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2020 Neuroscience PhD Applicants and Admission Results

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For the Fall 2020 applicants who are already panicking. 

Where are you applying, what's your academic background, etc..?

 

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I'll be applying to programs in theoretical, computational, and mathematical neuroscience this Fall.

My list is: Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, Cold Spring Harbor, UC Davis, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, U Chicago, U Oregon, and U Washington. I might trim it down as the deadlines approach, but I've been drafting essays now and hope to submit them as soon as the deadline window opens. 

My stats:

  • GPA
    • Undergraduate: 3.3 (Physics-Philosophy double major from Indiana University-Bloomington)
      • Includes:  thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, quantum physics, mechanics, electricity and magnetism, linear algebra, calculus, differential equations, neuroscience, biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, epistemology, logic, poetry, ethics, and philosophy of science. 
    • Post-baccalaureate: 4.0 
  • Research 
    • 4 years of bioinformatics research during undergrad
      • Includes two summer REU's: one in bioinformatics (Cornell University) and one in computational neuroscience (U Chicago)
    • 2 years of NIH postbac IRTA: 1 year of bioinformatics and 1 year of computational neuroscience
    • Two bioinformatics contest awards and one national research award
    • Dozens of GitHub repositories with thousands of commits showcasing my work in mathematics, physics, philosophy, computer science, biology, neuroscience, and other areas.
      • It shows my R, python, and MATLAB skills in data science, software engineering, machine learning, visualization, pipelines, and other techniques that span computational disciplines. 
      • This includes self-study and work from previous labs and internships. 
  • Misc
    • I've been drafting essays that strongly emphasize my work as a scientist-philosopher as it relates to my purpose as a computational neuroscientist. It includes how I view science through a philosophical lens in ways that are especially pertinent for neuroscience.
      • These essays are extremely tailored towards individual schools for their culture, research, coursework, faculty, purpose, etc. I've deduced these features of each school through a close examination of the research, faculty, etc., from the schools themselves. 
    • I have a blog about neuroscience and philosophy that gets thousands of hits a day. My blog also shows off my research in a presentable fashion.
    • I'll apply as a California resident, but I have no idea if that makes a difference. 

I appreciate any advice, feedback, questions, or anything related to my post.

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1 hour ago, Logic said:

I'll be applying to programs in theoretical, computational, and mathematical neuroscience this Fall.

My list is: Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, Cold Spring Harbor, UC Davis, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, U Chicago, U Oregon, and U Washington. I might trim it down as the deadlines approach, but I've been drafting essays now and hope to submit them as soon as the deadline window opens. 

My stats:

  • GPA
    • Undergraduate: 3.3 (Physics-Philosophy double major from Indiana University-Bloomington)
      • Includes:  thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, quantum physics, mechanics, electricity and magnetism, linear algebra, calculus, differential equations, neuroscience, biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, epistemology, logic, poetry, ethics, and philosophy of science. 
    • Post-baccalaureate: 4.0 
  • Research 
    • 4 years of bioinformatics research during undergrad
      • Includes two summer REU's: one in bioinformatics (Cornell University) and one in computational neuroscience (U Chicago)
    •  2 years of NIH postbac IRTA: 1 year of bioinformatics and 1 year of computational neuroscience
    • Two bioinformatics contest awards and one national research award
    • Dozens of GitHub repositories with thousands of commits showcasing my work in mathematics, physics, philosophy, computer science, biology, neuroscience, and other areas.
      • It shows my R, python, and MATLAB skills in data science, software engineering, machine learning, visualization, pipelines, and other techniques that span computational disciplines. 
      • This includes self-study and work from previous labs and internships. 
  • Misc
    • I've been drafting essays that strongly emphasize my work as a scientist-philosopher as it relates to my purpose as a computational neuroscientist. It includes how I view science through a philosophical lens in ways that are especially pertinent for neuroscience.
      • These essays are extremely tailored towards individual schools for their culture, research, coursework, faculty, purpose, etc. I've deduced these features of each school through a close examination of the research, faculty, etc., from the schools themselves. 
    • I have a blog about neuroscience and philosophy that gets thousands of hits a day. My blog also shows off my research in a presentable fashion.
    • I'll apply as a California resident, but I have no idea if that makes a difference. 

