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F19 Bioinformatics: am I aiming too high? (or, chance I get no interview?)

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Undergrad Institution: International school (world 28th in CS, 100-200 in life sciences, 49 overall in QS ranking)
Major(s): Cell and molecular biology
Minor(s): N/A
GPA in Major: 3.491
Overall GPA: 3.281
Position in Class: not sure, probably upper-half; graduated with second upper-class honor (HK system, similar to UK's).

Graduate Institution: the same school as undergraduate school
Major(s):  M. Phil (2-year research degree, similar to first 2 year in PhD) in computer science and engineering, thesis project is on bioinformatics
Overall GPA: 3.694

Type of Student: International male (quite a number of programs say that they do not have enough funding to cover tuition for international students....)

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q: 157
V: 169
W: 3.5


Total: 109

Research Experience: 

  • Equivalent 50 months full-time research (some application form require that by converting part-time experience to full-time ones), mostly in bioinformatics (multi-omics & method development)
  • 7 projects listed on CV.
  • 3 in undergrad, two of which are wet-lab, another is multi-omics bioinformatics study. One wet-lab project yield in a 4th authorship in PNAS (direct submission); Been able to do some higher-level experiments in undergrad, for example, confocal microscopy, Y2H and FRET
  • 4 in postgrad: 3 manuscripts in prep, one is the thesis project which should be a 1st-authorship and hopefully on a prestigious journal (but unfortunately, I'm not able to get it published now apparently); another one of the 3 should be a co-first if things work smoothly.
  • The thesis project is luckily a hot open question in the field. Quite a number of my PI-of-interests are working on the same problem using various approaches. A side collaborative-project (which I'm not the major working force) yields another 4th-authorship on a specialized biology journal (if > 20)


Got one letter from my thesis advisor, another two from two PI-in-collaboration in my thesis project (h-index 36, 124, 36 respectively). All should be strong as our relationship is quite good generally. My advisor might or might not have connections with faculties I listed as interested, for some of them are in the same ENCODE project.


No idea whether I nailed it or not...

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: (Within your school or outside?)
- Received university entrance scholarship

- Another scholarship that covers half of my undergraduate tuition fees

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: (Such as tutor, TA, SPS officer etc...)
- TA for a 3000-level CS course, >100 students, has lab session and tutorial courses

- RA in current research lab. 

Applying to Where:

UCSD: BISB, Princeton QCB, Harvard BIG, MIT CSBi, WashU DBBS-CSB, UW Genome Sciences


I contacted 4 profs in UCSD and Princeton, but only get 1 reply from UCSD. The email reads that he is impressed but still I need to pass the committee first. So I guess that may not be too helpful for me to get the interview?


Edited by fux

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Undergrad Institution: Top 5 Liberal Arts College
Major(s): Biology and Mathematics
Minor(s): N/A
GPA in Major: 4.0
Overall GPA: 4.0
Position in Class: 1/~500

Type of Student: International male

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q: 170
V: 160
W: 5.5

Research Experience: 

  • 1.5 years of microbial evolution (computational) at school. Finalizing analyses right now
  • 2 years of systems biology (computational) starting in summer 2017 but continued the research remotely. First-author publication under review
  • 1.5 years of evolutionary theory research somewhere else, but also continued remotely. First-author publication in prep
  • Summer experience (experimental + computational) in a super famous lab in microbial evolutionary genetics


Got to read one of mine--really good. People from a summer program admissions at Princeton told me that my other two recommendations were extremely strong. Also got another one from the famous lab I worked in.


Not sure--included a specific potential research topic (might be a good or a bad thing)

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: (Within your school or outside?)
- Multiple fellowships and awards (~12 school-wide awards in total) from school

- Summer fellowship
Pertinent Activities or Jobs: (Such as tutor, TA, SPS officer etc...)
- TA for 100-, 200-, and 300-level biology and math courses

- Math tutor for college and high school students

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help

I don't think so

Special Bonus Points: (Such as connections, grad classes, famous recommenders, female or minority status etc...): 

From an under-represented country in science , other related minority status too, and strong connection with two top grad programs I am applying to

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: Straight from undergrad (don't know if it's good or bad either)

Applying to Where:

Princeton EEB; Harvard, OEB; UChicago, Microbiology; MIT, Microbiology; MIT-WHOI Joint Program; Columbia, Biology; UCSD-Scripps; CSHL; Caltech, Geobiology; Stanford, Biology (could've applied to mid-tier programs, but most have VERY limited funding for international students sadly--I understand my chance is really slim and am quite freaking out right now).

Edited by liberal.arts19
Wrong post

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