Everything posted by Aud4xv1a70r
Has anyone gotten into Banfield's lab at Berkeley this year? She takes students from pretty much every program at Berkeley but I applied specifically from a GeoBio angle through EPS. She expressed interest in working with me and invited me for an informal interview, but I think I might have been a bit disjointed in proposing a proper course of study to her during that interview.
Regarding the Quant Section of the GRE, I believe most of the mathematical concepts that require mastery in order to obtain higher scores become pretty useless to the vast majority of programs once you hit the 50th percentile. I also think that this section favors "traditional" students over those who have taken time off to research, travel, work, etc. since they will have most of these mathematical concepts fresh in their minds (thus, a bit of ageism might be at play). My thinking is that this portion of the test is really more of a test of a student's level of discipline, since a PhD program's curriculum will likely cover most of the statistical methodology that would be considered of value to the research program, and many young researchers will already have exposure to this through publication experience and undergraduate coursework. It's a bit strange to me that the GRE Quant section does not cover any statistical concepts, as I would think these would encompass the most wide ranging applicability (if you truly wanted to accomplish the impossible and apply a "one-size-fits-all" test to every graduate academic program). I'm not sure if theoretical scientists would feel singled out by this since I am not quite familiar with their lack of experimental design, but who cares about them since they are a bunch of weirdos who tend to transcend the status quo anyways. Concerning the Verbal and Writing portions of the test, research academia does not really require eloquent writing abilities in order to publish significant findings (unless you're writing a review article, maybe?) and some could even say that verbal ability as a factor in publication potential encourages ethnocentric bias in a multicultural academic environment. However, realistically speaking I would probably want one of my students to be able to construct a solid argument without me having to revise their work extensively (although I might also consider this the "fun part" of the publication process since I actually enjoy writing). Again, I might say a good cut-off here is at about the 50th percentile. I definitely think the GRE can currently help sort out the "numbnuts" factor in a potential PhD candidate, but it's also a bit like asking someone to practice quilting in preparation for a martial arts tournament. In my opinion it is utterly boring and very likely useless. To be fair, I suppose a high score does demonstrate a level of commitment and discipline. However, the reason I am attempting to enter this field is because of my fascination with the subject matter and I would rather spend my free time (which is pretty scarce) on research projects instead of jumping through hoops. Academia probably needs to evolve at some point and adapt different tests that focus on each specific field that fuse quantitative, verbal, and subject-specific based content in a way that is appropriate to every program. That argument might essentially consist of trying to convince ETS to make less money. Anyhow, if you have been screened by a program because of the GRE (and are stubborn about not re-taking it), maybe you should instead focus on writing an incredible grant/fellowship proposal to excel in a different program or bring it back to the table during the next application cycle. The "brand name" of a school can only go so far, and at some point you will have to realize that the ability to coalesce your expertise, interests, and initiative into significant scientific discovery is far more valuable than just hopping aboard the reputation train of someone else's program. If you manage to excel in this, you can probably wind up directing your own research in a faculty position at one of the institutions that screened you for some stupid test with subject matter that possesses little relevance to your career path. Maybe you'll even help form a prominent new research institute :).
I’m definitely an oddball applicant, but I’m not sure “sticking out” is a bad thing yet. I guess we’ll see! Undergrad Institution: Hippy school that doesn’t believe in grades where I designed much of my own curriculum and participated in some cool field work/research/international opportunities Major(s): Pre-medicine and Biochemistry Minor(s): Cultural Studies GPA: None/Qualitative Evals (3.17 from a bunch of semesters at community college) Grad Institution: Decent school offering MS program in Bioinformatics Major(s): Bioinformatics GPA: 3.75 Type of Student: Domestic GRE Scores: Q: 154 (I kind of half-assed this since I am thinking about working for a year instead of starting a program in the Fall) V: 159 W: 4.0 Research Experience: Worked in an HIV lab for a year honing some wet lab protocols 8 month long Bioinformatics/Genomics internship at prestigious Cancer Center Spent a year interning at NASA working on several different machine learning/“omics” projects (including a lead role on an “extracurricular” science payload project) Currently working for a top cancer immunotherapy/pharma company as a Bioinformatics Associate Also currently moonlighting at NASA to work on several metagenomics/machine learning projects I’ve got a couple first/second author publications in the works but nothing substantial published yet Presented at several prestigious conferences including some live streamed talks Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Awarded several scholarships in undergrad Founded and funded a new scholarship in undergrad Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Started a couple of student groups and was elected to student government (as well as served in a bunch of service organizations) in undergrad Elected to leadership role in NASA intern student organization Any miscellaneous accomplishments that might help: Climbed two of the seven summits and am an avid mountaineer (I’m hoping this is helpful for field work intensive programs. My summit of Aconcagua was actually pretty impressive since I did it in a rapid timeframe while solo/unassisted) Conducted a bunch of fundraising for family in Tanzania (including participation in an ultramarathon event) Special Bonus Points: Received a great letter of recommendation from a professor at MIT for a NASA science payload project of his that I coordinated (he also name dropped me at a prestigious conference with Nobel Laureates in attendance!) Did a few months of volunteer medical assisting in Tanzania Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: Family illness/financial related adversity story that explains rocky start in community college Worked a full time job to support myself through undergrad (often on the graveyard shift) Applying to: MIT - Media Arts and Sciences Stanford - Earth System Science UC Berkeley - Earth Planetary Science UC Santa Cruz - Ecology and Evolutionary Biology UNLV Las Vegas/Desert Research Institute - Geomicrobiology I think I am definitely a bit “unpolished” in terms of my applications this year since I didn’t have much time to study for the GRE (which is also terribly boring) and none of my publications are in print yet. I am kind of in the mindset that I (and my wife especially) wouldn’t mind making some decent money working as a Bioinformatician for another year before I start a program anyways, so this year’s round of applications are essentially doubling as a litmus test to see what kind of feedback I get. I’ve already been asked to interview with a couple professors at UC Santa Cruz and have an interview with a professor at MIT later this month (I’ve been working closely with another professor there who helped me write my essay/provided me a really solid letter of recommendation). I also interviewed with the program at UNLV Las Vegas/The Desert Research Institute where my potential advisor actually offered me a job to start immediately as well as a berth on a research vessel expedition (I have been incredibly tempted to take this but my wife would probably be upset since we have some financial plans over the next year and it would be a significant pay cut from my current position). I also interviewed with my POIs at Stanford and UC Berkeley earlier last year which I think went well, but I haven’t heard anything about a formal interview since I submitted my applications. One issue might be that my skills and research interests are a bit all over the place, but I do have a bit of a desire to fashion myself as a polymath so I’m hoping this isn’t a huge issue.