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Biological Sciences interview questions thread 2012


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33 replies to this topic

#21 hyt5009

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 03:10 PM

Is it appropriate to bring power-point slides to present/summarize my past research projects? I think figures and bullet points would really help me and the interviewers understand what I did.
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#22 coonskee

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 03:17 PM

Is it appropriate to bring power-point slides to present/summarize my past research projects? I think figures and bullet points would really help me and the interviewers understand what I did.


I mean, if you have it on an iPad or printed out then it might be okay for figures - but I was speaking to some profs about the qualification exam process, and they said that they only allowed chalk talks for one's research because powerpoints can be used as a crutch. You should know your research inside out and be able to explain it eloquently without having to rely on bullet points, imho :) Practice talking about it out loud! That really helped me.
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#23 hyt5009

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 03:29 PM

@ coonskee ~ Thanks for the response.

I am thinking about printing out a few figures regarding my hypotheses (potential signaling pathways. etc.). Thought that visuals would really clarify things, but I will certainly practice taking about it out loud in case they don't allow people to bring anything during the interview process.
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#24 aberrant

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 05:56 PM

I mean, if you have it on an iPad or printed out then it might be okay for figures - but I was speaking to some profs about the qualification exam process, and they said that they only allowed chalk talks for one's research because powerpoints can be used as a crutch. You should know your research inside out and be able to explain it eloquently without having to rely on bullet points, imho :) Practice talking about it out loud! That really helped me.


are you referring the exam that determines one advance to candidacy - that qualification exam? I thought it depends on the school, isn't it?
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#25 dhm0219

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 08:15 PM

Do not bring a powerpoint to your grad school interviews. Even if the figures are great and super-clear, the interviewers want to hear that you're able to talk about your research and think critically about it. They don't care about your data and you're not there to educate them about your findings, they just want to see that you really understand your research and can answer questions about it.
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#26 greenertea

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 05:20 AM

Do not bring a powerpoint to your grad school interviews. Even if the figures are great and super-clear, the interviewers want to hear that you're able to talk about your research and think critically about it. They don't care about your data and you're not there to educate them about your findings, they just want to see that you really understand your research and can answer questions about it.


I agree. If you can communicate the design and significance of your research projects verbally, it shows much better scientific communication skills . If you do bring figures, I feel like you should make sure they're very simple -- no complex gels or charts. I would only want to use a figure if I was trying to communicate that's something difficult to describe verbally.
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#27 hyt5009

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 03:54 PM

I agree. If you can communicate the design and significance of your research projects verbally, it shows much better scientific communication skills . If you do bring figures, I feel like you should make sure they're very simple -- no complex gels or charts. I would only want to use a figure if I was trying to communicate that's something difficult to describe verbally.


Thanks for the advice! I am not planning to show any data but just a figure about my hypothesis. I will copies with me in case they are interested to see it.
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#28 fisherm1

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 01:37 PM

Was anyone asked to discuss ideas for a possible future thesis project?
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#29 dhm0219

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 10:06 PM

Was anyone asked to discuss ideas for a possible future thesis project?

Not I. The closest I've gotten to a question like was either general questions about what I would like to study, or, in some cases the PI would talk about a few open projects and ask if I would be interested in working on any of them.

In my experience, though, the interviewers haven't really even expected me to know what they work on, so questions about a specific thesis project would be very out of place. Maybe it's different for Pharmacology, though?
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#30 virion

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 10:53 PM

Not I. The closest I've gotten to a question like was either general questions about what I would like to study, or, in some cases the PI would talk about a few open projects and ask if I would be interested in working on any of them.

In my experience, though, the interviewers haven't really even expected me to know what they work on, so questions about a specific thesis project would be very out of place. Maybe it's different for Pharmacology, though?


I agree. For a lot of my interviews, I either read or browsed a recent publication of that professor. In basically every case, this was overkill as they didn't expect me to be aware of their work (maybe the organism or gene being studied).

A tough interviewer might ask you what kind of project/questions could be developed from some data they show or describe to you. I had a couple instances of that.
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#31 dhm0219

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 09:06 PM

A tough interviewer might ask you what kind of project/questions could be developed from some data they show or describe to you. I had a couple instances of that.


Mind saying where?
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Interviews: 9/10 (UC Berkeley-MCB, UCSF-Tetrad, Scripps-Bio, UCSD-Biomed Sci, Tufts-ISP, MIT-Bio, Harvard-MCB, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA-ACCESS)
Acceptances: 5/6 (UCSD-Biomed Sci, Tufts-ISP, Harvard-MCB, Berkeley-MCB, MIT-Biology)
Rejections: 2/10(Stanford-Biosciences, UCSF-Tetrad)


#32 virion

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 05:25 AM

Mind saying where?


Kind of. But reading my post it sounds a bit worse than it really was. Most of the "interpret my data" type questions, I quickly figured out, were looking for fairly elementary answers. In one case where I thought I was struggling to answer, I was trying to come up with something much more specific than they had in mind. As I mentioned, they hadn't expected me to do much/any background reading in advance.
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#33 coonskee

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 02:54 PM

are you referring the exam that determines one advance to candidacy - that qualification exam? I thought it depends on the school, isn't it?


Yes, I was. Sorry, should've been more clear in why I said that - I guess what I meant to say is that, since CU sees the use of a powerpoint as a crutch in the qual exam process (hence the need for a chalk talk), i figured that some interviewers (regardless of school) might see the use of powerpoint slides in an interview as a crutch, like you don't know your research well enough to just straight talk about it. Please let that make sense. :-P

Edited by coonskee, 22 February 2012 - 02:56 PM.

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#34 nari27

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 08:49 AM

My last interview I got asked a lot of questions trying to get at how well rounded I was. They asked about the conferences I'd presented at. They asked specifically about the types of presentations I had done poster/oral and if they conferences were local/regional/national/international. I also got asked about my work and volunteer activities. They wanted to know about the kinds of extracurricular activities I was involved in. They also asked if I had been the recipient of any grants which i had written for, or if I had received any awards or merit scholarships. Asked about my writing experience and also wanted narratives of each of the research projects that I had been involved with.
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