I appreciate any advice, feedback, questions, or anything related to my post.

Dangit, sorry for the double post, but I forgot to mention I have 3 publications: 2 first-authors and 1 second-author. 

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7 hours ago, Logic said:

Dangit, sorry for the double post, but I forgot to mention I have 3 publications: 2 first-authors and 1 second-author. 

Wow impressive! I think your chances are good at all places listed, wat about gre though?

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15 hours ago, Throwawaydnf99 said:

Wow impressive! I think your chances are good at all places listed, wat about gre though?

Thanks! GRE isn't the best (GRE: 161V, 164Q, 4.5W) but honestly I don't think it'll make much of a difference

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Hello,

I am wondering if folks here could help me in making a school list to apply to this coming Fall. I am having a very tough time figuring out a school list and any help would be greatly appreciated. I am looking to stay in the Northeast region.

Undergrad --> Cornell University; Spring 2017

GPA --> 3.1 (I partied way too much in my freshman and sophomore years. Was below 2.5 for those two years. Took a year off and got 3.5+ for the last two years.)

GRE --> 316 (158V, 158Q; 4.0A)

Personal facts --> Domestic male; Indian; first from the family to go to high school and college.

Research experience --> 2 years as a research tech. 1 first-authored paper currently under revision in The Journal of Neuroscience. 2 second-author published papers (one neuroscience in eNeuro, one immunology in Mucosal Immunology).

LOR --> Should have a very strong one from my current PI at my job. 2 pretty strong ones from undergrad professors I took classes with and did well.

Personal statement --> I would say pretty strong

 

As it's apparent, my GPA is holding me back. But I cannot fix my past, and I want to own up my mistakes. Any suggestions about how to make my application better + a school list to apply to would be very very helpful and will be forever indebted.

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5 hours ago, mmalam294 said:

Hello,

I am wondering if folks here could help me in making a school list to apply to this coming Fall. I am having a very tough time figuring out a school list and any help would be greatly appreciated. I am looking to stay in the Northeast region.

Undergrad --> Cornell University; Spring 2017

GPA --> 3.1 (I partied way too much in my freshman and sophomore years. Was below 2.5 for those two years. Took a year off and got 3.5+ for the last two years.)

GRE --> 316 (158V, 158Q; 4.0A)

Personal facts --> Domestic male; Indian; first from the family to go to high school and college.

Research experience --> 2 years as a research tech. 1 first-authored paper currently under revision in The Journal of Neuroscience. 2 second-author published papers (one neuroscience in eNeuro, one immunology in Mucosal Immunology).

LOR --> Should have a very strong one from my current PI at my job. 2 pretty strong ones from undergrad professors I took classes with and did well.

Personal statement --> I would say pretty strong

 

As it's apparent, my GPA is holding me back. But I cannot fix my past, and I want to own up my mistakes. Any suggestions about how to make my application better + a school list to apply to would be very very helpful and will be forever indebted.

Your GPA showing improvement over time should help.

I suggest having people review your SOP, it's hard to judge your own writing about yourself. I'm happy to help with this if you want.

No one can make a list for you - we don't know your interests. What you should do is look for faculty you're interested in working with and apply to the schools that have at least 3 faculty you're excited about. I'm happy to review such a list once you've made one. 

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5 hours ago, mmalam294 said:

Hello,

I am wondering if folks here could help me in making a school list to apply to this coming Fall. I am having a very tough time figuring out a school list and any help would be greatly appreciated. I am looking to stay in the Northeast region.

Undergrad --> Cornell University; Spring 2017

GPA --> 3.1 (I partied way too much in my freshman and sophomore years. Was below 2.5 for those two years. Took a year off and got 3.5+ for the last two years.)

