Research.. While Abroad?!

Research. The never ending quest to discover the unknown, that all to often leads you to more questions than answers. If you’re a pre-med student like me, or if you plan on going into any form of post-graduate education you know how important research is. If you’re unsure about your plans after college, I’ll let you in on a little secret– research will help you gain more professional connections, enhance your chances at landing a dream job, and just give you more experience in something that you’re passionate about.

There is research everywhere, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a psychology, chemistry, finance, or forestry major; I guarantee you there is research being done in your field. Humans are greedy, we want the best of everything and in order find the best you have to explore a little.


I currently have a research position at The University of Western Australia, partnered with Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and Cancer Western Australia, looking at hormonal effects of/on breast cancer. However, a new study looking at Indigenous populations is in the works, and I’ve been training with DNA research of head and neck cancer as well. You may wonder how this is possible for someone under the age of 20, but I promise it’s easier than you think.

Where to even begin?

Whether you’re a Uni student or not, the place that you’re most likely to find entry level research opportunities is at a University near you. If you’ve had some research experience and are looking for a step up, I would suggest looking at a professional medical or business center.

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Most University’s have a tab on their home page dedicated to ongoing research and its conductors– let’s face it, as humans we love to brag. I would suggest creating a spreadsheet of all of the research going on in your field that interests you with the name and contact information of the person who is conducting it. Rejection is imminent so a list of 7-12 is a good start in my opinion. However, do NOT be snobby when trying to find research. Anything that sounds remotely interesting should go on your list because you never know what you’ll end up enjoying. 

So I have a list.. Now what?

Here’s a tip that will set you apart from everyone else applying for research opportunities, and it’s so simple many people over look it. Do research on the researcher. Familiarize yourself with their past publications, read and summarize their articles so you’ll have talking points. On top of that, their previous research will be a big indication as to whether or not you’ll actually enjoy/want to work for them.  

Sophisticated Spam

Now that you’ve compiled everything, you’re ready to send emails. I personally have a generic email template and swap out the researcher’s name and details in order to save time and effort. I usually try to make the subject something more than just, “Undergrad research opportunity.” First impressions are everything, and they may not open your email if they’re swamped with hundreds of others. Make your subject catchy, yet professional like, “Undergrad interested in your FSH work.” Click on the document below to see one of the many research emails I’ve sent! 

Research Email Example

Remember the more emails you send, the more likely you are to get a response. In addition, if the researcher wants to meet you should never say no. Researchers talk, so even if they may not have a space in their lab, they may know someone who does. At the end of the day connections are everything. 

Going above and beyond

Many people ask me how I got a research position while abroad because the requirements and lab standards can vary between countries. When applying for a job, you hand out a resume, so I decided to make a research resume with all of my previous experience divided into subject matter. This made things a lot easier because at the end of the email, it was just a file attachment and a, “P.S. If you’re interested in seeing what experience I have, it’s in the attached file.” Most people are extremely impressed by those who a. took the time to look at their work, and b. made a resume of everything they’ve ever done in a lab. It shows dedication and passion, which is exactly what researchers want in their labs. Click on the document below to see my research resume. 

Research Amanda

To sum it up.. 

People are going to tell you no, but when one door closes the back door or window opens. Life is too short to accept no for an answer and if you’re truly passionate, you will always find something else. John Lennon once said, “life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” Everything happens for a reason, and life tends to work itself out as long as you have patience and vision. Best of luck finding research and I hope you all discover something life altering in your practice! 

I believe in you! 




Passing Your PTCB

Have you ever thought about becoming a pharmacy technician or going to pharmacy school? In order to become a pharmacy technician you have to be 18+ and pass something called The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) otherwise known as The Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) . The PTCB is required in 46 states and is not hard to pass as long as you have the right tools and time to study. I passed my exam, so I figured why not help you out.


When arriving at the testing center, all you will need is a photo ID. They provided me with a calculator and scratch paper to ensure that no one was cheating.

