Find out why gap year students come to Duke CTSI to enhance their clinical research skills

August 7, 2018

BIGGER cohort 2018 - Duke CTSI
The 2018-19 cohort of BIGGER gap year students with Prof. David Edelman (L) during a session at Duke CTSI in downtown Durham. 

The gap year is a time-honored tradition for many students—some use the time to go on a grand adventure, find a volunteer cause, get work experience, or just kick back.

For recent college graduates in the BrIdGing the Gap To Enhance Clinical Research (BIGGER) program at Duke CTSI, the gap year is transformed into a time for honing—or discovering—their passions in medicine and science. 

This year's 6 BIGGER participants, who are taking a gap year before applying to graduate and professional schools, were selected from a diverse and talented field. Over a 6-month period, these students are immersed in clinical research, receiving training and hands-on experience, and are mentored by both senior and junior Duke faculty.

We asked this year's BIGGER cohort why they decided to spend part of their gap year at Duke:


Tomi Ladipo
BS, Biology, 2018; North Carolina A&T State University

"I chose a gap year program because I wanted to participate in clinical research and get more hands-on experience in medicine. Through this program I will have more insight on the different fields of medicine, which will help me in deciding which specialty I would like to pursue."


Liz Ciociola
BS, Chemistry, 2018; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

"In my pursuit to become a physician, I chose to take a gap year as an additional year of experience and to see how clinical research is conducted at a world-renowned research institution. I hope to expand on my critical analysis and research skills, to be fascinated and inspired by the complexities of medicine, and to make advances that will directly improve the quality of healthcare that we offer."


Vishal Vig
BA, Neuroscience and Psychology, Class of 2015; Queens College
MS, Biomedical Sciences, 2017; Duke University

"I aspire to be a physician-educator, and strongly believe that participating in the BIGGER internship during my gap year will enable me to integrate my past research, mentoring, and teaching experiences to gain new insights about evidence-based medicine and the value of mentorship. BIGGER’s emphasis on professionalism will assist in equipping me with the interpersonal skills required for a career in medicine, as I begin to prepare my applications to medical school next summer."


Razan Fayyad
BS, Biology, 2018; North Carolina Central University

"I chose a gap year program in order to gain more experience and knowledge that would better prepare me for physical therapy school. Being part of the BIGGER program has given me an insight of clinical research, which could potentially be something I would pursue in my physical therapy career."


LaPrince-Miller L. Smith
BS, Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2018; North Carolina Central University

"I chose to be a part of the BIGGER gap year program in effort to gain more experience on the applications of clinical research and narrow my focus to my passion and area of study. The informative classes encouraged me to organize and analyze in ways I never thought I would.  Being surrounded by faculty and clinicians who have made time to support and guide me, has made a huge difference in my career path and my future in science."


Ciara Green
BS, Biology, 2017; Albany State University

"I chose the BIGGER program because I wanted to possibly find a specific interest in the healthcare field and build a stronger foundation for medical school. This experience will hopefully provide better insight in the clinical research field skills that will be transferable in any healthcare profession."