GRE --> 316 (158V, 158Q; 4.0A)

Personal facts --> Domestic male; Indian; first from the family to go to high school and college.

Research experience --> 2 years as a research tech. 1 first-authored paper currently under revision in The Journal of Neuroscience. 2 second-author published papers (one neuroscience in eNeuro, one immunology in Mucosal Immunology).

LOR --> Should have a very strong one from my current PI at my job. 2 pretty strong ones from undergrad professors I took classes with and did well.

Personal statement --> I would say pretty strong

 

As it's apparent, my GPA is holding me back. But I cannot fix my past, and I want to own up my mistakes. Any suggestions about how to make my application better + a school list to apply to would be very very helpful and will be forever indebted.

It really depends on what sub field you are interested in and which universities will have professors doing specific work you want to be involved with.

Targeting your application to programs with projects/labs that match your interests is a very important part of getting in. It can be a huge help to your application when you provide them with what labs you want and why you are a good fit for those labs, and thus the program. It’s generally the last thing you do in a statement of purpose that you then tailor for each university. If done well, it shows your commitment and gives admissions a clear vision of why you fit in their department. 

I created a list of schools I would be interested in, then looked at the short faculty bios to see their general research topics. Each school that had 3 or more faculty working in the sub field I was interested in, I kept on the list. Then you can trim it down by diving deeper into faculty websites and recent publications or search for more departments if you aren’t happy with your list.

If you are more specific with an area of research you want to pursue, people will be able to make more helpful recommendations for programs. I was looking at programs with multiple labs studying neurodegenerative diseases, so if that’s of any use to you I have a list I would be happy to share (was also primarily looking at the northeast). 

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My profile: I am a doctor trained in classical music trying to understand music cognition and it's application in clinical practice. Mainly exploring EEG/ERP.

GRE : 320

Education : MBBS from India, also known as MD in US (graduating in mar-2020) 12th standard: 91% 10th standard : 94%

Areas of interest : Auditory perception and music cognition 

Research experience : ~3 years, 3 research projects out of which two are EEG based. 
( sought private funding for both of my projects on my own capacity while i was in 2nd and 4th year of my med school) 

Publications : 2 (under review) both first authored. 

Extra curricular activities : trained in classical music for over 15 years, state level badminton player, have been involved in a lot public health realted activities. 

Some of the universities im thinking are Harvard, MIT, north western, Uchicago, university of Nevada, university of Rochester, university of Tufts,  university of Connecticut, princeton, columbia and Cornell. Do i stand a chance to make it to the above mentioned universities? How competitive my profile be? Any suggestions on how I can improve my CV are welcome :)

Thanks in advance guys! 

      
 

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On 8/2/2019 at 11:59 AM, Allaboutbrain! said:

My profile: I am a doctor trained in classical music trying to understand music cognition and it's application in clinical practice. Mainly exploring EEG/ERP.

GRE : 320

Education : MBBS from India, also known as MD in US (graduating in mar-2020) 12th standard: 91% 10th standard : 94%

Areas of interest : Auditory perception and music cognition 

Research experience : ~3 years, 3 research projects out of which two are EEG based. 
( sought private funding for both of my projects on my own capacity while i was in 2nd and 4th year of my med school) 

Publications : 2 (under review) both first authored. 

Extra curricular activities : trained in classical music for over 15 years, state level badminton player, have been involved in a lot public health realted activities. 

Some of the universities im thinking are Harvard, MIT, north western, Uchicago, university of Nevada, university of Rochester, university of Tufts,  university of Connecticut, princeton, columbia and Cornell. Do i stand a chance to make it to the above mentioned universities? How competitive my profile be? Any suggestions on how I can improve my CV are welcome :)

Thanks in advance guys! 

