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Infinito

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Infinito last won the day on December 14 2015

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About Infinito

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  • Application Season
    2016 Fall

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  1. Infinito

    NSF GRFP 2016-2017

    Feel free to ask them questions, like if you'll get the travel grant stipend from it, if any amount can be allocated to your own small project, whether you can activate it in your third year, etc. But unless policy is clearly stated that you get some sort of "bonus" or anything else for getting a grant, programs tend to just absorb the money to keep the program afloat and make up for students that don't get the award (as most programs require their trainees to apply to the NSF, so they already have internal metrics that it's a crapshoot to get, and to make it fair for everyone they tend not to award extra bonuses for it).
  2. Infinito

    NSF GRFP 2016-2017

    VG/VG, VG/E, E/E (Life Sciences - Cell Bio) Honorable Mention. Second year in a row and no more chances. The reviewers had really nice, heart warming comments, but obviously that wasn't enough. One of the VGs might have sunk me as their comment alluded to one of my rec letters explicitly stating what I was doing as this was my rotation PI adding to what I had no space to write about in my proposal, even though I did write it out (seems like they deducted points because I wasn't more specific about which "confocal microscopy" imaging I'd use, or which protein modifications I'd be looking at [I literally spelled it out, though]). So it's still a crapshoot, but in this time of funding drought, I'm truly happy for everyone that got it. It's still a great writing exercise. Also, can people post which division/section they applied to because posting the scores doesn't tell you much as some divisions have higher or lower thresholds (I had an arguably higher score last year but still had HM, lol). Remember: NSF doesn't want to hear anything about human health. That can actually hurt you because they have a limited funding pool for basic science, and the NIH is made to address that.
  3. Infinito

    Prestige vs. Mentor

    I personally wouldn't invest myself in one PI, especially if the school isn't a top program. Maybe if the school had other options in case something happened with the PI, then I would consider it. Just imagine if your PI loses funding, decides to retire, move to another university, etc. Would you be okay then? I had planned to rotate with one PI since I got to where I am, but now there is the potential that they will move to another university. Definitely didn't see that coming. Things like that you need to be aware of, even if you think it'd never affect you.
  4. Infinito

    Ask questions about the PhD application process!

    Accredited programs give you until April 15th to decide. You might just be overestimating their statement. Unless your offer is tied to something like an additional fellowship offer which might be time sensitive to lure people, they can't rescind their admission if you don't get back to them until after March 15th.
  5. Infinito

    GRE Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Test

    Unheard of school, low GPA, or actually if you're applying to a program for which your undergraduate major or coursework doesn't seem to fit the picture (an example in my current class would be a music major who took time off, did a post bacc program, and took the GRE Bio exam to apply to a Biomedical Sciences PhD program).
  6. Infinito

    San Francisco Bay Area, CA

    Obviously I don't know your financial situation, and I know I'll probably personally have a higher tax payment this year as I worked before graduate school, but we're pretty much in the lowest tax bracket, which is pretty much ~10%.
  7. Infinito

    UCSF vs. Princeton (polar opposites)

    Agreed. Pretty much when you're in a top tier program, it really matters up to you how you get to industry if that is your goal. Sometimes it can be useful to have connections through a PI that collaborates with industry, so being at a university where industry pathways and collaborations are not shunned (as they classically used to be) may be something to consider when picking your PhD program. I just recently went to an alumni event for my program which had some panelists from different career paths. On major take away was that you can actually end up in industry without planning for it or even having certain skills - the PhD is supposed to indicate that you're able to learn anything fast and to obtain mastery after all, so there is loads of room for on-the-job training that you wouldn't expect (this includes both science at the bench, but also other things like regulatory affairs and science portfolios and financing). Additionally, it is good to be upfront with your PIs and thesis committee about a genuine desire to go into industry (as opposed to just keeping the door open) as that will allow them to tailor the expectations they have to graduate you (they might require a less impactful paper/s to fulfill your graduation requirement, while a purely academic path may require you to publish in more impactful journals). Though not as necessary, some other factors to consider would also be institutional career development programs, potential institutional programs that allow you to take a quarter/semester off to intern in industry without repercussion, or else programs that will pick up you salary for a period of time if you do an unpaid internship (as an example, maybe in science regulatory affairs, science writing, or a science startup). Also consider whether graduate clubs exist for career development (consulting cases, biotech investments, etc). Also, @jougami: While I cannot speak to the majority of the schools you were admitted to about neuroscience (as I applied to more bio related programs, including Duke), I can attest that Penn Neuroscience is top notch with people doing using optigenetics, in addition to it being one of the best stipended/funded programs at Penn. The only negative comment I have is that there are some politics going on in that department, but I'm not sure how much of that spills over into the graduate students.
  8. Infinito

