there are multiple questions in here so please bear with me.
I am currently a freshman undergraduate student at a large public university in the US. Looking at my coursework and credits, I noticed that I am a bit ahead and will graduate within 3 years.
1.) What should I do with my fourth year? I am interested in pursuing an MD/PHD, and was wondering if I should take additional graduate classes, take some time off to prepare for the MCAT, or just directly apply after my third year.
2.) Should I pursue a thesis or try to go for some publications? One of the things that I read here in the Academia Stackexchange was publishing something, for instance submitting a thesis or printing a book, disqualifies you from sending that piece of work towards journals. What are the benefits of doing one or the other and what do admissions committees look favorably to?
3.) How do you deal with failure and discouragement in research? Lately I've failed again and again for the past few weeks. I have created a pretty established protocol tailored for the lab that I am working at and I run the experiment beforehand in my head over and over. After performing a run, I get reproducible results however the data that I get is not what what I am looking for. I then evaluate all the work that has been done and try to see if there are any improvements or things that I could have done better, sources of error that may have affected the results, and refine my protocol. As of right now, I am kind of stuck and do not wish to blindly use reagents and hope for a serendipitous outcome.
Thank you for your time.