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!)

samman1994

Members
  • Content count

    50
  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won

    1

samman1994 last won the day on August 13

samman1994 had the most liked content!

About samman1994

Profile Information

  • Location
    California
  • Application Season
    2018 Fall
  • Program
    Biochemistry
  1. Hello everyone, As someone who has recently received their bachelors, and is now going onto PhD, I have talked to a lot of people about their reasons why they wish to pursue a higher education (or even get a degree). As someone in the life sciences field, most of the conversations often come down to money, or the desire for the title. I wanted to share some advice, or information, that I think many people often forget in their quest of life, during their academic process. I have found that often times this information really helps people who have lost their way within their programs. To start, why does someone choose the major that they do? What is someones goal in life? What is their passion and desire? Many people are not very familiar with the path they initially choose, nor do they know what the end goal really is. Many just apply for undergrad since they want a degree so they can get a job after college with good pay. Some like English, so they for english, others like how brains work, so they go for psych, with no real final goal however of what they want to do as a career. Naturally, this is understandable since when you first start out, you probably know very little about the career options or about the major itself. It's still good to have an end goal however, no matter how vague, and help narrow your search for a major (rather than staying undecided, going down the wrong path). I.e. I always wanted to make medicine and help cure diseases. I didn't know what major that entailed, or even what type of work, but that narrowed my search to a scientific choice, and I chose Chemistry. I majored in Chemistry, but realized half way through this was not my desired major. I have always wanted to make medicine and help cure people, and yes Chemistry is about synthesizing and literally "making" the medicine, but not discovering it. Also, most chemists don't care at all about the application of what they're making, but rather just how to make it. I realized, Biochemistry is the field I was looking for. Now you have a degree, and may or may not be looking for work, or going straight to a PhD. If you are, why a PhD? Why not a MA? Upper graduate fields are also very specific, so what exact branch of your major are you looking at? Or better yet, what kind of specialization are you looking to do? This is where a lot of people have issues with, and a lot of problems arise from this. What kind of schools do I look at, what kind of programs? What does it mean to have the best program? Again, this end goal is important to keep in mind. By now you should have at least a fair understanding of your field and potential future ideal career. With that in mind, can you do that ideal career with just an MA? Do you need a PhD for it? This will help choose and select your program (MA or PhD), but now schools. Well what exactly do you want to do? First you need to read more about the field, as someone in the life sciences, for me that just meant reading a wide variety of papers and seeing what really caught my eye and interest. I.e. As stated prior, I always wanted to make medicine and cure people (I repeat this because this is the most important part), thus I majored in Chemistry, but realized Biochemistry was what I was looking for. Biochemistry splits into many branches though: Computational, Structural, Cell, Micro and that branches further into RNA, DNA, proteins, lipids, membranes and then you have a variety of techniques to look at them (biophysical) NMR, Cryo-ER, crystallography, etc. Now, from reading papers, I realized everything in our body comes from proteins, and thus, most drugs and a variety of diseases target proteins. Never cared much for genetics, so that crosses out RNA and DNA, and the others didn't interest me quite like proteins. Now there are a variety of techniques to look at them, but I found the NMR the most interesting out of them. The potential it has I believe is beyond any other instrument from what I've seen and the papers I've read. From the papers, it appears once you have the structure of a protein, you can get a really good understanding of how it works and why it does what it does, combined with computational methods, you can really answer a lot of questions about said protein. So that itself has narrowed my search down to Computational/Structural of proteins with NMR. Now, again, this all comes down to I want to make medicine and cure people. I feel as if Computational/Structural on proteins with NMR is an important key step to finding out how our body works and designing drugs to target it; thus it is for this exact reason I chose this path. Now that I have my path, MA or PhD? Well, again, I want to make medicine and cures, and I want to have an active role on it. I found out in the industry, PhDs have active roles in directing projects and making medicine, whereas MAs simply follow the PhDs direction. Since I want to have a direct active role, a PhD was the best route for me to choose with that in mind. Now this information has helped me greatly, because I know longer care about ranks of the school, but rather only about what best fits my research interest. I've come to realize, rank means nothing when it comes to your actual interests. I've