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blc073

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blc073 last won the day on December 15 2017

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About blc073

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    Cambridge, MA
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    Biological and Biomedical Sciences

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  1. blc073

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    I'm a graduate student at Harvard studying neurogenomics. The Department of Neurobiology is amazing and collaborative and the Department of Genetics is amazing and collaborative. I've never felt like I am in a competition. Everyone is open to working together and happy to meet for coffee to discuss their projects. I met with a post-doc from another lab doing similar work as my lab, and we discussed our projects and planned a collaboration. If I ever need help with computational analyses, I can always find someone to walk through it with me. Harvard College, HMS, Broad, all the hospitals, MIT, BU, Tufts - they all work together. Harvard is super collaborative, not competitive, and a great environment. Also, my fiancee and I love living in Cambridge, and we have a lot of friends who love Boston (Mission Hill and JP, primarily). Don't let a reputation from decades ago influence your decision. In my experience, smaller and mid-tier schools are more competitive than places like Harvard.
  2. blc073

    NSF GRFP 2017-18

    This seems likely. In 2016, the results came out the Tuesday after Easter.
  3. blc073

    NSF GRFP 2017-18

    I agree. It's getting a bit ridiculous.
  4. blc073

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Let me start by saying that you are dealing with the best dilemma in the world: should I go to amazing school A or amazing school B? Definitely take a moment to be proud of yourself for being in this position! I can give you general advice, then I'll make a push for BBS, because of course I will. Both programs are absolutely outstanding. GSK is GSK and they have one of the best programs in the world for cancer biology. If you are dead set on cancer biology, GSK is a great choice. With the being said, at Harvard you will find not only Dana Farber, but also the cancer center at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Koch Institute at MIT. In addition, as a BBS student, you will be able to take Harvard's cancer courses and MIT's cancer courses (Bob Weinberg, the guy who literally wrote the book on cancer, teaches the MIT cancer course). So in terms of research and coursework, GSK might be a bit better, but I'm not convinced they are leading the field. As far as program size, I have never felt unsupported by the program. The BBS program administrators are amazing and I get replies to emails within an hour, usually sooner. I don't know about the GSK experience, but I can say that BBS is a phenomenal program that makes every student feel supported. I think it's safe to say that most academic aspects are similar, so a big part of your decision will have to come down to location. Do you want to live in New York or Boston for five to six years? That's a super personal question. Personally, I can't see myself living in Manhattan that long. It's such a crazy town. Boston and Cambridge are super chill. You can get a cocktail for less than $17 and rent isn't ridiculous. My fiancee and I have a two-bedroom house to ourselves in Cambridge (ten minutes from Harvard Square), and we still save quite a bit of money, go on vacations to Europe once a year, and are paying for our own wedding. That's all from our grad school stipends (neither of us come from money). My unbiased advice is to consider seriously where you want to live. Both programs will get you into industry or a top post-doc, and you will make your grad school experience what you want it to be. The question is whether you want to do it all in NYC or in Boston. For my unabashed push for BBS, I'll start by saying that I ******* love BBS. I'm not being paid by them to say anything, and honestly I don't really care who is in the new BBS class in the fall, but I can seriously say that the program has been absolutely phenomenal. Susan Dymecki (program head) is one of the nicest people I've ever met. She is genuinely helpful and supportive. The whole BBS office is supportive, and I've never felt like I am in a class of 75. I have my friends in the program, then there are people in the program who I haven't really met. That's how it works with large programs. I could just as easily be in a program of ten. I actually think the larger program increases your chances of finding people with whom you click. I don't really believe in coursework as a legitimate pedagogical pursuit, so I can't say much about coursework. I mean, I enjoyed my courses, but whatever. You can take courses at HMS, Harvard College, MIT, and a few other places. Don't let GSK's weird year-long course persuade you to do anything. You can build an equally effective course plan at Harvard. I should state that doing rotations while taking courses is a really important part of the first year. If you want to spend the first year only taking courses, go to medical school or do a masters. You need to be in the lab to instantiate the compendium of scientific knowledge you'll be learning. I'm pretty shocked and disappointed that there are programs that separate coursework and rotations. GSK needs to chill. Here's a big factor to think about: if you have any reason to believe that cancer biology might not be the only thing you like, you have to go to Harvard, right? I mean, yeah, you can be a great cancer biologist at GSK, but you can also be a great cancer biologist at Harvard. However, you can't be a great neuroscientist or geneticist or microbiologist or computational biologist at GSK. Harvard lets you explore other fields. I did six years of cancer research before starting grad school. I interviewed at cancer only places and my research statements were all about cancer cell metabolism. Then I came to BBS and now I am in a neurogenomics lab using single cell RNA-seq to study neuron-glia interactions. It's a crazy world, so you don't want to put yourself in a box before even starting your PhD. Harvard also has something like 800 faculty with whom you can work. It's almost overwhelming how many choices you have. Finally, Boston is just a wonderful place to live. My fiancee and I are from the midwest, but we've actually been really happy here. There are tons of breweries and great restaurants. The harbor is super fun. We live in a nice quiet neighborhood in Cambridge, and everything is chill. Harvard is always having events, so it's easy to find your niche. Overall. I'm sorry your weekend at Harvard wasn't everything it's supposed to be, but I can honestly say being in BBS is pretty great. I don't think you'll regret choosing BBS over GSK. I've said a lot here, but I'd be happy to talk with you more in private message or elsewhere. I can also put you in contact with a first year BBS student who decided to join BBS over GSK. Good luck with the decision making!
  5. blc073

