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About Biostat_Assistant_Prof

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    Biostatistics (assistant professor)

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  1. This exactly. @CH1128, you're not a weak applicant for getting admitted into a biostat PhD program in general, you're just not competitive at Harvard. With that said, you don't need to go to a top 10 to have a successful career in academia. I've said this before and I'll reiterate, your adviser/mentor is far more important than departmental rank, and you ultimately will have the most control over your success. Honestly, sometimes the quality of life is better at non-top institutions and you'll essentially learn the same fundamentals in any department. If a department has an established history and track record of graduating students, it'll be decent enough to prepare you, and the rest is up to you to work hard. Seek out a good adviser, don't settle with an "assigned first year adviser". Seek out collaborative opportunities and work on projects as soon as you can. Very few biostatisticians only do methods work. A large part of your job will be working with lab and clinical researchers, so the earlier you start doing this the better. In terms of you're own research, once you have some ready for presentation, apply for every conference award that you can. Don't be shy. Go to conferences, introduce yourself, and be confident. This is how you network and make connections. If you're a good communicator, you'll have an advantage over a lot of students already. If you're communication skills need work, then work on them because good communication is incredibly important in biostatistics. It will give you a big advantage when applying for jobs, because many quantitative researchers, with no offense intended (remember, I'm a quantitative researcher myself), have poor communication skills. You make you're own success in academia. No one is there to hold your hand, it's up to you. And you can be successful coming from departments outside of the top 10.
  2. I'll echo this. A 3.8 in an applied stat MS program doesn't add much, except maybe showing dedication to pursuing a career in the field. I'd say Iowa/Pitt/BU/Vandy would be a good selection of schools, but should make up the higher tier end of you application list. I'd recommended applying to some programs at a lower tier as safeties, because I don't think those programs are "sure things" either. Unless something has changed in recent years, Vanderbilt accepts small cohorts of only 4-5 students and biostat applications are getting increasingly competitive with each passing year. If you're deadset on UNC or comparable school, by all means send them an application, but don't get your hopes up. I wouldn't send apps to more than 1 or 2 top 10s, because at the risk of sounding harsh, it will likely just waste your own time in money.
  3. For biostatistics, I think your spread of schools is okay, but It needs to be large with a few more mid-tiers and safety schools. UNC and Berkeley are definitely reaches, but I don't think applying to a couple reaches is a bad thing. With that said, I wouldn't add any more reaches to your list. As for top MS programs, you may have some luck at top places like Harvard or UW, but I ultimately don't think it's a good move if you get accepted even to a mid-tier PhD program. You'd likely accrue quite a bit of debt for the MS and increase the timeline to the start of your career by a couple years. Getting a PhD from a top place is really most valuable if your dream is a faculty position at a top place soon out of grad school... but this will still be difficult regardless. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't get a faculty position out of grad school graduating from a mid-tier department, because that is not true at all, you absolutely can.
  4. Speaking particularly for biostats, unfortunately, I do not think your profile would be competitive at PhD programs at this point in time. Grade deflation/inflation arguments aside, you have very few A's and several C's in various undergraduate statistics and math courses - this would not give an admission committee much confidence you'd be able to handle the rigor of graduate level coursework. Applications for PhD programs have become very competitive and are filled with applicants with near perfect GPAs and some with publications. Unfortunately, your profile does not have anything substantial that makes up for sub-optimal grades and puts you add a large disadvantage. If stats/biostats is truly what you want to pursue, my advice to you would be to enter an MS program (which you will have to pay for) and perform very well. Along with this, it would be helpful for you to develop good relationships with faculty that would write you strong letters of recommendation, and strengthen your research experience. If you want to try applying to PhD programs anyway, I would say: USC, UPitt, or SMU would be your best bets (Maybe UCONN, but I wasn't even aware they had a program). I think PhD applications to Columbia, NCSU, UCLA, Yale, Minnesota, Duke, and Michigan would simply waste your money. As for MS programs, I think you'd be wise to apply to several top places. Since you'll have to pay for it yourself, they're more likely to take a chance on you. Michigan is a large department and I'd bet you'd get accepted to their masters program, where if you performed well, may open some doors to PhD programs.
  5. Most programs have two written qualifying exams, a first year exam and an advanced exam. The first year exam generally tests you over basic applied and theoretical principles covered in your first year (e.g. for theory, most of Casella and Berger). An advanced written exam would generally be after you've finished your coursework and taken in your third year, testing you over advanced concepts in your upper level grad classes.
  6. I’ll second everything cyberwulf said. Biostat cohorts are getting stronger, and along with that more universities are establishing graduate programs. However, saying your queasy about places lower than “Emory or Vanderbilt” is a misguided way to think about potential programs. Don’t set your sights too narrow. You don’t need to go to Harvard to get a decent job.