already crossed out schools like Yale, Standford, Harvard, Berkley, MIT, and Caltech. Not because I can't get in, or even that they don't have big STEM departments (believe me, theirs are bigger than most), but despite the vastness of their department, they didn't have what I wanted. Most focused on DNA, or on different viruses, or using different methods, etc. Things that did not interest me. I am now at a point in my search, where I have a small list of about 7 schools, each with 3 professors each, all in rank of most desired to least desired (keep in mind the least desired, is still desired, so even the worst case scenario is still something I would enjoy doing). This has all stemmed from having one clear direct goal. "I want to make medicine and cures". Now granted, there a billion different reasons each person chooses the path they go down, and interest, money, and circumstances all play a role. However, I think too many people lose sight of the bigger picture in their minds when they go through the academic process, and I think that bigger picture can really help answer a lot of questions. I think before each academic step, it is important for one to take a break/pause, and ask themselves these same questions. What is their direction? Why are they going down the route they are? What drives them, motivates them, what defines their passions? Etc. Anyways I hope this helps with your decision making, and progress through your academic and future careers. I personally think passion and interest triumph any knowledge, talent, or skill. If you have a clear direct goal that you are passionate about, and you use that to drive you and motivate you throughout your BS, MA, and or PhD, I think, that is what will set you above the rest.
  2. Glad I could help. I think that's really important to keep in mind in general when you start wondering, why a PhD, when you could stop at a MA? What kind of job do you want as a career? Why the major you chose? It really helps to answer all of those questions, and provides direction and motivation. I.e. I chose a PhD because I want to make medicine and cures, and want to have a direct and active role in the process in the industry, I don't think I can do that with a MA. Again, because of my belief in proteins and their role in diseases and cures, the best option for me was Biochemistry instead of say molecular or cell. I think a lot of people lose sight of the bigger picture and why they're doing what they're doing, especially when you're in the PhD program. It's going to be very stressful at times, and you're not going to enjoy it all the time, and it'll lead you to ask the questions above. It's important to have a strong end goal, one more than "I just want to get my PhD because degree or pay". I think having direction and true passion for that direction is really what separates a good Grad student, and an amazing one, not intellect or skill. Good luck searching!
  3. Check to see what everyone else has. In the sciences, most people actually have pcs, and we will often times share files that are made in Microsoft Office, and Macs struggle with formatting or opening said files. We had a person in our lab who had a mac, and they had problems all the time with files to send us, or files we sent her. Personally, from what I know, everything you can do with a mac you can do with a pc, with the exception of the arts (film, music, editing, etc.). PC has the benefit that you can modify it and use it for other things (if you know what you're doing). If you really know what you're doing, you should just get a linux.
  4. This same reason is why I'm applying to Phd programs as well .Keep in mind, each field and application is different, and despite my low GRE scores I do still intend to apply to some top tier programs.
  5. I understand the pain. I'm personally looking into Biochemistry, but initially it was very difficult to narrow that down. Structural? Computational? DNA or RNA? Proteins? NMR or crystallography? etc. For me, I was in a lab that worked with an NMR and proteins observing structural, computational, and dynamic data sets. From that lab, I read a variety of papers, everything ranging from DNA to RNA and proteins, and methods using everything from NMR, to CD, to Cryo-Ers. Nothing really quite caught my interest like the NMR and proteins, I didn't want completely computational, but I wanted aspects of it. I decided to go with integrative structural bio and pure structural bio. Those were the papers I really got into and I really liked. Rotations might help you as well, but that is a small time-frame and sometimes too specific, I'd reccomend just sticking to papers. Start out a bit broad, and narrow it in based off concepts that really catch your attention. I don't know much about ecology and evolution (I came from Chemistry to Biochem, so I have absolutely no bio background), but I'd assume it works in a very similar fashion to my search for Biochemistry. For me, it really came down to what my purpose and reasoning was for being in Biochem in the first place. I really want to go into pharma and help find cures for various ailments, and I feel as if proteins are the key to that, proteins using NMR and various biophysical instruments. However, for any drug to be designed, one needs to understand the structure and function of the protein, and I feel as if that can best be achieved by looking at its structure and going from there. So that helped me to really narrow my search. Hope this helped!