    San Francisco Bay Area, CA

    Housing is about on point if you don't try harder to get into a larger house. It's probably ~$1200 if you land in campus housing. Food is probably lower than you think. First years get plenty of free food, so much so that I usually don't cook for weeks on end. Taxes would be a better estimate at ~$3000 for the year for Federal, and ~$300 for CA. Note that obviously your first year at UCSF you'll only have gotten the stipend for a quarter, and you don't pay CA taxes until you've lived there for a year. Transportation is also too high, unless you're going to be living really far and doing the $70/month MUNI pass. I don't travel that much, so I just use my MUNI card by filing it with money, not a monthly pass. The UCSF shuttle gets me everywhere I want to go (and, remember, a majority of my classmates are in campus housing, though mostly in Mission Bay). Also, usually when I go somewhere in an Uber, I split it with friends so it averages close to $3 a trip (compared to $2.25 on MUNI).
  9. Infinito

    UCSF vs. Princeton (polar opposites)

    I've been mostly holding off on commenting until I saw my pal @Bioenchilada post, so I figured I'd chime in as well. Pretty much everything that Bioenchilada said was on point. Having gone to an Ivy League for undergrad myself, and knowing that prestige of school and overall funding =/= grad school experience or funding, I only applied to like 1 Ivy only for their program during my application round. That being said, I'm now at UCSF and had some misconceptions before I even got here, so let me address some parts in the section I quoted above. 1. UCSF is TWO campuses - Parnassus and Mission Bay. There is literally a Biophysics program, there's TETRAD for more pure sciences research, not to mention powerhouses like QB3, etc. There isn't necessarily an engineering department besides the joint program with Berkeley, but I'm actually rotating in a bioengineering lab next quarter. So many innovations come out from UCSF because engineering research is being conducted here (with applications to medicine, obviously, but that are generalizable). 2. On the money issue: You're not going to graduate school to get rich while you're there. Whether it be NYC or SF, the cost of living in these desirable places is pretty much the price of admission to be in the theme park. I did originally have qualms about this, as I even calculated that at some other schools I might be able to save up about $20K across 5 years or mortgage a house, but is that the point of graduate school? Also, if I'm going to be somewhat destitute, I'd rather do it in graduate school, not when I'm doing a post doc (note, loads of post docs love being here, and they get paid even less than graduate students due to the UC-wide post doc union). As someone from a low income background, with no family to support me, it's not as bad as you think. Once you get over the mental barrier, you realize that even here people can live fine on our salary. I won't say it's necessarily comfortable or thriving, but it's enough to survive. You forgot 4 other important things that UCSF does to offset the cost. a. You get two years in heavily subsidized student housing. b. You get a $4K relocation-allowance which you can use for anything before coming to UCSF (helps to offset costs of moving). c. Some programs provide you with a laptop and other goodies for matriculating (some have additional housing funds). d. There is a cost-of-living allowance given to people that live off campus, and even then you can find off-campus housing for under $1000/mo. It might mean not having a single studio, but that's just the way it is. Final point: anywhere you go, fellowships do not supplement your income directly. Some programs might give you extra money, but this is incredibly rare as your stipend is set by NIH/NSF standards, so usually programs that advertise these bonuses do so because their stipend is on the lower end of the spectrum. Now, I'm going to flip around some of your pros form Princeton. 3. Quality over Quantity. I'm not sure why you would put that as a pro, as if somehow UCSF's overwhelming amount of faculty is indicative of lower quality? You do realize that UCSF is the number one recipient of NIH funds, right? No school anywhere hires people without their own sources of income, and a scientist's ability to maintain funding is pretty much a straight correlation with the quality of their work or its impact. Obviously UCSF is a purely medical/science university so there will absolutely be an overwhelming amount of faculty to choose from, but that is not a sign of lower quality. 4. Tons of money and funding. Princeton may have a huge endowment, but you'll almost never see any of that money, especially since those endowments tend to be trapped in undergraduate services or things that don't spill over into your science. You may get better career services, free food, and other things, but graduate programs tend to be maintained through training grants, tuition remissions, and funding overhead. At any top program, you're going to see programs tell you that you're covered by the program for X number of years, and then your PI guarantees the rest of your funding; of course, in the case of something catastrophic, like your PI losing funding or leaving, top programs have mechanisms to still support you. So look out for that information from places you're interested in. Finally, I'm going to address this since it's so insidious. Get.Over.School.Prestige.To.Non.Science.People. I don't know why people feel like they need to somehow boost their egos by thinking that people not in the sciences need to recognize their school - as if that was a metric for anything. If I had listened to my family, I would have gone to Yale or MIT since they didn't know about UCSF; luckily, I know better and have no need to be used by family and friends as some talking point to other people they're trying to impress. I went where I thought I had the best fit with the program and my interviewing cohort, in addition to the science being conducted there and where I would be living for the next 5-6 years. Additionally, UCSF has huge recognition on the West coast in all circles. I also see that you turned down Harvard and MIT interviews; so really, if non-scientific reputation means anything to you, you should have taken those interviews, since while it seems that UCSF doesn't hold a candle to the prestige you desire, Princeton realistically pales in comparison to those other two as well, and even more in the sciences.
  10. Infinito

    Scared of graduate course work

    Any school worth its weight will have classes that are challenging - they're critical to make you think like a scientist, and unfortunately most undergraduate programs don't help develop these critical thinking skills. I can tell you that taking time off before going to grad school has taken me out of the zone for studying, and this is true for more than half of my classmates. That being said, programs have an incentive to help you pass. Nobody fails. You may suffer for a bit, but it will eventually pass, and you will learn form it. And, usually after your first year, you don't take courses any more, so learning becomes up to you (whether you want to take extra classes, or to learn about things related to your thesis).
  11. Infinito

