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About StemCellFan

  • Rank
    Double Shot

Profile Information

  • Application Season
    2018 Fall
  • Program
    Biomedical Science PhD

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  1. StemCellFan

    No GRE Biology/Biomedical

    I'm one year too early! I'm very happy with the outcome of my cycle this past year and excited to start my program, but had some of these programs waived GRE requirements this past cycle, I would have applied to a couple more programs with my sub 50th percentile scores. Also, that extra 25 dollars is nice to have.
  2. StemCellFan

    Am I Competitive thread

    Have you identified an area of research you're interested in specifically? Have you found faculty at places like Harvard or Mount Sinai that do research you're interested in? Other than prestige, what is attracting you to these programs? Your numerical stats look good, but after a certain point it will come down to research fit, what your recommendation writers say about you, and how you structure your personal statements/statements of purpose (and if a school is a good research fit for you, that will be indicated in your statements). So I think by numbers, you probably would be competitive, but it's really hard to give any definite answers because admissions is more than the numbers on the paper and is such a crapshoot. I would also apply to more schools than just Harvard and Mt Sinai and not have prestige as your most important criteria for a program, but that's my 2 cents.
  3. StemCellFan

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    At this point, I think it's safe to contact schools you are waiting to hear back from. If they are your top choice, tell them that, and ask if there are any status updates on your application since the April 15th deadline is approaching really quickly. And that other schools you've been admitted to are also awaiting your decision. Hopefully this will give you some answers on your likelihood of receiving an offer or a rejection. But seriously, don't be afraid to at least ask them. I was on the waitlist for a few schools the year I was ultimately rejected everywhere, and around the first week of April is when I asked about my likelihood of being admitted to the program, and they told me that I would likely hear a rejection at this point and that the applicant pool was strong this year, etc.
  4. StemCellFan

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Yep. I don't know if it's happened to me specifically, but I did end up withdrawing my application from a couple places that invited me to interview because I already made a decision at that point. This opened up a spot for other applicants to be invited out who may be admitted and attend those programs. So I can see why a school would have a waitlist for those purposes.
  5. StemCellFan


    My two cents is that you should go where you think you will be happiest. I think it's important to love the place you are living in and that you can build or have a good rapport with the faculty, the department, and fellow students. When you're thinking about schools like Columbia and Harvard, the difference in prestige here is negligible, so I wouldn't think about prestige as a factor in this scenario. You can't go wrong with either program, but it sounds like you enjoy the program and location for Columbia over Harvard, which I think are important factors to consider when making your decision.
  6. StemCellFan

    Grad schools best for industry?

    I also want to second CozyEnzymes and say you should look into UW-Madison. The program I'm attending this upcoming fall, Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, offers an opportunity to do a summer internship with a biotech/pharma company (with advisor's permission of course). I also just learned about the Biotechnology Training Program here. There are a number of companies here which have a good rapport and tie to the university, and students have had success finding jobs in the field as well. In general, I think any university that has a good number of biotech companies in the area may have the opportunities you are looking for. In addition to the above stated universities, maybe look into the Boston/Cambridge area, like Harvard, MIT, Tufts, etc? I know that region has a lot of biotech companies, so maybe you'll find some programs there as well. This will also depend on what you are interested in studying.
  7. StemCellFan

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Hmmm. They're all good choices. I would sit down and think about what your top priority is when picking a program and what it is about a program that will make you happiest. Things I've heard people tell me is that you should have a number of faculty (3-5) that you can see yourself working with, and that you think could be excellent mentors and the research is interesting. Other things to think about is how you think you fit in with the grad community, stipend and living expenses, graduation rates (how long does it take to complete), program structure (how much coursework is required? TA requirement? How are prelims and rotations structured?), and if you would like living in that area for the next 5-7 years. I know for me, I ranked my priorities as such: 1) my SO can find a job in their field 2) availability of faculty of interest/rapport with faculty/faculty research 3) graduate student success 4) overall research strength of the area I'm interested in 5) location and stipend 6) program structure 7) rapport with current students and fellow interviewees (they might be in my cohort!) 8) reputation/ranking
  8. StemCellFan