  6. As someone who has no tattoos, I can tell you how I perceive them, or rather don't. Honestly, initial meetings you might see them, but once you get to know the person, you don't ever notice them again. Now it does matter what kind of tattoo you have, and where its located. It's best to hide them during an interview or conference just for professional sake (same reason you shave, not that beards are bad, but just makes you look clean and professional). I knew a girl who had a big back tattoo, but it was a very elegant trinity tattoo, so I actually think it went very nicely with the dresses she wore at said events (although her back was to the people she was presenting to most of the time, so it didn't even matter). As long as its not an obscene tattoo, hide it initially, then when the people get to know you, go ahead and and feel free to show them.
  7. The most important thing about LOR is how much the person knows you. The grade only comes into factor in regards to their opinion of you. I have heard from multiple PIs, the lack of a LOR is better than a generic bland one that shows the person who wrote it knows nothing about you. Grades can represent many things, and don't necessarily mean you are a bad student. So if you got a B in someones class, but the professor saw you were hard working or really dedicated, than the grade doesn't matter and the professor might not even mention it in their letter. Say if you started rough from an F and brought yourself up to a B, then they might bring it up but only to say you have the ability to improve and are a determined individual. Regardless, LOR are supposed to demonstrate the type of person you are from other peoples point of view, so you really only want to ask people who remember you and like you/have a positive opinion about you. So to answer your questions: screw the grade and ask the person who knows you better. If the person you had a B with knows you better, ask them. If the person who you took a class outside of your major knows you best, ask them. If the people who you got A's with know you better, ask them. Point being, a detailed LOR that demonstrates the type of person you are based on the professors anecdotal evidence of you, is better than a generic LOR saying you got a good grade in their class or did well in their class.
  8. People change, and sometimes, beliefs that used be hidden deep inside, become stronger and more outward. My family in Florida has taken such a change (not all of them, but most). Not in regards to Nazi's and the sort, however in regards to their extremism towards people against their own beliefs. They have always been republican, and always have had a "toughen it up snowflake" attitude, but its always been very mellow and low key. Now, with the recent political turmoil supporting their belief and hate, and as they age, their beliefs become stronger, they are much less tolerant. I.e. during the recent Nazi march, they actually were all for running the people over, saying "the dumb liberal left deserves everything they have coming to them". Now, I as an individual would most closely align to a hippie, so love and peace, fuck indifference, etc. So I am 110% completely against their statements, but they are family. Now, for these reasons we don't have discussions, but they aren't aggressive about it either. They realize we can either agree to disagree, or try and ignore the differences in opinions and move on with our lives. That being said, if it did ever get violent, or if they ever did threaten to say, you aren't our nephew or grandson anymore because of this, I would let them go (they had a similar situation when they find out my cousin was gay, and it was basically agreed, anyone who was intolerant would leave the family or shut their mouth and never bring up their opinion again). I do not attempt to change my family, because I honestly don't think I can, but they are family, and so far our opinions haven't caused any major fights. Now that being said there are a few things I would personally do if I was in said situation: 1) Take care of yourself always. No person should ever undergo mental or physical abuse in any form or shape (hence why when they disapproved of my cousin's sexuality, the immediate option was, leave or stop spreading negativity). 2) Some people can be changed, others can't. In my situation, they are family, I can't do anything even if I can't change their minds, but this is just your husband. If you deem him unable to basically do a 180 (which is rare), then leave. It'll be hard, but it'll be better than being in a relationship with someone you are unhappy with who they are and their opinions. Even if they don't threaten to leave you for it, would you be happy with someone who has opinions that you are so strongly against? 3) People say get help, but the thing that must be understood is, this isn't from some mental illness. Some people just have different opinions than yours. It's not like all of Germany had a mental illness during WW2, or the entire south had a mental illness when it came to their slaves. So I don't really see a need to get "help" from his family or anyone else for that matter. As I stated earlier, people change overtime, and it sounds like he has changed as well. Opinions that he may not really have been too keen on have now gotten stronger. I had this with my previous relationship, we were 6 years in but I had to basically end it because we were going two different ways, and had become two different people. Now this is just my personal advice to you from my experience in life: His opinion probably will not be changed, and at the end of the day, he should care more about you than his opinion. I know how hard it can be to leave someone you love, but I think it's time to realize, you two are going down two different paths... paths that are no longer compatible. It appears he doesn't value you enough, and that he also may have some mental abusing tendancies that are only going to get worse as time goes on. My biggest advice though is, don't stay with him to the point where you are miserable, see it going south ahead of time, and end it before it gets any worse. Some things in a relationship can be worked out, and should be worked out, but others are immediate red flags. This is an immediate red flag in my opinion. Anyways, the final decision is for you to make, I would advise actually talking to someone professional about your decision, and to put your emotions aside and look at the situation logically/rationally. I wish you the best of luck!