      
 

So your profile is a bit odd to me and is very atypical for a neuroscience applicant in the U.S. If I was a committee member, I'd like to see specific research experience in a traditional neuroscience lab; was this your experience? What journals are you authored in and are they regional ones from India? I know of someone with a very similar and profile as you (might even be you) and they are getting a master's in Europe to allay such concerns. I also don't know if an MBBS from India is of any value and committee's are a conservative bunch when it comes to addressing degrees they don't know about.

Also, the schools you've picked are sort of all over the place and very top-heavy from those in the top-10 (Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and Columbia) to those in the top-20 (Chicago, Northwestern) to those in the top-50 (Rochester, and Cornell) and then some top-100 (Tufts and UConn) to Nevada whose program I've never heard of. I think you need to try to apply to more safety school's in the top-100 because It's already super hard to get in as an international student and doubly so because you don't have a Western degree.

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On 7/22/2019 at 11:00 AM, Logic said:

I'll be applying to programs in theoretical, computational, and mathematical neuroscience this Fall.

My list is: Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, Cold Spring Harbor, UC Davis, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, U Chicago, U Oregon, and U Washington. I might trim it down as the deadlines approach, but I've been drafting essays now and hope to submit them as soon as the deadline window opens. 

My stats:

  • GPA
    • Undergraduate: 3.3 (Physics-Philosophy double major from Indiana University-Bloomington)
      • Includes:  thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, quantum physics, mechanics, electricity and magnetism, linear algebra, calculus, differential equations, neuroscience, biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, epistemology, logic, poetry, ethics, and philosophy of science. 
    • Post-baccalaureate: 4.0 
  • Research 
    • 4 years of bioinformatics research during undergrad
      • Includes two summer REU's: one in bioinformatics (Cornell University) and one in computational neuroscience (U Chicago)
    • 2 years of NIH postbac IRTA: 1 year of bioinformatics and 1 year of computational neuroscience
    • Two bioinformatics contest awards and one national research award
    • Dozens of GitHub repositories with thousands of commits showcasing my work in mathematics, physics, philosophy, computer science, biology, neuroscience, and other areas.
      • It shows my R, python, and MATLAB skills in data science, software engineering, machine learning, visualization, pipelines, and other techniques that span computational disciplines. 
      • This includes self-study and work from previous labs and internships. 
  • Misc
    • I've been drafting essays that strongly emphasize my work as a scientist-philosopher as it relates to my purpose as a computational neuroscientist. It includes how I view science through a philosophical lens in ways that are especially pertinent for neuroscience.
      • These essays are extremely tailored towards individual schools for their culture, research, coursework, faculty, purpose, etc. I've deduced these features of each school through a close examination of the research, faculty, etc., from the schools themselves. 
    • I have a blog about neuroscience and philosophy that gets thousands of hits a day. My blog also shows off my research in a presentable fashion.
    • I'll apply as a California resident, but I have no idea if that makes a difference. 

I appreciate any advice, feedback, questions, or anything related to my post.

Hi, I am very interested about the content in your blog. Could you give me the link?

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Does anyone have any info on the reputation on BU's GPN vs A&N (Anatomy and Neurobiology)? 

Aside from their differences in coursework, I can't tell much of a difference. I take it that GPN has the better reputation?

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10 hours ago, charmingdiary said:

Does anyone have any info on the reputation on BU's GPN vs A&N (Anatomy and Neurobiology)? 

Aside from their differences in coursework, I can't tell much of a difference. I take it that GPN has the better reputation?

In the end, no one will ask which program you got your degree from, just which school. Any degree in neuroscience from BU will, later on, come with the same prestige. It'll matter more what faculty you work with.

BU has 3 separate neuroscience programs (also behavioral neuro), which is just weird.

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7 hours ago, BabyScientist said:

In the end, no one will ask which program you got your degree from, just which school. Any degree in neuroscience from BU will, later on, come with the same prestige. It'll matter more what faculty you work with.

BU has 3 separate neuroscience programs (also behavioral neuro), which is just weird.

