MSTP Internal Admissions

MSTP 2022 Application Information for Current Stanford Students

Deadline: Friday, January 14, 2022 by 5 pm (PST). 

Current medical students are invited to submit applications for positions in the MSTP to begin Autumn Quarter 2022-2023. The MSTP provides infrastructure and funding (for US Citizens and Permanent Residents only) for combined MD-PhD training in any area of biomedical or social science for which graduate training is available at Stanford. There are approximately 100 students in the MSTP, of which ~20% have joined the program after their first, second, or third year of medical school. Applicants are evaluated on their potential for a career in biomedical or social science investigation, based primarily on current and proposed research at Stanford in the research group of a prospective thesis advisor.

General guidelines

The internal program is intended for medical students who have engaged in an early and extensive research experience (usually as part of a scholarly concentration), and who have now decided to pursue a PhD as an extension of that work.

MD students interested in obtaining a PhD degree at Stanford are eligible to apply for MSTP funding as early as Winter quarter of M2 (or M2B if splitting the pre-clerkship curriculum). Students may also apply to a Stanford PhD program separately.  

PhD students interested in obtaining an MD degree at Stanford are eligible to apply for MSTP funding. Please contact MSTP Admissions at for more information.

Applicants are also strongly encouraged to meet regularly with one of the MSTP Directors during the planning stages of their research experience and in preparation for the application itself. Successful MSTP applicants will usually begin MSTP funding Autumn quarter following acceptance based on available funding.  Successful applicants must meet with Program Directors or MSTP Staff to determine official start date of funding. MSTP funding is contingent on approval by a Stanford University PhD Program in which the thesis advisor is a member and may only be used if participating in research full time in the research group in which they are proposing to complete their PhD (i.e., not rotations in new labs, board study, or clinical rotations).


  • Matriculated to Stanford MD no earlier than 2018.
  • In good standing at the Stanford School of Medicine.
  • Actively enrolled in courses at Stanford.
  • Students who are not Stanford medical students or who have matriculated at another institution’s PhD program are not eligible for MSTP funding.


Although “internal” MSTP applications are commonly submitted during the M2 year (or M2B if splitting the pre-clerkship curriculum),  students later in their training (for example, during their gap year(s) or later) are also encouraged to apply, and should meet with MSTP Directors as early as possible to discuss their plans.

Previous application to the MSTP (either before or after matriculating at Stanford) does not influence eligibility or evaluation. Advanced medical students already enrolled in a graduate program who have completed or will complete their thesis in 2022 are not eligible. Please contact us if you have any questions about admissions or eligibility.

Application materials

1) An application cover page with your name, student ID#, Stanford email, name of research advisor, and intended PhD Program (and whether you have applied).

2) A brief personal statement (no more than 250 words) that describes your background and rationale for pursuing training as a physician-scientist. What factors and considerations have led you to this point in your career and why?

3) A research proposal of no more than 3000 words (not including references and optional figures/legends) organized as follows:

Title and Abstract: a summary of the entire proposal, 1-2 paragraphs and no more than 150 words.

Specific Aims: 1 page describing the problems you plan to solve and the general approach, organized into several (usually no more than 2-5) specific aims; no more than 350 words.

Background and Significance: Usually 2 pages describing the system and problem you want to understand, including published knowledge that bears on your problem and the facts and hypotheses that led to your proposal; no more than 1000 words.

Research Design: The core of the proposal, where you describe the design of the research that you expect to undertake, including specific experiments, interpretation of possible results, and where you will go next. Organize this section around each specific aim, re-listing them to make it clear that the set of experiments being discussed corresponds to a particular specific aim. Usually 3 pages; no more than 1500 words.

The proposal should also include a specific description of what you have already accomplished; this can be included as a separate section (preliminary or initial results) or incorporated into the background and/or the research design section.

The general format of the proposal is similar (although slightly shorter in length) to qualifying exams required by many graduate programs, and you are encouraged to seek advice from your graduate colleagues and/or advisors. Like most graduate qualifying exams, the goal of the research proposal is not to describe materials and methods in detail, but instead to lay out the rationale and thought process in designing and interpreting both the work you have already done and the work you hope to accomplish. It is anticipated that your application will form the basis for PhD thesis proposal.

If you have published an abstract or a paper as part of your research proposal, you may include that in an appendix.

4) Your application to the MSTP implies permission to review your original Stanford medical school application (AMCAS plus the Stanford supplementary application). Letters of recommendation submitted with your original medical school application are not required, nor available, for the internal MSTP application.

5) A single letter of support from your prospective thesis advisor that should comment on your achievements and potential for a research-based career, and should be sent directly to Tony Tieu in the MSTP office (secure email is fine).

6) A brief CV/resume

Application Timing and Evaluation Process

Submit applications to Tony Tieu at Applications are due January 14, 2022 by 5 pm (PST).  Please provide items 1-3 as a single PDF document.  

Applicants will give an oral presentation to the Program Directors (one week later -- January 21, 2022). The length of the presentation will be 10 minutes, with 10 minutes for questions from the panel following. The purpose is to explore in an informal and interactive setting the work described in your proposal.

Evaluation is based on the written application, letter of support, and the presentation, and is carried out independently of evaluation of traditional MSTP applicants. Decisions will be available before PhD admissions offers are made. A summary of MSTP recommendations will be provided to the PhD graduate Program and (if applicable) to the Knight-Hennessy Program. If offered MSTP admission, student funding is based upon the standard MSTP student support structure that is determined by the applicant’s year of entry into the MD program.