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Most medical schools want to see some research experience. Generally speaking, the more the better.
It really depends on the school you apply to, though. Some medical schools don't care at all whether you have done research or not.
However, most medical schools prefer to see some research experience on your application and yet other schools absolutely
require it and won't consider you if you have done little or no research.
Generally speaking, some minimal exposure such as working in a research lab for a semester is okay for most schools.
However, as already mentioned, some schools want to see
major research involvement, perhaps that you have done your very own project, and may prefer published work.
Especially if applying to research "powerhouses" and top medical schools, this will probably be necessary.
See what successful applicants did for Research.
Some professors help undergraduate students set up their very
own research projects that lead to publication of their work in the end. Others involve students in ongoing projects
or use them as grunt workers to care for animals or have them clean their labs (try to avoid the latter two - you need
research experience or involvement). All intermediates
between these two extremes are possible.
To strengthen your application for most medical schools, the goal here is to:
1. Be involved in thesis driven research
2. To be able to explain what the "goals" of the project were
3. Show what you did to contribute and what your responsibilities were
4. Be able to give some background and detail in your interview
Again, schools that are big into research will probably
put more focus on research than other medical schools. Make sure you prepare appropriately.
Find out if the medical schools you are interested in have specific requirements or a reputation
for requiring research or expecting research of students - and how much of it.
For my purposes, spending 3 hours a week for one semester worked out well and this was
sufficient for all the schools I applied to. I participated in research in a developmental
biology lab on campus and performed surgeries on chicken embryos and enjoyed the experience.