    Alternative Career Paths

    I know the struggle. I should start by saying that the notion that non-academic careers are "alternative" is silly. I think something like 75% of new PhDs do something outside of academia. Here are a couple of things I've considered (I'm still on the academic track, for now...): - Patent law. This career won't increase patient contact, but you will make a solid impact on science. Once you have a PhD, you can get a job at a law firm as a technology specialist making $90,000 to $120,000 each year (figures from people who have gone through the process). Most firms have programs to make you a patent attorney. After a year or two, the firm will pay for you to go to law school nights. During this time, most firms will reduce your work load so you can pass your classes and you'll still make a solid technology specialist salary. Once you have your JD, you'll be promoted to an associate making $180,000 (standard starting salary). Five years after the PhD, you'll be directly responsible for helping scientists patent their inventions while earning a solid salary. - Medicine. This is the best option if you are yearning for patient contact. There are a lot of MD programs out there for new PhDs who want to do clinical research and see patients. Some programs (NYU and Columbia) even let you do a three year MD. After the MD, you can choose a residency program that is designed for researchers. You'll get paid more than other residents (usually a $20,000 stipend in addition to your resident salary), and you will have a nice research-clinic balance. Most programs let you spend up to 90% of your time in the lab during your final years. - Biotech. You can easily get a job at a large biotech company making $110,000/year or so. Those companies are desperate for computational people, so you could get a job straight out of the PhD running a project in a computational division. You can also check out biotech post-doc programs. They typically pay more than academic post-docs, and you'll be prepared to join as a senior scientist after a few years. Those are the big three, in my opinion. You could also check out non-science careers that will make use of your critical thinking and project planning skills. Regardless of what anyone says, a PhD is a fantastic degree to have and you'll find something that excites you. Just don't do an academic post-doc because you can't think of anything better to do!
  6. blc073

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Hey everyone, best of luck with interviews and the whole admissions process. I know this is a very stressful time, but remember that you have worked hard to be where you are now and that hard work will pay off. If you don't get an interview at your dream school, don't worry about it. I know plenty of people who ended up at a school other than their top choice and a year or so in they are loving it. Everything will work out, and at the end of the day, it's all about how hard you work. If you're going to be a good scientist, then you're going to be a good scientist, regardless of where you do your PhD. I know people who get Nature papers at lower tier schools and people who never publish at Harvard. It's up to you to make the most out of your experience wherever you end up, so go nail your interviews regardless of the program and be the great scientist you know you can be. Good luck everyone!
  7. blc073

    Ask questions about the PhD application process!

    @Jacklynnve The GRE is not a big deal, but anything below a 310 is cutting it close. I would have advised you to retake the exam. Alas, there is nothing to do about it now. Your GPA is fine and your research is stellar. Hopefully your SOP was cogent and in line with your background. Pathology isn't really a research area, so hopefully you narrowed down your interests to cancer biology, or anything more specific than pathology. Three programs is not nearly enough, especially when your three schools are two top tiers and another competitive private school. My advice: do what you need to do to get together another few hundred bucks and submit more applications. You still have time! Also, why are you not applying to GSK? Overall, you should be a competitive applicant. However, you should try to submit more applications.
  8. blc073

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    With your extensive research experience, I would say you have a great shot at most schools. Your four years of research experience after undergraduate should make up for low numbers (GPA and GRE). If you can write a stellar SOP and get three LORs to back it up, you should be set. Take plenty of time to write your essays and make sure your letters are on the same page. Regarding places to apply, I will say two things: First, I believe Harvard's BCSB track is within the larger MCO program. If you're applying to MCO, you might as well apply to BBS. As a BBS student, you can work in MCO labs and take MCO courses, but you are not restricted to MCO labs. A lot of people prefer the flexibility of BBS. And I believe if you apply to MCO, you can apply to BBS and one other Harvard program for free. Something to consider. Second, you only have really great schools on your list. I'm sure you will get interviews at a couple of those schools, but it is worth it to add a couple of less prestigious programs just in case. Good luck!
  9. blc073

    Rotation dilemma

    I know this is not what you want to hear, but do not rotate in that lab. Your first two rotations should be in labs that could potentially be your thesis lab. If after your second rotation you know where you will join, then you can use your third rotation for a technique or a topic. Most people use all three to find the right lab or they join as soon as they find a good fit. This PI seems really nice. He is being nice by offering a rotation position, but it may not be the most professional move. You should respond by thanking him for the opportunity and the information, then tell him that you want to use your first rotations to find a thesis lab. If he's still there after your second rotation and you know which lab you are going to join, rotate in his lab then.
  10. blc073

    Advice for high schooler working in research lab?

