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Transition into Biology from Chemical Engineering


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Hi All,

I recently graduated from a tier 2 university with an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering and a pretty mediocre GPA (~3.3 in major, ~3.1 overall). While I was in school I took a few biology classes (genetics,  physiology) and did some long term, full-time, internships in bioprocess engineering and immunology research at one of the best known biotech companies worldwide(6 months and 9 months, respectively). I also participated in part-time research for 3 of my years in school at a few different labs (in biomechanics and biophysics). I'm currently working as an RA in an ivy league university in a big lab, definitely going to be on some medium to large papers in the next year or so, assuming no scoop happens. I've got good LORs lined up from my job and past internships (one from an industry PI, the other from an R&D director, one from a post-doc I work with and a very likely cosign from a big name PI in academia).

Currently trying to decide what my next move should be admissions-wise. I'm certain I want a career in research, and am super passionate about immunology/immuno-oncology (one of the papers is in this field as well), but coming from engineering I'm pretty disheartened by the way biologists are treated career-wise. Debating getting an MS to help smooth the transition and help the gpa a bit. Also considering post-bac positions at the ivy I'm working at. As an aside, I'm also interested in doing a PhD abroad and the MS would help with this. If I was to do a PhD at home, I'd definitely aim for top institutions, because of the aforementioned treatment of biologists, although overcoming the GPA gap is tough. 

And advice on the best way to approach this? Would an Immunology MS (from a good school) help my chances for PhD? 

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Hi there! 

I was a chemistry major in undergrad (With a concentration in biochem)

I graduated in 2016, taught hs honors biology for a year, worked in hospital pharmacy and in a pharmacology lab for the 2nd year. 

I am currently in PREP at AECOM and in an immunology lab, while applying to PhD programs 

I have only been in this immunology lab since June 2018, but I have 4 interviews (I'm hopeful that I'll end up with 6-7 by the end of the cycle) 

It's really about getting research experience and making sure your skills are transferable. 

If you want a degree, that would definitely ease the transition. 

I definitely heard back from Duke and was told that I needed more micro lab experience to be more competitive for micro PhD programs, but was offered an interview with UW in Seattle, so honestly it depends on the committee and your LORs 

let me know if you have any questions and good luck with everything! :D

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Hey thanks for the reply!

What was your gpa, if you don't mind me asking? 

Also, approximately how many years of research did you have in UG vs your current workplace? 

Technically speaking, I know about as many techniques as the average post-doc in my lab, albeit without a true specialization like many of them have. Specifically, I've yet to meet a non-engineer who knows as much about microscopy as I do, and at this point I'm designing my own flow panels. I can clone, although I'm definitely not as adept as the post-docs I work with. 

Edited by WannaBePh
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  • 2 weeks later...

My undergraduate GPA was pretty low at 3.54.

I worked in the same lab from my second semester of freshman year until I graduated and included some summers... I just say 2 and 1/2 years excluding the year of PREP

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