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biotechie last won the day on June 5 2017

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About biotechie

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    Cell and Molecular Biology

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  1. Houston, TX

    If you live on the bus route or rail to school, it is pretty good. If you want to use it as your only mode of transportation, it is not so good, so it is good news that you have a car! I like using the rail for events like the Rodeo or to get downtown, but other than that, the only time I use it is for getting to lab. Uber/Lyft are also pretty good. I lived outside of the 610 loop for my first two years, and I would avoid living that far out. It was a 45-minute bus ride each day, and now that they've changed the bus route, is a 45-minute ride + a 20-minute walk or 8-10 minutes waiting/riding the rail. My friends and I have had the best luck renting privately owned condos in a little area called "Condoland." This is near the Dental School mostly down Cambridge Street and along Old Spanish Trail and the "nice side" of Holly Hall (going East from Cambridge). There are also nice apartments nearby, like Stella. Most of these are near the 60 bus route, which drops off throughout the Med Center and runs until 10:20-ish at night!
  2. Alternative Career Paths

    Does your school have a career development center? Mine has one that is only a few years old, but it is already a great benefit for our students that want to leave academia. Students are going into consulting, becoming genetics counselors, teaching, working in policy, and others. Since I want to stay in academia (I know, I'm crazy, but I still love science), I'm helping them gather the necessary information to help build out the academic track. You should see if a career development group or something like this is available to you. They can talk through things with you and help you develop an Individual Development Plan to help you reach whatever goals you have in mind after a couple of meetings.
  3. Ask questions about the PhD application process!

    You're welcome! The stats you see here represent a very small proportion of the applicant field, and honestly, after seeing the stats here, many people choose not to share theirs because they think they don't "measure up." Based on what you've said here, unless you have some weird black mark on your record, you should definitely be able to get into a graduate program somewhere. If you limit yourself to schools that have strict cutoffs for GRE and GPA, you might have less luck, but I think that sort of system is a poor measure of a scientist because the GRE and GPA only measure your ability to take tests, not be a scientist. That's a big reason I regretted one of my applications as I found out later that they were using that cutoff. Programs I applied to that don't: Baylor College of Medicine (Interdisciplinary, but they are restructuring the grad programs starting 2019 admits) University of Florida (Interdisciplinary) University of Utah (Good epigenetics) University of California at San Diego (Lots of good stuff) Feel free to DM me if you have specific questions you don't want to ask here.
  4. Ask questions about the PhD application process!

    Hey there! I got the opportunity to help with recruitment a couple of years ago; we didn't really look for publications. Instead we looked to see that people had worked in labs. Often people have papers as a consequence of experience, but I'd say only about 1/4 of applicants actually had them. I didn't, and my papers from the M.S. STILL aren't published. What seems to be most important is that you understand the research process and that your letters reflect this as much as the dates on your CV. 16 months of solid lab experience looks better to the AdComm than a summer REU at a prestigious university because that means you were in a lab long enough to really learn science. The fact that you will have a M.S. (assuming it is a research-based, science masters) also gives you a leg up. Long story short: Don't worry about papers. Don't defer your application. Just make sure you're a good scientist. Finally, and most importantly, don't view Ivy's as the "best" schools; you may feel happier and more at home at one of the ones you're calling a safety, and you should go where you feel best. If you're interested in a niche field, there are large amounts of people studying things you're interested in at a smaller school, such as UTSW for me in the lipid field. Choose your schools for the program and the PIs (early to mid-career are best) that you want to work under and then aim for Ivy's or big-name PIs for your postdoc when you need less guidance. I'm telling you this from my own positive experience with a brand new PI and from watching my peers struggle in big labs where they get little attention from their mentor. I'm about to graduate with multiple first-author papers and several co-authors, so I'm set up well to get a good postdoc (or industry job).
  5. That matters much more for postdoc than it does for graduate school. I actually recommend joining a smaller lab with a junior to mid-career PI that will have time to really mentor you and teach you how to be a scientist. Then you can go for those HHMI labs when you're a postdoc and are ready to start being more independent. I went to the more extreme end of the "early career" PI spectrum and joined a brand new PI's lab. If you pick a good one (which you should be able to figure out in your rotation), younger PIs and PIs with smaller labs are great. I have been better prepared for postdoc (or even a career in industry) than many of my peers that are in huge labs with well-known PIs. Make sure wherever you choose there are PIs that can teach you the way you learn best.
  6. Post-interview