  7. I wouldn’t worry too much about a lack of research experience. While the number of undergrads with research are growing, it’s still not an expectation except for at the highest ranked places. Receiving a C in an udndergrad prob/stats is alarming, but it sounds as if you have a reasonable excuse. If you made As in your calc sequence, that would be a little reassuring as well. Have you taken linear algebra or real analysis? Linear Algebra is a minimum requirement and I would strongly encourage you to take real analysis as well. An A in RA would go a long way to minimize concern regarding your ability to handle the mathematical rigor. Lasltly, make sure you choose letter of recommendation writers carefully; good LoRs can really help. As for school, you probably don’t have a shot at the top 3 places, and I’d say 4-10 in the rankings are iffy at best. Looked for ranked schools in the 10-20 range as a sweet spot, but don’t be discouraged by that. Biostats is growing fast and any school with a ranked program will be reputable and provide you with good training.
  8. If you're tech savvy, I would recommend getting a desktop computer with 16GB of RAM, a 128GB or 256GB SSD for the operating system and an additional 1TB HDD for files, and an i7 CPU with 4 cores (and 8 threads). Then, simply get a basic functional laptop and use to remote in to the desktop. If you're only getting a laptop, you want something with 8GB RAM minimum, and I'd still recommend an i7 dual-core CPU (with 4 threads). I really learned the value of a powerful CPU if you're running intensive simulations. Setting up simulations to run in parallel across the threads of your processor saves a ton of time. You may have access to a cluster, but for my work I didn't find it worth the hassle. I would personally rather just have a powerful desktop of my own. I'm starting a new job in July and will be building a desktop with the AMD Ryzen Threadripper CPU with 16 cores (and 32 threads)... I'm salivating over how fast my simulations will run on it!
  9. Just for all prospective students who may find this thread and read my comment... Rankings are not everything. Your mentor is far more important than your department's ranking and you ultimately determine most of your own success. I'd be remiss not to mention that at large, high tier departments the selection of quality mentors is larger than lesser departments, but these departments can also be a lot more competitive in terms of getting to work with a specific person. Great researchers can come from mediocre programs, and mediocre researchers can come from great programs, and you can find a great mentor/adviser at places other than Harvard, Hopkins, and UW. I've been on these forums since 2012. I started grad school in Biostatistics in 2013 at a department that isn't in the top 10 of these rankings. To inspire a little hope for most people that do not have the privilege to attend a top-tier program, you can still be successful and pursue a career in academia! To be transparent, my goals have never been to have a career as a full-time methodologist. I'm pursuing an academic career as more of a collaborative biostatistician that works on methodology, but not exclusively. I have over 5-10 publications from grad school, most in clinical journals but a couple in stats journals at the level of Biometrics, JRSS-C, and Statistics in Medicine. I have won student paper/travel awards for multiple conferences, including a first place student-paper award at JSM. I've been an invited speaker at several internationally attended meetings in my area of research, having traveled throughout North America and Europe. I'm finishing my PhD this semester and I received multiple offers at the assistant professor level to various academic institutions. Now keep in mind, I'm not pursuing a career primarily as a theoretical/methodological statistician, but the offers that were made to me were from Biostat departments at several institutions ranked in the top 30 for research universities and have highly regarded research hospitals affiliated with them. Look, what I've trying to say to everyone who is considering/attending a program outside of the top 10, is that you are ultimately responsible for your own success. You can still win awards, publish in good journals, and get good job offers in academia. Do not believe that unless you attend Harvard or Washington, you can't get a job in academia, because you absolutely can. And I am not an anomaly from my institution either, several other students that have graduated from my department are at top 30 research universities, and a few in top 10 biostat departments. So, good luck to everyone and just know that rankings are not everything and do not decide your fate. I encourage prospective grad students to PM me for advice if you want - I'm always happy to help. I received a lot of great advice from here ~5-6 years ago when I was applying to school and deciding where to go, so now having been through it, I'd love to pay it forward.
  10. I'll pretty much second this, and also toss in VCU to be worth considering. UF has a solid stat department, but the biostats section (department?) is fairly new and I'm not entirely sure how it is structured. VCU and UIC have established programs that I know have graduated students - not the highest in rank, but they are good enough to make the rankings, so probably decent programs.
