Welcome to the GradCafe

Hello!  Welcome to The GradCafe Forums.You're welcome to look around the forums and view posts.  However, like most online communities you must register before you can create your own posts.  This is a simple, free process that requires minimal information. Benefits of membership:

  • Participate in discussions
  • Subscribe to topics and forums to get automatic updates
  • Search forums
  • Removes some advertisements (including this one!)


  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


biotechie last won the day on December 28 2015

biotechie had the most liked content!

About biotechie

  • Rank

Profile Information

  • Gender
    Not Telling
  • Location
  • Application Season
    Already Attending
  • Program
    Cell and Molecular Biology

Recent Profile Visitors

10,908 profile views
  1. I did not, and I don't push people to do so if their program has rotations. If you don't word it properly, it can come across weird, and I also like to talk to people about things like that in person, which is something I got to do at my interview. Don't get too hung up on picking the perfect project for your PhD; the most important thing is to find a mentor who can teach you in the way you need to learn, a lab environment that you can work well in, and a project that will both get you the publication(s) you need to graduate and the skills you need for your next step, whether that is postdoc, industry, or something else. If I had only rotated with the PIs I was interested in, I would not have met my current PI as they weren't even at the school, yet. I even changed fields and am now in love with this one, so I'll stay in it. However, as you're in neuroscience and those skills are highly technical, I would recommend you don't change fields because it would be really hard to get back into for postdoc. I'll look for the "perfect project" or "perfect corner of my field" for postdoc, which shapes what I'll do the rest of my life more strongly than my PhD studies. What you should do is make sure there are several faculty at the school you're thinking of attending that have projects you think might be interesting. Perhaps not all of them are taking students, but there will be a few that are. Check online and see what their funding situation looks like. Then check their publication record and try to get a handle on how their students/postdocs are doing. Publications will usually help with this, but a lot of labs also publish awards and graduation events on their website. These are the things I did for the PIs I was interested in, though I didn't contact them until I accepted my offer as the program had over 100 faculty to choose from, so I was sure I could find someone good. If you're very sure you want to attend there, reach out to the PIs to find out if you would be able to do a rotation. I would only schedule the first and second as you may meet some PIs when you get there that are doing more exciting things. It is a little late to do so now as it is close to the April 15 deadline, but still worth a shot.
  2. As a current student at BCM, I can attest to it being a great place to do research (as are the other places in the Texas Medical Center, but I like BCM best). If you're doing a gap year, might as well do a post bacc. BCM has one that pays very well, but the application deadline is April 17! https://www.bcm.edu/education/schools/graduate-school-of-biomedical-sciences/diversity/smart-prep If you can get 3 letters of rec in by the deadline, I highly recommend you apply. I got to help mentor the students in the program this year, and they have lots of tools that help them apply for the next step, which is often graduate school. It also gives you the chance to scout out professors and the program before you apply! In addition, I know you're interested in Micro, but maybe you might also consider an interdisciplinary program like BCM's IMBS program. There are labs at BCM that work on the brain and bacteria or viruses together, but may or may not be part of MVM. These types of interdisciplinary programs give you more flexibility in case you suddenly fall in love with a lab that isn't in your intended research area (like me). Message me if you have questions!
  3. I was just at a conference where there were several University of Utah professors/grad students/post docs presenting; all of the science I saw from them was exceptional and really cool! Ranking doesn't matter as much as you think; what does is that there's good, productive science and good faculty. To a degree, that goes with rankings. However, UofU is a hot spot for epigenetics, and that's NOT something that is reflected in the rankings. I highly recommend them!
  4. I was so confused at the beginning; I was like, "Wait, how can you NOT like Mendeley?" It all makes sense, now! Bonus: If, like me, your PI wants to write a paper with you and insists you use Endnote (which he bought for me), you can easily export Mendeley annotations to Endnote. I only had to fix a couple of them to cite along with him.
  5. It mattered very little to me when I applied. I chose programs based on the structure of the program, research support, and faculty I was interested in working with. You need to ultimately go to a school where you feel you fit and can get a good education that will prepare you for the next step, be it a job in industry or remaining in academia. Some will argue that higher ranked schools tend to have better research funding and faculty, which to a degree is true, but they might not have the type of program you need, and the faculty there might not be working on things you're interested in.
  6. What do you mean, on your desktop? If you tell Mendeley you want it to store on your desktop, it will, but I send mine to my documents folder on both my mac and PC, and it organizes it in folders by year, and then within the folder by first author's last name. Mendeley does everything for me that you're doing on dropbox in a really painless manner... and it syncs across the four computers I use for me. In addition, even if I just save the PDF with a weird name, it'll go find the PubMed ID and other important information for me. I've used Zotero, and even Endnote, and I find that as far as citation managers go, I still prefer this Mendeley. I haven't reached the point where I have more articles than my free space allows, but when I do, I'll probably be willing to pay for the space. Plus I don't have to make my own references pages as it allows me to cite as I'm writing the paper.