    My first exposure to research was through a summer internship at a local medical school when I was in 11th grade. It was a great experience, and it supported my decision to pursue a career in research. I'm happy to hear that more students are experiencing this kind of opportunity. Tell your daughter to listen and learn. Pay attention to everything. Watch the graduate students and post-docs. Observe the PI and the lab culture. Yes, try to do good research and follow directions, but focus more on absorbing everything in sight. This is a great opportunity for her to get a good recommendation letter for university, but most importantly this is a great opportunity for her to experience real research and decide if this is something she can see herself doing as a career. I did research in high school, then four years in college, and now I'm in a PhD program, so feel free to PM if you would like to know more about my experience or how I used that experience to get to where I am now.
  11. blc073

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    @Philsgross Your numbers and experience look great! I think you have a good shot at all the schools you listed. You could maybe even add more top tier programs. I know Harvard has a great neuroscience program. I've also heard great things about the UC schools (Berkeley and SF, in particular). Your admissions will come down to your SOP and your LORs. If you can really talk about your research in your essays and have LORs that support what you write, you should be set. I will say, I am concerned about having LORs from post-docs. Typically, you will receive a single LOR from a lab, with each post-doc with whom you worked giving input and the PI submitting the letter. Do you have another LOR you could submit in lieu of the two post-docs?
  12. The 2018 application cycle begins in a couple of months, so I thought it would be nice to start a new profiles and results thread. As is tradition, I am copying the 2017 thread for consistency. Use the following template to enter your information, before and after you obtain your results, and remember to submit your results at the end of the cycle for posterity and to help the next cohort of applicants HERE. Good luck with the application process, and remember to ask questions! Below are some useful links: Ask questions about the PhD application process! 2017 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results 2016 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results Undergrad Institution: (School or type of school, such as big state, lib arts, ivy, technical, foreign (what country?)... Overall Reputation in Biology?)Major(s):Minor(s):GPA in Major:Overall GPA:Position in Class: (No numbers needed, but are you top? near top? average? struggling?)Type of Student: (Domestic/International, male/female, minority?)GRE Scores (revised/old version):Q:V:W:B:TOEFL Total: (if applicable, otherwise delete this)Research Experience: (At your school or elsewhere? What field? How much time? Any publications (Mth author out of N?) or conference talks etc...)Awards/Honors/Recognitions: (Within your school or outside?)Pertinent Activities or Jobs: (Such as tutor, TA, SPS officer etc...)Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:Special Bonus Points: (Such as connections, grad classes, famous recommenders, female or minority status etc...)Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter:Applying to Where:School - Department - Research InterestSchool - Department - Research InterestSchool - Department - Research Interest
  13. blc073

    Am I eligible for top tier schools?

    A lot of how competitive you are will come from how well you describe your research in your essays and whether or not your letters support what you say. Based on what you have posted, I am sure you will be in the running for top tier schools, but I am not convinced you will be a shoo-in. Definitely apply to top programs, but include middle tier and safety schools on your list. Also, what are you interested in studying? You are a biochemistry major with experience in pharmacognosy, cancer biology, and metabolism. How are you going to describe those (seemingly random) experiences in a way that is cohesive?
  14. blc073

    How far does a first author pub get you in grad apps?

    Any publications will be incredibly helpful. A first author Nature publication is outstanding. Congrats! I will say, you better know every single aspect of that paper. You should know why every experiment was done and you should be able to defend every decision. I can see some top tier professors taking your publication as a challenge to stump you.
  15. blc073

    Choosing a fall rotation

    It is okay to meet with a professor about a rotation without committing to doing a rotation in his or her lab. This process is all about you. Take some time to brainstorm about your interests. This can and probably will change from rotation to rotation. Once you have your general interests listed, look for a few PIs who fit your criteria. Look into a few of their papers, see how many graduate students they have, and find out how many students have graduated from their lab. Send brief emails. "Hello Dr. X, My name is Y, and I am an incoming student in Z Program. I am interested in your work. Do you have time in the next week or two to meet with me to discuss rotation projects." You will either get a response setting up a meeting, a response saying they are not taking students, or no response. Regardless of the response, or lack thereof, send more emails. Meet with the PIs and be prepared to discuss projects. Ask straight up, "if I join your lab, will you have funding to support me?" This might feel awkward, but it is incredibly important. When you meet with the PI, take the time to meet with current graduate students in the lab. Once you have met with a few PIs, pick a lab for your first rotation. Do not let them pressure you into rotating in their lab. For the PIs you do not go with, send them an email saying you are going to pursue a different interest and that you will contact them about a second or third rotation. After you complete your first rotation, rinse and repeat. Each time, reevaluate your interests. I just completed the rotation process and joined a lab in March, so I am happy to talk with you more about the process if you're interested.
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