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    I also only applied to programs that use a rotation system. This is because I wouldn't want to jump into a lab for the rest of my PhD career and find out that the PI and I don't mesh at all. I would carefully look at Harvard's researchers and see if there are any options at all in case things don't work out with this PI. I would be more inclined to go with MIT because of the options available, but your mileage may vary. As far as opportunities and reputation, both are great schools and you can't go wrong with either. Good luck!
  9. StemCellFan

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Congratulations!!! Cinci was my second choice after Wisconsin, and it was really hard for me to say 'no' to them. I loved my visit there and the facilities/core at the Children's Hospital is amazing!
  10. StemCellFan

    Ask questions about the PhD application process!

    I've been in this situation before. I worked as a research tech for a few years after applying and not getting in anywhere. I think it helped me to A) bolster my overall research experience and publication/presentation record, letters of rec, etc. and B ) help me define my research interests so I could find the graduate schools in which I felt I would be a good research fit. Research fit is so important, so this helped me tremendously when I tailored my SoP for the programs I applied to. I noticed during my interviews that an overwhelming number of fellow interviewees were either in a post-bacc program (NIH IRTA, PREP, etc) or in their first or second year working as a research tech. There were some straight from undergrad, but not many. I definitely would look at research tech positions where you can work on a project as independently as possible (not doing routine labor or bench work) or look into post-bacc programs that give you this experience, and then re-apply next year or the year after when you're ready. If your goal is a PhD, I don't think a masters is necessary in your case. I noticed you are working in your same lab. Maybe consider looking into other labs to work in if you need an additional letter of rec from someone who can vouch for your ability to do research and succeed in graduate school. All of my letter writers were individuals I worked with in a research capacity and they spoke highly of me. Get some more experience under your belt, really research the schools you want to go to, make connections, and if necessary, retake the GRE. I think you'll have better luck the next time around!
  11. StemCellFan

    Alternative Career Paths

    So I know that hospitals and departments involved in clinical research like biostaticians who can decipher large amounts of data and information from large patient studies. I don't know how computational biology could play into this, but the mathematical background could help with modeling. Otherwise, I know a lot of clinical research is being driven by the private sector (industry) and these skills could be useful in that area too.
  12. StemCellFan

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Thanks!! I can't wait to start at Madison! I don't think it would be a mistake, but I would make sure there are other professors you are also interested in rotating with while you're at Sinai, and that the prospect of joining these other labs excites you, too. It's possible that this professor may take on a different student (and therefore not have room in his lab for you). Another possibility is that during your rotation you'll realize that although he has a great track record for mentoring students, your personalities just do not mesh. I, personally, wouldn't go somewhere because of a specific PI, but because there are multiple PIs I would love to work with. Another thing to consider is if you don't join his lab, you could always ask him to be on your committee! This may just be me being cautious, but I know that even if the school is prestigious or the lab is one of the best in the field, if the PI and I do not get along, I would be absolutely miserable in my program. And this will be my life for the next 5-6 years. Good luck in your decision! Thanks!! I don't live far from Madison now and have a few friends from high school who went, but I didn't experience the campus until I visited! I was really impressed with their research, biomedical sciences and life sciences programs. I can't wait to start! Go Badgers!
  13. StemCellFan