  7. Even if you plan on marrying them, my advice would be to go where YOU feel that YOU will do best as a med and graduate student. Everyone that I know who moved to a place for their significant other and started a grad program there is not happy with their choice. While my situation is a little different (my fiance stayed back for an awesome job rather than grad school), we are prioritizing our careers now so that we are better suited to end up in the same city one day. We've been long distance nearly 5 years. You can do it, and by saving well, we see each other several times a year for at least a week. This will be harder for your during med classes, but during the PhD portion, so long as you put in hard work, you can get away with some 3-day weekends. For things that you can do to help cope with the distance, check out my post on this thread, and feel free to message me as well:
  8. Since this thread popped up on my feed, I feel I should add my two cents. Backstory: I'm a 4th year PhD student in the biomedical sciences, and my fiance and I have lived apart since the second year of my masters. That's almost 5 years of our 7 year relationship. When I was applying to schools, we had lots of conversations about where I was going to go and what he was going to do as he had just finished undergrad. I was willing to stay near him for PhD if I could get into a school, but we decided that my education and career were important and that I needed to go to the best place for me to get on track. Then I got into a program that I fell in love with. Still, he had to convince me to go without him, citing that I would hate myself if I didn't go (which was true). Shortly after, he got a stellar job, and we decided that it would be best if he stayed where he was, 1000 miles away, to get the experience he would need to score a similar job when it is time for me to postdoc. Now the goal is for us to get married later this year, then graduate in the 6 months after, and he will move with me for my postdoc. This should put both of us on track for our careers and have us set up well after I graduate. It seems hard, and it definitely is, but it is worth it. When I interviewed, I actually got asked if I had any ties that would keep me from coming, and I responded that, while my boyfriend was staying back home, I was serious about my education. If they don't ask, I wouldn't bring it up unless that's the reason you're rejecting their admissions offer. Even then, I probably wouldn't say anything about it. Here are some ways we've been able to stay strong though 5 years of long distance relationship: 1. Video chat: Every. Single. Night. Unless one of us has a conference or other engagement. We turn on the chat and keep it on while we make dinner, while I read papers, etc. It is the closest we've found to mimic hanging out in the evenings like we used to during undergrad. Recently, we've been using https://www.rabb.it/ to chat. We like this because we can lock the room, and watch netflix or youtube videos together. Right now the service is free because it is in Beta. I don't know if it will always be like that. Previously, we used Google Hangouts, but they're taking out the YouTube shared player. 2. Virtual dates: Along with the video chat, we try to make the same meals a couple of times a month and eat them together over video chat. Sometimes this ends badly for him as I'm the better cook. But this is a fun thing we can do together. We will also sometimes go to a restaurant and have what we call snap chat dates. 3. Send each other random things for no reason: My fiance always sends me little care packages when I've got a deadline coming up. Sometimes there's a local soda I love from home, and other times there are puzzles or a new book. Yesterday I came home to find a dozen chocolate covered strawberries waiting on my step. I send him new ties, random nerdy shoelaces and socks, or weird candies I find around here. It is really fun to send him something just because, and it helps him remember I'm thinking of him. 4. Play together: We play video games together. He totally kicks my ass, every time (because he has more time to play), but we have a blast, and we can do it long distance. We started playing through the original Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue. Since we can't play those online, we trade pokemon and battle when we see each other. I know other couples who always have WordsWithFriends, etc. going. In addition, I include him in game nights I have here. You can stream games like the JackBox games on twitch, which he can tune into and play with us. 5. Play apart: Despite doing at least a short video chat each night, we make sure that we also hang out with friends where we're at. These friends become a very important support system. They're the group you can turn to when you have a grad school freakout and you know your significant other is at work (or who help you get plane tickets when said significant other has appendicitis and gets hospitalized or who call your fiance for you when you break your leg). It helps to not rely on one person for all of your emotional support, and it is far less stressful on them when you do this as well. Making sure you have this support system is vital to surviving grad school. 6. Make stress management a priority. Your significant other will thank you: This goes along with #5, but you also can't dump all of your stress on them. For me, this meant joining a concert band. I relieve most of my stress through music as it allows me to emote in a way that science does not. I also volunteer teaching little kids about science. Sometimes I just color or paint. Have a couple of things you do consistently and a couple of things that you do sometimes. 6. Visit as often as possible: For us, this means we see each other at least every 2 months. That doesn't seem like very often, but he will take a 4 day weekend, and I will shorten my normally 60-hour week and also take the weekend. This year, we're going to get to see each other almost once a month due to wedding planning, and so far, we're loving it. You'll want to make sure your credit cards get you good airline miles points, because other wise those plane tickets get expensive! 7. Save some fun things to do with them: I moved to Houston, which is a HUGE city with lots to do. There's broadway shows, NASA, tons of museums, and it is a Foodie's dream. Every time I know he has a trip planned to see me, I find something new and fun that we haven't done yet. That might mean I miss out on doing it with friends, but in the past 4 year's, I've gotten to see him take in his first broadway musical, his first food truck treat, and he's pushed me through some firsts, too. This makes each visit a little more special, and I think we'll keep doing similar things for date nights when we finally move together. 8. The little things matter, and somewhere along the line, these became habits that make us feel cared for: We don't forget to remind each other that we care every day. We say goodnight each night, and good morning each morning. He makes sure I'm safely home each night. I make sure he buys groceries that include vegetables. etc. If I think of more, I will add them.