  11. I want to second this - think of lifestyle. If you hate snow, definitely UNC. If you want a big football team, definitely Michigan. If you're outdoorsy, UNC would be a bit better. Cost of living I suspect is pretty similar. Ill point out that with UNC being in the research triangle, you have exposure/connections to more pharma than you would probably get at UMich. I think there is more clinical trials and environmental work being done at UNC than Michigan as well, although I can't cite any sources on that, just a feeling I have. UNC/Michigan are a small step below UW/JHU/Harvard. Student placement probably only differs in academia; industry is pretty much equal across the board. The way I think of it, average to good students from UW/JHU/Harvard will have a decent shot at getting faculty positions in top ranked departments, while students from UMich and UNC would have to be good to great students. As you go down the rankings, only exceptional/outstanding students will realistically get faculty poisitions in higher ranked departments. I personally know someone who graduated from an average department that got a faculty position in the top 10... it's possible, but the ride there is easier coming from top places
  12. You seem to already know the big comparisons between them. I don't think you'll get an unbiased opinion/comparison of them anymore than what you already know. With that said, here are my thoughts: UMich and UNC are very similar in 'prestige'... I wouldn't place one above the other in general. You already know stat genetics will be bigger at UMich. As for other specific areas of research, I'm not really sure on how they compare. I know for the area of my dissertation research (which I won't share for anonymity), there are faculty at both places that work in the area (2 at UNC and 3 at UMich)... but you admit yourself you're a blank slate going in. With that attitude, either will be great option for you and there really isn't a bad choice. In terms of job placement, I'd guess they're about the same in terms of the 'prestige' of jobs graduating students get. I think UMich has bigger cohorts though, so student placement will appear skewed towards UMich if you don't factor that in. Honestly, I think you are way overthinking this. They are both great programs and will produce similarly successful students.
  13. Yes, this is generally correct. On the Eastern half of the US, there are generally more academic institutions, pharma companies, research hospitals/centers (e.g. Mayo or MSK), government positions, etc. than on the west coast, but that isn't to say you don't have similar opportunities in the west. If you want to have a 'greater pick' of jobs when you graduate, I'd guess Harvard would suit you better, but you'll certainly wont have a problem finding a job coming from UW. The biggest thing is who you're able to network with while in graduate school. At Harvard you'll have ENAR to attend, which is generally comprised of institutions from the east. There is WNAR out west, but it doesn't seem to have the same prominence as ENAR. You could certainly find a job in Boston if you graduated from UW, but making the connections to those jobs would be harder than if you attended Harvard. Well it seems here like you've done your research. I don't have much to add, but I'll re-emphasize that you really can't make a wrong choice. Either way you're likely to get a high quality mentor and a good research project. Getting your PhD is really about learning how to do research... While many people continue in the same area of their dissertation, your research interests can adapt and change throughout your career. Sure, UW doesn't have that 'Ivy league' name or the world renowned 'stature' that Harvard does. I understand the desire for that elite and exclusive feel of saying, "I go to Harvard". But, in most 'global/world university rankings' UW is in the top 20, yeah it doesn't reach Harvard, but who cares. These rankings are largely based on subjective criteria and name brand that comes with the history that you can't replace. Your average high school graduate may hold Harvard with some great prestige over UW, but any employer you will ever work for will know UW is a world-class institution, and their biostats is arguably the best... And there won't be any discrimination based on it's name relative to Harvard Either school will provide you with a more than sufficient foundation. That's not an issue at all.
  14. For car fans this is like Lamborghini or Ferrari. For guitar players this is like Taylor or Martin... If you're not getting the metaphor, they are both fantastic schools, arguably the two best programs you could have to choose from. With that said, in my opinion, your choice should come down to 3 big things: 1) Where do you want to live and work when you finish (east or west coast)? Neither will preclude you from the other, but going to Harvard will better set you up with opportunities on the east coast, whereas UW will on the west coast. 2) Are there specific research areas/faculty you're more interested in at one or the other? For instance, they both have fantastic cancer centers (Fred Hutchinson vs. Dana Farber), so either would be good for cancer research, but if you wanted to Bayesian oriented research, Harvard I think has more faculty in the area... Just something to think about. 3) Which city would you be happier living in? Boston vs. Seattle is a tough question. Both are awesome, fun cities to live in. Would you rather deal with snowy/harsher winters in Boston or the misty/rainy atmosphere of Seattle? Other things... Lay prestige doesn't mean much unless you plan on pursuing a career outside of the field when you finish. Everyone within biostats knows how good each of these departments are. Another thing to consider in terms of your own interests, if you happen to be a less theoretical oriented person yourself, UWs qualifying exams are known to be quite rigorous. I'm sure Harvard's are no walk in the park, but I think UWs are `tougher' - just something to think about.
  15. I'd argue cohort size is far from a trivial factor - the more students in the program, the more that can (and assumingly do) submit papers for the award. You only reference two programs here though; while Harvard and UNC (and Michigan while we're at it) boast large cohorts, places like Brown, Yale, and Vanderbilt, all have relatively small cohorts, and I think Columbia and Emory are also a bit smaller than UNC. Overall though, this metric is misleading in my opinion in terms of judging the "quality of a graduate program." I don't believe the cohort of UNC graduate students is a higher tier than those at Harvard, Michigan, Hopkins, or Minnesota. The only thing this really tells me is that the school has a culture of encouraging and pushing students to submit for these awards. Other institutions likely just have a more "hands off" philosophy, giving their graduate students more independence with regards to choosing to submit a paper or not.
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