Hey guys, I'm deciding on what kind of programs I should I apply to this fall (to start Fall 2018) and would like some input on my plan. I've reached out to two PIs from undergrad and they both had different suggestions. Areas of research I am looking into are physical. inorganic, and materials chemistry.
PI #1 (from my home institution): apply to funded master's chemistry programs (very limited but include schools such as western Washington, San Francisco State to name a couple)
PI #2 (from my REU): apply to lower tier PhD programs.
Little bit about me/ my situation:
I graduated May 2016 with an overall GPA of 2.67 and a major GPA of 2.81 from a religious/liberal arts school . I had a very difficult freshman and sophomore year due to personal issues resulting in a super low GPA that I was never able to recover from (~2.4 average both years). I was able to raise my GPA Junior year (fall: 2.6, spring 3.2) but the fall of my senior year it tanked to a 2.5 due to mental health issues. I was given the option to take a medical leave of absence that semester but I decided against it due to my relationship with my mother at that time (I could not go back home with her for that year). Spring my GPA went back up to a 3.46. Overall, I did much better in my upper division classes than my lower division classes, but not enough to help me. Undergrad was a shit show for me due to financial issues/lack of family support all affecting my mental health. (I'm a minority female, low income background, first generation going to college. Parents did not really understand but tried to and eventually got the hang of it my senior year)
I did research for 5 semesters in undergrad:
Spring 2014: Computational/biochemistry lab. Realized I hated working with modeled proteins so I looked around for another lab.
Fall 2014 - Spring 2016: Inorganic lab. Presented at ACS with my lab partner on the work we did. PI#1 said that there should be enough data produced to be able to get a paper out of it and he said he would work on it but haven't heard any updates since meeting with him in January. Also, I received a grant to continue working over the summer of 2015 in this lab, but I turned down the offer and accepted an NSF REU.
Summer 2015: NSF REU at UConn, materials/physical chem related computational lab. Presented that work at ACS as well. (PI#2) I still keep in touch with him as well to give him updates on my plans and next steps.
Both PIs that I worked with have expressed to me that they will write strong letters of recommendation for me. Overall, I have a decent amount of research with the possibility of 1 publication (not getting my hopes up for it though).
I currently have an industry job not related chemistry but a instrumentation/technical role working with engineers, assay research, and data analytics to qualify the company's instruments. I enjoy the work and my manager has also expressed that he will write me a good letter of recommendation but since it isn't chemistry related, I am worried that it will affect me negatively. Also, I will be moving across the country in November and I'm worried that my manager/the company will take this the wrong way and not write me a letter...
Note: I have not taken the GRE or cGRE, currently studying for them and will take them in September and October.
Should I put off applying this upcoming cycle? Should I focus on only Master's programs this fall? Should I include maybe one or two PhD programs in the mix? Any tips for not accidentally burning bridges with my manager once I move? Will my current job affect me negatively? Will the move affect me negatively?
I know that I am not a strong candidate for top PhD programs but I feel like I have chance for Master's programs, which will ultimately help me in achieving my dream of attending top PhD schools (looking at you Northwestern).
Any input helps. thanks!
*edited for grammar