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Area of Scholarly Concentration


After their first year, MD students complete a highly mentored independent research project that culminates with the writing of a thesis as part of the Area of Scholarly Concentration (AOSC) requirement. Areas of investigation include clinical investigation, translational medicine, global health, community and family health, medical humanities and the medical social sciences. These investigations enhance the student’s ability to identify and solve problems, encourage critical thinking and develop mentored relationships with Northwestern University and Feinberg faculty members.

Students who wish to pursue a global health AOSC project may be eligible for funding through the Havey Institute for Global Health. These students can take one of two paths for their project:

  1. Identify an independent AOSC project during four weeks of the nine-week summer break and conduct investigations on Northwestern’s Chicago campus. Pending approval by both their AOSC mentor and adviser, a student may apply to participate in a four-week clinical rotation at one of our global partners after the AOSC requirement is met. It is important to note that AOSC is a graduation requirement, but a global health rotation is an elective.
  2. Identify a global health research project at an international site. This requires getting an early start on the AOSC project and identifying a mentor who can assist the student in identifying a feasible study at an international site. A second mentor must be identified at the host-institution, and the study protocol needs to be reviewed by both Northwestern and the host university’s Institutional Review Board.

Students must also complete the following steps for a global health AOSC project:

  • Identify a Feinberg School of Medicine mentor and a hypothesis-driven investigation by early December.
  • Get project approval from mentor and AOSC thesis adviser.
  • Meet at least once per month with mentor over the winter and spring of the current academic year to develop the project.
  • Project review by IRB; project will either be approved or determined to be exempt.
  • Complete data collection, analysis and synthesis into a thesis in June or July for a minimum of four weeks.
  • Present a poster at the Feinberg School of Medicine’s global health day, evaluate global health rotation upon return to Chicago, complete all pre-departure requirements and attend required preparatory meetings at the Havey Institute for Global Health.
  • Complete all other AOSC requirements prior to graduation.

Identifying a Mentor

If you need help identifying a mentor for your project, start with these resources:

  • Review faculty profiles and explore the recent publications tabs, then contact the faculty member to learn more.
  • Browse the Global Health Portal faculty directory, which includes faculty across all Northwestern schools with global health research interests.
  • Search Northwestern Scholars, a database of research expertise across all disciplines at Northwestern.

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