  9. Hello everyone, So I've been looking at various PhD programs, specifically in Structural and Integrative Structural Biology. I have my research focus primarily narrowed down to Structural/Functional protein work using NMR. Now I thought that would be specific enough, but it appears it isn't. I have a list of over 10+ schools to apply to, ranging everywhere from Yale, to University of Arizona, to the Scrippts Institute. My limiting factors have been: 1 lab I'm very interested in, and 2 back up labs that I'd also like to join if the first doesn't work. I've looked at location as well, but I don't really care about where I live. Now stipend information would be important to me, but I don't know how I would get to know that from each school. Funding is also important, but I don't want to end up emailing over 30+ professors to see if they have funding or room. I've also already gone and asked around to see if anyone knows any of the Professors I'm interested in and to see if they are immediate no no's. I'm at a point where I can't afford to send over 10 applications, but I also don't know how to narrow the list down. There are some schools who I am more interested in than others (i.e. a first choice, and second choice), but after my 3rd choice, the schools are all on the same level. Also, I don't care too much for brand name, my main focus is research opportunity. My ideas: 1) Some schools are naturally bigger and have many more options: I.e. Yale has over 20+ labs and programs in Structural Biology, whereas the University of Pittsburg only has around 8. Meaning if all 3 of my program interests end up failing, falling back into another lab will be a lot easier. So cut out some of the smaller programs? 2) There are some schools that do have higher application requirements. All schools seem to have an average GRE score, and minimum GPA 3.00, but some have a higher average than others. My GPA and GRE are both basically bare minimum, meaning my application is riding on LOR and research experience. I think those 2 are definitely enough to get me into some of the lower tier schools, but maybe not some of the higher ones (e.g. Yale or Harvard). So maybe just cut them out? That's about it for ideas at the moment. If anyone has any ideas or tips please let me know! And thank you ahead of time!
  10. Hello everyone, I have seen a variety of schools stating the GRE subjects test is not required, but highly reccomended (since I'm applying to Biomed Science I assume I'd need to take the Biochem subjects test). How important is the Subjects test? When they say "reccomended but not required", does that basically mean take the test if you want to get it?
  11. From anecdotal experience: The department chose, and they chose the Professor with the most experience and the research that had time to help the individual. You can build a new relationship with anyone, so I'd say go with the one who's research aligns with yours, it'll be more useful.
  12. I here it's very difficult to bring up ones scores by that much, but with some serious hard work and dedication I think it's possible.
  13. As someone with a 3.00 GPA looking at PhD programs and 50% GRE scores, this gives me ope. Thank you!
  14. One thing that has been really helpful for me, is to actually just ask people in the field you're looking for. Other professors,faculty etc. Chances might be that said individual may have actually met the professor you want to work under. In my case, my PI actually told me to avoid 2 professors I was going to go work under for my PhD because 1 of them, her student had gone to work under and had a terrible time due to his PI and the 2nd one, my PI herself had worked under (small world). So if you have it narrowed down, start asking around in your own school. Chances might have it that you find someone who knows the person and can give you a much more descriptive statement about them than anything online.
  15. As someone looking for a PhD program in a STEM field with a GPA of 3.00 (the bare minimum) and basically 50% GRE score, the thing I've seen on a lot of these admissions is a 3.00 is the minimum, but no cut offs for the GRE, just averages. For my field (Biochemistry) however, background research experience and and LOR are incredibly important, which is where my main strength is. So I'm still looking at top tier schools, I don't know if I'll get it, but the general concensus is, if my LOR and my personal statement is really good, then I have a decent chance given my research background and field I am going into. Point being, it all comes down to networking, and your field. I.e. Say your future PI really likes you and wants you in, lets just say that GPA and GRE could be swung under the rug ;). However each field is different, as is each application.