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Congrats!! Prestige, outcomes, and research aside I think it's important to pick a program you see yourself happy at. In my opinion, happiness will trump anything else, unless you can handle being in an environment that's just ok for 5 or 6 years. I think it's important that you mentioned the community, because what will do you when you are not in the laboratory and focused on research? I know for me, I need to unwind at some point and I'm social. So I want to be with a cohort who I get along with. I also think it's very important to find faculty who are excellent mentors provided you are at least interested in the research they are doing. You just need to pick up the right skills to succeed in a field you find interesting with an excellent mentor, and that is the key to success. Out of the two choices, which are both great programs it sounds like, I would be inclined to pick Harvard. But this is based on factors I prioritized when picking a program. I don't think the area in which you get your PhD matters--what matters is what you do while you are getting your PhD. The skills you gain (techniques, problem solving, presentation skills, grant writing, etc) and success of your research (in the form of publications in excellent journals) is what will matter in the end. Industry, especially, is going to place an emphasis on the laboratory skill set you developed as a student. It's also important to gain skills in networking as that will help you secure a job after the dissertation!
  14. StemCellFan

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Biostatistics is an exception, but for common laboratory techniques I've found it more helpful to either learn it from a lab mate or collaborator who is well-versed in it or self-teach myself the necessary background information for it (either from textbook or a publication on the protocol) before applying it. As I'm learning on my own or with the help of a lab mate or collaborator, I'll take notes. But taking a "techniques course" covering techniques that I may never use or may not use until 4 or 5 years from now isn't all that helpful to me. I'm a hands-on learner in the lab, but everyone's mileage may vary. Say I get a protocol from someone on a specific protein purification procedure (An His-tagged protein or something), I'll ask for the reagents I need or a buffer list, follow the protocol, and from there look up what these buffers are specifically doing on my own time. Some programs I've seen use coursework in the first year to weed out students or get everyone up to speed with a general molecular and cellular biology, but as a tech, I've been applying these principles to my research already and learning the information I need as I go. So I guess a class covering the central dogma in depth isn't something I see as particularly useful at this point. During my interviews I asked how the classes are structured and how they are taught. I've found that some require a lot of memorization (i.e. know the glycolysis pathway like the back of your hand) and others are more discussion-like where the class reads peer-reviewed journals coupled with the week's topic and discuss them. Exams were also structured in a way that you have to devise experiments to attack a question. You are there to do research, and I think too much coursework or a focus on it can detract from it. If I go in wanting to learn cell signaling pathways, specifically g-protein coupled receptors and their downstream signaling cascades as they relate to my transcription factor of interest, I'm not going to be as concerned about the glycolysis pathway I had to memorize in my first year biochemistry class. These are only my preferences though. Some students may really enjoy the classes and want more instruction.
  15. StemCellFan

    2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

    Congrats on your acceptances!! I can only tell you things that stand out to me as I would make my decision. 1. I'm not all that interested in classroom teaching as much as I am into research and mentorship, and I think a TA would distract me too much. Therefore I would prefer a program that doesn't have a TA requirement. Stanford would win for me. 2. Coursework is probably the least important factor for choosing a program since I don't see it as that important. The only classes I care about is probably a grant writing course and maybe an ethics course. I would probably go with the one that's either more flexible or doesn't have a lot of coursework I'm required to take. 3. Stanford seems like the winner here. The fact you've started making connections with some of them and building such a good rapport is a good sign! 4. For this, my inclination is that you want to do your graduate work in a lab with a PI who can provide the right amount of guidance you need. Some of the powerhouse labs with legendary PIs are very busy and maybe aren't conducive to the mentorship you need to succeed as a grad student. From what it sounds like here, Stanford is the better pick for your graduate studies, and then moving into one of the legendary PI's labs for your post doc (if that's where you see your career going). 5/6. Eh, Boston/Cambridge would appeal to me more because of how expensive Palo Alto is and I would like to live off campus. This would almost be a deal breaker for me, but I prioritized cost of living, location, and stipend compensation over some other factors (and why I didn't even consider applying to anywhere out of the midwest). 7. I think MIT and Stanford are pretty comparable for prestige. You can't go wrong with either, really. Other things to consider is if you fit in with the culture of one program vs another. Did you get along better with the students at one or the other? The faculty? Are you more social or non-social, and would one program give you more opportunities for social events? Also, does one have better student outcomes than others and can you see yourself having a successful career? MIT and Stanford are both amazing programs/schools, so I can see students being successful at both.

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