can be undertaken as joint projects between Harvard Medical School and the other degree program, and will be subject to joint review and approval.

Students may find scholarly projects through the SMO Opportunities Database (using an ecommons login); conversations with Society Fellows, faculty, SMO staff, and fellow students; area seminars; HMS and Harvard websites; and the Harvard Catalyst website.


Students may request up to four months of SIM500 credit for full-time or part-time work on their approved scholarly project. The SIM Program director authorizes the credit request. The months do not have to be taken consecutively. Required SIM500 course content will vary, depending on the nature of the project.

Advisory Structure

A robust Faculty Committee on Scholarship in Medicine advises students pursuing their scholarly projects. Cannon, Castle, Holmes, and Peabody Societies each have three designated Society Fellows who are the principle student advisors and have expertise in basic, clinical, outcomes, and global health research. They help with mentor and project identification and review student funding proposals, scholarly project proposals, and scholarly project reports. Additional faculty are available to advise students who work in the following specialty areas:

  • Community and Global Health
  • Medical Humanities (Ethics, Medical Narrative, Education, History of Medicine, Creative Arts)
  • Health Care Policy and Health Services
  • Primary Care

The HMS Scholars in Medicine Office staff support this faculty committee and also provide advice and assistance to students carrying out their scholarly projects.

Mentoring an HMS Student

How to Advertise an Opportunity 

Harvard faculty may post an opportunity for student scholarship in the SMO Opportunities Database. Your opportunity will then also appear on your Harvard Catalyst faculty profile.                                                  

Information for HMS-Affiliated Mentors 

HMS faculty can find information about the scholarly project and mentor requirements at the HMS Scholarly Project website.

Information for Non-HMS Affiliated Mentors 

Non-affiliated faculty are invited to mentor students. These faculty should complete a mentor agreement available from the SMO. Students with non-Harvard mentors are required to also have an HMS mentor who is familiar with Harvard research processes in the event support is needed. Contact or 617-432-2750 for the required documents and more information.