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About isk20

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  1. Are you an undergrad at Hopkins? In STEM, it’s generally better to do UG and grad at different schools since it shows that you’re branching out your skills. Don't worry about prestige at this point. The closer you get to the top, the less rankings matter. Yale is also a world-renowned school and won’t hold you back in your career. The fact that you seem to be dreading another 5-6 years in Baltimore suggests that you would probably benefit from a change of scenery and pace. After all, you need to enjoy the location to be happy and productive in your program.
  2. Here’s the thing about applying next cycle - between the recession and the fact that a lot of schools are burning through their cash fast, indications are that admissions will be unusually competitive. (This is coming from professors, so straight out of the horse’s mouth, so to speak.) I can’t emphasize enough how much labs across the board have gotten slammed by school closures and industry funds drying up. It sounds like UAB made you happy and you could realistically see yourself going there and being productive, which is very important for a PhD. I’m sure you know that there are no guarantees for next year’s admissions - in my field (chemistry), schools are allowing the incoming cohort to defer until 2021, so spots could be even more limited. So it all comes down to how much risk you want to take. If you decline your offer this year and decide to apply next year, you definitely could get into a more highly-ranked program, but the alternative is also possible. Funding will also be a lot more tenuous, so that’s something to keep in mind There’s no right or wrong answer. Choose what you’re most comfortable with *at this moment*, not how you think you might feel in a year or five.
  3. I never did an REU as an undergrad because I was too focused on my thesis work, which I started in sophomore year. However, I did take two gap years after graduation to work for a big name at a top STEM school, so having that letter was undoubtedly helpful. I applied to multiple top-ten programs this cycle and was admitted, so the REU thing definitely didn’t make or break my application.
  4. Well, I bit the bullet tonight. I’ll see both of you at Columbia this fall! (Provided the school is open, which seems kinda doubtful atm.) Tom Rovis is actually a big draw for me - his research is super interesting and he made a great impression on me at the visit weekend. But I’d be happy joining some of the more biological groups as well.
  5. Oh, I see. To clarify my comment about private vs public, private universities tend to get more help via federal funds and have larger endowments on the whole, so funding tends to be safer - but that's not always the case, of course (as my institution shows). Thanks a lot! I really appreciate all of the input and information you've provided.
  6. Thanks for the input. My question is, how do you know about the funding situation in the College of Chemistry specifically? I work at an obscenely wealthy private R1 and our departments/labs are getting unilaterally slammed because so much funding comes from industry, which I assumed was also the case in the Bay due to the proximity to biotech and startups. Edit: redundancy
  7. We're getting down to the wire, so it seems as good a time as any to make a last-minute panic post about decisions. I was very lucky to be accepted to these two amazing programs, but even after talking to a lot of people, I'm struggling to actually hit the "accept" button on either. Pros of Berkeley: - Insanely powerful (probably unmatched) in synthetic organic chemistry and chemical biology, which are the two fields I want to explore in grad school. - As a whole, the research being conducted here appeals to me more. - Great placement for students post-Ph.D. I want to work in the pharmaceutical industry and they have amazing success there. - I got along amazingly with the students - they were down-to-earth, open, and honest about their experiences. Cons of Berkeley: - I did not like the surrounding area for some reason, and even the campus felt off to me. It actually made me feel pretty miserable. But I was also really tired/jet-lagged during my visit, which definitely influenced me. - Stipend seems really low for the Bay Area ($36k) and the housing honestly seems like a nightmare. - I heard some concerning things about POIs and work hours/expectations. Even first-years seemed trapped in the lab for ~60 hours/week. I worry about the effect this would have on my mental and physical health (I have a condition that can become debilitating if I don't get enough rest.) Pros of Columbia: - I love NYC and the vibe of being "one in a crowd." I feel like if the atmosphere of grad school becomes too overwhelming, I'll have an escape in the location. Also, I felt happier on the Columbia campus and have a strong support network in the city/on the east coast. - The program is traditionally much smaller (~25 people), which also appeals to me. - I got along with my POIs and got to talk extensively with them, which was nice. The students all said that they have pretty normal working hours and can chill out most weekends. - $42k stipend + guaranteed subsidized housing for 5 years. Hard to beat. Cons of Columbia: - In general, less cutting-edge research in synthetic organic/chem bio (not the slam the program at all; one of my top picks does research I'm really interested in exploring further). - The program is so small that if I don't fit in with my cohort, I'll feel pretty isolated. - It feels like the "safe" choice to me? I've spent ~6 years on the east coast already and I'm wondering if it's time to branch out and move across the country, even if that means going to a place where I have less immediate support and don't feel as comfortable. Am I being stupid for turning down a #1-2 school because I didn't like the location? Any last-minute advice is very welcome. Thank you for reading this far. Edit: Oh, and it looks like the UCs/public institutions are getting slammed by the financial consequences of COVID-19, so there's that. This seems like it would be less of an issue at a private institution.
  8. You’ve probably decided already, but I do want to point out that Harvard’s stipend is very low when compared to COL in the Cambridge area. It’s pretty hard to find a room under $1k, even with roommates, and you’ll also be paying taxes on the stipend on top of that. You will probably want to look for external fellowships.
  9. isk20

    NSF GRFP 2019-2020

    My current institution has some weird rules about students/staff gifting superiors, but I bought a nice bottle of wine for one of my other letter writers at another school. I’m sure they would appreciate any token of thanks.
  10. isk20

    NSF GRFP 2019-2020

    If the site will be down until 6 then we wouldn’t be able to view the awardees list even if it went up at 2:30, right?
  11. isk20

    NSF GRFP 2019-2020

    Does anyone know how we’ll be notified if we win an award? Like, do we get an email or will we just have to check the site?
  12. isk20

    NSF GRFP 2019-2020

    What if you’re in a gap year? It seems unfair to be compared to either undergrads or current grad students.
  13. isk20

    NSF GRFP 2019-2020

    I applied for Chemistry (life processes) and Neuroscience, so I guess my application was interdisciplinary? I’m at the end of my second gap year post-undergrad and starting my PhD in the fall (hopefully......) I’m not expecting much but the extra money would definitely help since I’ve narrowed my admissions offers down to two locations infamous for absurd COL.
  14. isk20

    New York, NY

    I was accepted to Columbia with guaranteed campus housing for 5 years, which sounds like a pretty good deal. How is the grad student housing/the environment of the Morningside Heights area in general? If I’m in lab late and need to walk home, is it safe? (Petite female, if that makes a difference)
  15. I also got accepted to UIUC for chem bio. IIRC, they promised in the offer letter that stipends would only ever increase, not decrease. I realized that the visit weekend slightly conflicts with another (non-academic) event I wanted to attend, but I’ll still do my best to make it. Maybe I’ll bump into you there!
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