    Definitely send Thank Yous! Also personalize them, especially if they're someone that you might consider rotating with in the future. Make sure you send them almost as soon as you get back home as most AdComms meet within a week of your interview. Also, if you had a student leading you around, make sure you contact them, too. They will likely also be giving some notes to the committee. In addition, usually there are one or two students directly serving on the AdComm from my experience. I got to serve for one season and I can say it is definitely worth your while if you're serious about the school.
  7. PhD vs. MSc

    I have a M.S. and will finish a PhD in the next few months. While I've chosen to pursue academia as my own path, there are TONS of non-teaching options for you with a PhD that will be more difficult to attain with just a M.S. Do you want to run your own projects in the future? If so, a PhD is probably going to be a better route for you if you want to do industry. If you're happy being part of a group of scientists that work under someone else, you may be able to get by with a M.S. However, we had a lab manager a few years ago that wanted to move into industry. Even with 3 years of experience after his Master's, he still got passed over for PhDs. If you go the M.S. route, you may need lots of experience before you can get the job you want, so if it were me, I might want to do the PhD if I'm going to be spending that time getting experience, anyway. Are you more interested in lab work or writing? My guess is lab work since you specifically state bench work, but there is lots of interest in PhDs who do science writing, both as people who will help prepare your scientific research for publication and/or prereview your grants. Have you learned about consulting at all? Many PhDs get recruited by consulting companies, both science-based and not. Finally, lots of PhD scientists are being recruited to lead science initiatives and promote/do science communication to the public. This ranges from science writing for news sites to being someone who designs curricula or helps secure funding from the government or private donors for scientific research. Nobody is going to be able to tell you, "With a PhD, you can expect to make this much," because PhD scientists go on to do so many different things. The same goes for M.S. but with a shorter ladder to climb. Job prospects are a little easier to give you information on, but only after you have a general idea of what you want to do. If you're unsure but know you want to go to graduate school, I advise you to find a school with a good career development center. While only a few years old, the Baylor College of Medicine Career Development Center is exceptional.
  8. Both are great schools, but there's a lot more that needs to go into this decision. For example, if you're interested in lipids and cardiovascular disease, UTSW is going to have some great labs, but if not, it could still be a good school. Have you heard back from all of the places to which you applied? Which program design do you like best? Are both similar? Will they prepare you for the career you are interested in pursuing? Are there more professors you're interested in working with at one institution over the other? How likely are they to be taking students next year? Where do their students end up after graduation? You also need to factor in cost of living, whether you want to stay closer to family, if your significant other can move with you, and whether you actually want to live there.
  9. I did not include citations in any of mine, but I was applying biomed, not bioengineering. Also, check the prompt for each school's written parts closely. I did not go into my research in detail in any statement of purpose as mine asked me to talk about why I'm motivated to do science and my aspirations, not what research I had done. Some asked me to talk about research I wanted to do, but half of my schools had a separate research statement or summary that I was to submit about my previous experience.
  10. Best apps for grad school?

    I LOVE Mendeley! I actually tried Zotero, first, but ended up liking Mendeley, better. I highly recommend it! Check with your school; mine offers us encrypted cloud storage space, which is really helpful for working from home! Note you'll lose that space when you graduate if your school offers it, so you'll want to do a good backup!
  11. Spending most of the stipend on housing?

    The thing the original poster did not mention was what field they are in. "Fully funded" stipends vary in definition by field, and for some, they only fund you for 9 months and you're off in the summer or may still require you to pay a couple thousand dollars in fees. In my case, my biomed program is year-round and our projects require so much work that we cannot work other jobs. We're paid as part-time, 20-hour employees, but we're working far more, so they really have to give us enough to live on. I actually don't know any grad students in my field that have taken out student loans to "fill gaps." Everyone I know around here is able to live reasonably comfortably. I have my own apartment close to school and spend about 50% of costs on living expenses. I don't live like a queen, but I make enough to provide what I need, make a car payment, and go on a short vacation each year (or in the case of this year, get married). One thing that is different about my program than some others is that healthcare is included, and doesn't come out of my stipend. This, and the total amount of my stipend, may be the difference between my biomed program and your biology program. However, I would not go somewhere where the stipend is not enough to have the necessities. If you're paying more than 3/4 of what you make in rent and basic living expenses, I would probably not have accepted that offer and would have chosen a different program. One thing to remember, as has been mentioned by others, is you need to establish what you need (over wants) and how much those needs are going to cost. I decided fast internet was a need so I can video chat with my long-distance fiance each night, but I decided to forgo cable because it isn't something essential to my life. I didn't need brand new, stainless steel appliances, a huge pool, and a state of the art fitness center, so I went for an older condo with older, working appliances because I wanted to live on my own, which shaved off about $400 in rent for me a month. However, I could have gotten a roommate and saved even more, and this is something I highly recommend. I don't wear name-brand clothes, but I save enough that I get to go for a good shopping adventure every once in a while. You get the picture.
  12. Listing presentations on resume?