  9. If you're applying to a program that places students based on rotation, make sure there are other professors that you would be happy to work with before accepting an offer. It isn't worth going to a school where there's only one professor that you like, and they may not even take students next year. And, as I keep saying again and again, it is far more important to choose a lab based on your fit with the mentor, lab environment, and funding than to choose your "dream project." Save the dream projects for your eventual career (which will be longer than your PhD anyway), and focus on getting the training so you have the right skills to kick some ass in your desired career path. Choose your schools for the learning environment and how you think you fit there.
  10. I know it feels like forever, but that's actually pretty fast. It may be a couple of weeks or more before you hear, depending on when the AdComm meets! Some schools also make their applicants wait until all interview weekends are done.
  11. You should avoid doing this post-interview unless it has been a very long time, but you SHOULD send thank you notes to the people and students that you talked to, maybe asking questions about the program, too. This shows interest without sounding desperate, and helps them remember you. You also have to remember that sometimes it takes the admissions committees 2-3 weeks to get together to meet after interviews. Even if the committee meets, some schools wait until after ALL interviews are complete to do acceptances/ waitlist/ reject. They also are only allowed to have so many acceptance offers out at a time, so they may wait to let higher ranked students know they're on the wait list if there's a chance they can offer them acceptance instead of wait list. If you interviewed near mid-January, and you don't hear anything by the end of February, it might be worth checking with the admissions coordinator on the status of your application. I wouldn't bother the director unless you can't get through to the coordinator. Most schools know when the committee will be meeting to discuss applications and what the timeline is for notification. It is okay to ask about this at your interview so you don't have to stress yourself out waiting for news; we had students asking at ours.
  12. Sure, no problem. Sorry for the delayed response; the lab prep to be gone for Thanksgiving was insane!
  13. Right now I don't TA, but I do usually have a rotations student or a high school student doing an internship working under me. I'm in a molecular biology lab, so I normally spend well over 40 hours per week doing bench work, reading, writing up data, etc, sometimes 60+ hours. I tend to work more than some other students as my experiments happen in bursts that require long time points, but I also want to stay in academia, so it is important that I be as productive as possible. Recently, my wet lab experiments have slowed (because I have to wait for my mice to get old and fat), so I'm doing something similar to you are doing and what Takeruk has done; I'm teaching myself how to code in python so I can understand and process my sequencing data. I've been splitting my time, spending about 20-30 hours a week on lab-related tasks and about 20-30 hours a week on my online python classes, downloading and troubleshooting the new scripts I need for my new project, and writing up my data for a paper we're submitting. However, the difference here is that I'm a little further along in my studies; I've already progressed to candidacy and am preparing to graduate in the next year or so. I know where to look to get the information and help that I need, and in this case, help that my PI doesn't have the knowledge to give me. I'm doing these things on my own, but my PI still checks in with me to see what I'm up to almost daily. This is a little uncommon, but you really need to be able to talk to your PI at least once a week to set goals and make sure you're making adequate progress. You need to make sure that you have everything you need to learn and do these things so that you can start becoming more independent as you progress through your studies. I was working independently from the end of my rotation onward; we simply discussed goals, and I went for them; by over a year into your studies, the majority of what you do should be something you can tackle independently after a short planning session with your boss. To me, that truly is one of the biggest goals for my PhD: Learn to think independently to create my own hypotheses, test them, and then take those ideas and be able to write grants, mentor others to test the hypotheses, and share that knowledge with others. You just need to set a strong base for yourself with the help of your PI, and you should be able to reach those goals.
  14. I agree with biochemgirl. Unless I was told in the application essay prompt to mention specific PIs, I did not. I simply said what research areas I was interested in, careful to keep it from being too specific in case the PIs I was interested in now weren't taking students next year. I was totally prepared to have to pick new PIs for rotations. I also have something else to add: Unless the prompt says specifically not to, I think it is also important to state somewhere WHY you want to do science and where you want to end up if you achieve a PhD (such as industry, a faculty position running a lab, public science outreach, etc)... what makes you tick and what motivates you to pursue the long journey of science? This was by far one of the biggest things I got asked about from my essays, and that was something we looked for when I was part of an adcom. Believe it or not, you can actually get a good guess at fit for the program from something like this because this is where people usually let their personality out a little!
  15. Many PIs have secondary appointments in other departments. It may also be possible for PIs you're interested in from Neuroscience to join your program as a secondary appointment so you don't have to switch. Then you get to join a lab you like, and your program stays happy, PLUS you still get to learn the interdisciplinary stuff the rest of your cohort is doing. Neuroscience has a lot of very important field-specific techniques, such as patch/clamp and other methods that are difficult to learn and sometimes take years to master; if neuroscience is really where they want to be, I second Abberant's sentiment. I like my new field for my PhD, but I've focused on making my PhD studies broad in the new techniques I'm learning so I have options when I go to postdoc. This would be much harder if I wanted to do neuroscience.