The exam consists of 90 questions and is on a scale of 1000 to 1600, a 1400 is considered passing. Luckily, only 80 questions are graded because 10 are randomly thrown out. You are allotted 120 minutes to complete the test which is online and multiple choice. Luckily, the program allows you to flag questions and go back for further review at the end. Once the review is complete, it will give you a preliminary pass or fail print out and your official results will be given in 1-3 weeks, explaining which questions you got wrong.

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Topics covered on the exam and their break down:

  • Pharmacology for Technicians (13.75%)
  • Pharmacy Law and Regulations (12.5%)
  • Sterile and Non-Sterile Compounding (8.75%)
  • Medication Safety (12.5%)
  • Pharmacy Quality Assurance (7.5%)
  • Medication Order Entry and Fill Process (17.5%)
  • Pharmacy Inventory Management (8.75%)
  • Pharmacy Billing and Reimbursement (8.75%)
  • Pharmacy Information System Usage and Application (10%)


There are lots of materials and apps out there that claim to be the best. However, I’ll tell you what worked best for me.

I read the PTCB Exam Study Guide 2015-2016: PTCB Exam Study Book and Practice Test Questions for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Examination by Trivium Test Prep ($35). It is broken down into five chapters and tells you almost everything you need to know about the exam.

I also used the official PTCB application by Pocket Prep which was $10 from the app store and had over 800 questions and customized practice exams for whenever I wanted to study and didn’t have my book.

Finally, I made a Quizlet with all of the mathematical conversions, medical terminology, drug names, classes, uses, and adverse effects. (I’ll post the link to this as soon as I take it off private).


Go online to and make sure you’re in the Get Certified tab. Click on apply for certification and you’ll need to create a profile. It will ask you personal/demographic questions and then you’ll need to complete your application. The application comes with a $130 fee which actually counts for your testing fee. Once your application is approved they will send you an ID number and then you can schedule your exam. You can schedule your exam online or over the phone. I found that the phone was easier, but to each their own. The phone number to call and schedule your exam is +1(866)902-0593 which is the Pierson VUE Center.

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If you do all of the above diligently, I have no doubt in my mind that you’ll pass your exam with flying colors. I recommend studying up to two to three weeks in advance, maybe more depending on your lifestyle.  A pharmacy technician can expect to earn from $12-$18 an hour, but there is room for expansion if you specialize in various drug preparation methods such as compounding or chemotherapy. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), employment rates for pharmacy technicians are expected to increase more than 9% between 2012 and 2022.

Best of Luck! You’re going to kill it!







Getting your CNA/LNA

Most medical schools would prefer if you have some patient contact experience. One of the easiest ways to acquire these hours, while getting paid, is obtaining your CNA/LNA. A CNA is a Certified Nurse Assistant, and an LNA is a Licensed Nurse Assistant. Essentially, they are one and the same, but the requirements and terminology vary from state to state. If you’re not applying to medical school but are thinking physician assistant (PA) or even nursing school, your CNA/LNA will give you the upper hand. In fact, most PA schools require 1000+ hours of patient contact experience, so getting your CNA/LNA early can help alleviate a lot of stress and help you save for school.

What does a CNA/LNA do?

I’m not going to sugar coat it. A CNA/LNA gets the $h!tty end of the stick, quite literally. A CNA/LNA’s job is to help a resident or patient with activities of daily living (ADLs). For example, an LNA is in charge of helping a patient get dressed, brushing their teeth/hair, helping them toilet, and even eating. That being said, your job description varies depending on the facility that you’re working at. In a hospital setting, there is a lot more cleaning involved and a smaller person to patient ratio. In a nursing home or assisted living facility, the residents tend to be more dependent and there is a larger person to resident ratio. All in all, if you’re not willing to get elbows deep in human excrement I wouldn’t suggest this particular career path.


How do I become a CNA/LNA?

In order to become a CNA/LNA you will have to take a course that has anywhere from 40-80 class hours, 40+ shadowing hours, and then pass a state board exam. The class is not cheap, usually they range from $1,000 to $1,500. That being said, many classes offer scholarships and a lot of facilities will pay for your course if you agree to work for them for 6-12 months.