    This just sounds like Journal Club, and I would say that does not count. You wouldn't list others' publications on your resume, would you? The same is true for presentations on others' work. The only presentations listed on my resume and CV are those that include research I participated in. As I'm getting more senior in graduate school, I'll soon start weeding out presentations that were for departmental seminars and leave only those at meetings, etc.
  13. undergrad grunt work?

    I've had several undergrads (and high school students) come through the labs I've been a part of, and their experience are all similar to what I experienced when I started out. When I started as an undergrad researcher, I started doing things just as you are... taking out biohazard trash, cleaning benches, maintaining equipment. Then I moved on to handling and weaning the mice, genotyping, etc, then to sterile techniques for mammalian cell culture, and finally I started my own projects, but that took about 6 months. They cannot (and should not) let you start contributing to their expensive experiments until they know you've learned enough to do the experiment appropriately. This is far different than most psychology research studies, and you have to build a skillset for this. No matter what people say, doing experiments in the biology lab is not the simple step-by-step that it is in your classes. You have to put in quite a bit of time to learn how things in the lab work and what needs to go into an experiment. Remember that their experiments are going to be funded by grants. That funding is limited and experiments are expensive. In addition, wouldn't you hate to generate some "data" that derailed the direction of the lab only to find that it was wrong later because you didn't do it correctly? I've seen this happen, and it isn't pretty! It takes a lot of experience with seemingly menial things to do well in the lab. Cleaning up biohazard trash means you're less likely to contaminate yourself with a virus, etc when you're doing a real experiment. You might spend a couple weeks pouring gels for western blots for people in the lab to use, which seems menial, but now you have a valuable skill that is one of the most important parts of a protocol that you likely won't mess up when you get to run a real experiment. Also, 20 hours is nearly nothing. That's the minimum amount my current PI allows for time for undergraduates in the lab. If they can't be in at least 20 hours a week, they're not going to get to join the lab because they won't ever be able to get anything meaningful done except for what you call, "grunt work." Was your 20 hours in a single week? If you've only alloted 5-7 hours to lab a week, you're only going to get grunt work. This is because experiments take a lot of time! A western blot takes about 6 hours the first day and 4 hours the second day with some incubations in between. That doesn't count the 3 hours it takes to prep protein for the blot, or the 6 hours I spent dissecting mice to get the tissues for the experiment, or the 2 hours a day I spent treating mice for two weeks before the dissection. That's just one experiment. A typical grad student has 3-4 of these going on at a time while also doing data analysis on the previous ones. In our lab, we expect an experienced undergrad to handle one of these on their own (with guidance from a grad student). However, we don't let them do an experiment like that right out of the gate. They have to do exactly what you're doing first so they can show that they're committed, but most importantly that they're careful and they can follow direction. Once they show that they can do this, I start them with small, bacterial cloning experiments for things we need in the lab. If they do a good job, they get to move up to something more exciting. I have a high school student, now, who moved up to doing mouse experiments in about 2 months, and she's an author on my last paper. Don't be so negative. I would not call what you're doing suffering at all; in fact, I think it is quite nice of them to have you handling biohazard trash rather than starting with gross dissection (or worse, poop processing). If you're disgusted by biohazard trash, which should be nicely bagged or boxed up so you just have to close it and autoclave it, then I would question how well you will be able to handle the real experimental work. Mice are gross, and if you're not working with those, you'll be working with human samples, bacteria, viruses, or cell llines, which can also be quite stinky and gross. You need to evaluate if you're going to be able to deal with these things. Finally, your reasoning for being in the lab might affect what you get to do. If we get someone that is just fleshing out their resume for med school, it is usually obvious even if they don't tell us; they're usually not as committed to being in the lab when we need them and don't do A+ work on what we assign them to do. Because of this, they don't do as well with the grunt work, and usually get a smaller project, if any. However, if a student wants to go to grad school or is genuinely interested in research, they're also usually willing to be in lab a little more and they really put in the effort. Those are the students that get the cool projects because they ask for things to do, they ask questions about the research, they raise their hand in lab meeting, they read papers, etc. If something goes wrong with their experiment, these are the students that come up to you and say, "Well, this didn't work, but here are the things that could have gone wrong and here's how I want to troubleshoot it." If that's the kind of project you're wanting, you need to be that kind of student. If you're still concerned, send me a message. I'd be happy to talk more with you about this. You should also talk to the faculty member in charge of your lab, but don't be disappointed if they tell you everything we've just told you.
  14. Ask questions about the PhD application process!

    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.
  15. 2017 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    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! 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!