    2017 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Linking to my previous post on this matter (and the forum search function is great since this gets asked every year)
  12. This. There are plenty of non-traditional postbacc programs as well (designed for people in your situation). However, if you don't get in to your Masters programs, I suggest actually applying to PhD programs. Even if you believe what you do as a tech doesn't count as research, that is irrelevant to the adcoms since your personal statement will drive home the fact that you have been doing science for many years now, and are hungry and passionate to pursue a research career where you are actually asking the questions. There are plenty of people whom I met during my interview weekends and whom I have met during recruitment that have atypical backgrounds and little research experience. P.S. the reason I suggest a PhD is because a Masters will pretty much keep you as a higher-salaried tech or lab manager (if that's what you're looking for) in academia, but that usually isn't enough for industry anymore (there is a glut of PhDs clamoring for limited positions already). If you're fine with that (and can find a lab where you can have your own project), then great! But if you do want to conduct your own research or run your own lab, then you might want to do more research on the matter.
  13. Infinito

    2017 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Two quick points to follow up on some of the conversations here. 1. If you are wait-listed, other people declining will rarely move you into the "admitted" zone. Every accepted individual has until April 15th to decline, which is when you also need to accept your acceptances to be safe. Because schools accept more people than they plan to have matriculate to get their desired class sizes, you need to consider that you might only be called off the wait-list only in some catastrophic circumstance, and most likely after April 15th. So if you're betting on this, think very carefully about your other options. Additionally, cajoling people into speeding up their thought processes in figuring out which school to attend is uncalled for; though, on the flip side, I did let go of schools after all my interviews were done if I couldn't see myself "going there," so people don't need to hoard schools that they know they ultimately won't go to. 2. Interviews are not only a test of fit for yourself, but also for the program honestly (as they'll be making close to half a million dollar investment in your education, at the minimum). Interviewers are coordinated by the best of the ability by a program's admin, so sometimes getting someone that you didn't want or ask for, or getting grilled, wasn't actually the intention by the admin - it just ended up that way. As stated above, the admins know which professors are known to grill. This is usually frowned down upon in the grand scheme of things. Students with overwhelmingly bad interviews get rejected, but out of each interview panel, there tends to be one professor with veto abilities (this can go for or against you). What people tend to forget is that the hosting students also have a say; while the right review from a PI is enough to get you in, an overwhelmingly negative response from a bunch of students will also likely get you rejected.
  14. Infinito

    Unofficial Biology/Biomedical/MCB PhD Rankings

    Absolutely agreed. The best piece of advice that I can give you @Pepperoni and anyone else asking this question is that you need to take department rankings with a grain of salt. Even for US News, their rankings are heavily influenced by undergraduate prestige, endowment, etc. This sometimes translates over to the graduate programs, but the correlation isn't strong. Just think of a couple of schools with huge university endowments, and then remember that most of that money is not dedicated towards departments or graduate funding. Finding out about all these unquantifiable/subjective metrics is the point of interviews. There's noway somebody could give you a definitive 20 school ranking without having interviewed or been to a majority of those schools. But, I'm going to throw you some helpful information. Schools receiving large amounts of NIH funding tend to have incredibly strong graduate research programs and infrastructure for those sciences. Check out the Tables of NIH Funding to US Schools, which I found compiled at Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research. For example, the ranked list of schools awarded NIH funding can be found here. Another great resource to look at would be the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities. They have good breakdowns by broad subjects, which give more weight to graduate level research. Also Phds.org gives you intervals of rankings based on surveys from doctoral recipients from a bunch of schools. The Bio/Integrated Biology and Biomedical Sciences one can be found here. Since I can't be unbiased as I am happy at (and attend) UCSF, I'll give you an example of why GradCafe or US Newsweek rankings would suck to be used as a metric. For instance, UCSF has been the #1 recipient of NIH funding for many years (as in the table above). Additionally, their Shanghai ranking in Med and Life Science categories puts them in the top 5 overall. However, if you compare them to other rankings, they fall short because they don't have undergraduates, alumni, or a large endowment (which is heavily weighed in other rankings). Yet, almost every scientist and person in the life sciences field, especially on the West Coast, would know what UCSF is, and it's high caliber level of excellence. Despite this, most of my non-science friends and family keep confusing my institution with Berkeley or SF State. So, if you're in it for the layman's prestige , you'll probably be disappointed in a lot of your choices if that's your sole metric, or even something you're considering AT ALL. TL;DR: Do your own research, go on interviews. Nobody here can answer your question besides giving a nebulous list of Top Tier Schools (much easier to judge based on top 20 NIH funded schools). Thread should be closed before people get the opportunity to flame.
  15. Infinito

    2017 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    As a current BMS student and someone who was heavily involved in recruitment, I can validate that statement. Faculty get assigned (most likely someone you interviewed with), and they have until the end of the week to contact you. Good luck
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