The easiest way to figure out what classes are available near you is google. Simply type, “CNA or LNA classes near me,” and a list should come up showing you nearby facilities. Most classes have websites for you to look in order to see the class requirements, syllabus, and cost. Use the websites to compare prices and potential experience gain when deciding which class is best for you. Classes may also run for different lengths, i.e. there may be a Monday-Friday course for a few hours a day for ~six weeks or a Saturday/Sunday course for the entire day for ~10 weeks. Make sure that you pick a class that suits your lifestyle. For example, I took my class on the weekends during the spring semester of college because I was a full time student Monday through Friday. In my opinion, it was not hard to manage at all.


Once you’ve finished the class you have to take the board exam. It is typically divided into two sections, writing and practical. In the writing portion you are given a multiple choice exam and in the practical you are required to demonstrate skills that are chosen for you at random in front of a state examiner to prove your proficiency. For example, you may have to demonstrate how to clean dentures, reposition a patient, take a patient’s blood pressure, dress a paraplegic patient, e.t.c. Although this sounds intense, your class should fully prepare you for this exam. As long as you do well, pay attention in class, and feel comfortable with the skills you should have no problems passing the exam.

What should I do once I have my CNA/LNA?

Start the job search. Keep in mind that some facilities will offer to pay for your course if you agree to work for them for 6-12 months. This is a great option if you’re looking for a job immediately after the exam, and you don’t want to pay for it. However, if you cannot seem to find a facility to pay for your exam, a lot of facilities will offer you a sign on bonus if you agree to work for 6-12 months which will essentially reimburse you for the class.

As a CNA/LNA you can work in a lot of different patient settings. There are acute and long term rehabilitation centers, hospitals, assisted living facilities, memory care facilities, long term facilities, and even doctor’s offices and clinics. Basically, the possibilities are endless, and CNA/LNAs are always in need.


As an LNA you can expect to make anywhere from $11-$18 dollars an hour starting out, depending on where you work and your preferred shift. Health care is a 24 hour job, so you get can choose from day, evening, or night shift.

To sum it up, being a CNA/LNA is not the most glamorous job in the world, nor is it something I would suggest making a 30 year career out of. However, it is a great stepping stone into the field of healthcare and the experience you’ll earn is priceless.

Best of Luck, 




What does it mean to be pre-med?

Medical school is typically thought of as an unattainable facade that only the most brilliant and privileged can reach. However, in my experience that is not even close to the case. Medical school is not for the smart and privileged, it is for the passionate and dedicated. The people who are willing to put in extra work in order to make a difference in the lives of others.

Many people assume that medical school only requires an impeccable GPA. Unfortunately, being able to regurgitate facts in an exam will only get you so far. You have to show that you are a well rounded person, someone who can handle stress and all types of people. After all, you never know who is going to walk into your practice and what their circumstances might be.


Most medical schools require the following:

  • One year of general biology with lab
  • One year of general chemistry with lab
  • One year of organic chemistry with lab
  • One year of general physics with lab

Although it may not be required, I suggest taking the following in order to give you an outside edge:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Neurology
  • Pharmacology



Aside from academics, most medical schools will look for the following:

  • Shadowing medical professionals
  • Volunteer experience
  • Research experience
  • Leadership skills
  • Healthy habits
  • Mind broadening/life altering experiences

All in all, what ever you put in is what you’re going to get out, and not everyone’s path is the “standard” four year plan. There are many options; such as a 5+ year plan, post-baccalaureate programs, or vocational schools. The most important thing to keep in mind is that it is a good thing to be different, and it is YOUR journey to success. You are human, you will make mistakes, but maintain desire and enjoy the hardships. The road to medical school is not a sunny interstate, it is a winding backroad that has black ice and unplowed spots in the depth of a frigid winter. That being said, it is important to remember that winter is not forever, spring and summer are always just around the bend.