Very true! I just got massively curious because BU is the first school I've seen that has 3 different programs regarding neuro. I emailed the contact person for A&N and asked if their program is interdisciplinary in the sense that students can choose thesis labs in other programs (as is the standard for most graduate biomedical programs) and they said that A&N students should do research within their department only, which I found bizarre. My current PI found that weird too and said that unfortunately sometimes departments won't merge because of politics.

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22 hours ago, charmingdiary said:

Very true! I just got massively curious because BU is the first school I've seen that has 3 different programs regarding neuro. I emailed the contact person for A&N and asked if their program is interdisciplinary in the sense that students can choose thesis labs in other programs (as is the standard for most graduate biomedical programs) and they said that A&N students should do research within their department only, which I found bizarre. My current PI found that weird too and said that unfortunately sometimes departments won't merge because of politics.

I interviewed at BU and got the vibe that there are a lot of politics between the departments. In my current program, 3 of us interviewed for 3 different programs there and got weird vibes from them. 

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my tentative list is

UCLA, UC Berkeley, UCSF, Columbia, NYU, USC (subject to a few more added - potentially abroad).

================================================================

have you/will you guys be reaching out to multiple PIs at each school?  or is that bad form?

 

Edited by Scrappyhappy

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29 minutes ago, Scrappyhappy said:

my tentative list is

UCLA, UC Berkeley, UCSF, Columbia, NYU, USC (subject to a few more added - potentially abroad).

================================================================

have you/will you guys be reaching out to multiple PIs at each school?  or is that bad form?

 

Definitely not bad form, I'd encourage it. Get an idea of if the people you want to work with are good people and if they're even taking students. Reach out and express your interest in their work and that you're applying and would love to hear more about their work/the program. I had a few phone calls with faculty of interest.

EDIT: this won't necessarily help your chance at admission, but is more for you to know what you're getting yourself into before you apply. 

Edited by BabyScientist

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35 minutes ago, BabyScientist said:

Definitely not bad form, I'd encourage it. Get an idea of if the people you want to work with are good people and if they're even taking students. Reach out and express your interest in their work and that you're applying and would love to hear more about their work/the program. I had a few phone calls with faculty of interest.

EDIT: this won't necessarily help your chance at admission, but is more for you to know what you're getting yourself into before you apply. 

Thank you!  What area do you research in?

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2 hours ago, Scrappyhappy said:

my tentative list is

UCLA, UC Berkeley, UCSF, Columbia, NYU, USC (subject to a few more added - potentially abroad).

================================================================

have you/will you guys be reaching out to multiple PIs at each school?  or is that bad form?

 

Agree with Babyscientist it's definitely not bad form and it's a good opportunity for you to get a taste of what the PI is like and their research. Don't get discouraged if they don't respond though! They're busy people and some profs are simply terrible at responding to emails.  

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@HawaiiLee808 
Hi! Thanks a lot for your reply.

I would like to know why you think my profile is a bit odd for a neuroscience PhD program? I have a very good research experience close to 3 years  in electrophysiology, right from designing experimental paradigms to data acquisition to  EEG analysis.
Yes, I have worked in a traditional neuroscience lab, which is a part of a company that manufactures EEG & ERB machines. They do conduct a lot of studies related to sleep, aphasia, ADHD and many more. And I don't think MBBS from India is an alien degree to universities in the US, (I hope not)

Coming to my publications, I have one under review in https://www.journals.elsevier.com/explore and the other in  https://www.journals.elsevier.com/international-journal-of-psychophysiology
So it would be great if you tell me why you think I should re-consider my decision? It could save hundreds of dollars for me!:)) 
 

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On 8/31/2019 at 8:03 AM, BabyScientist said:

I interviewed at BU and got the vibe that there are a lot of politics between the departments. In my current program, 3 of us interviewed for 3 different programs there and got weird vibes from them. 

That's really disheartening to hear. I wonder if that ends up fostering a competitive environment as opposed to a collaborative one. Thank you so much for your input! I still like the school but I'll do more digging to see which program seems the best.

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My own tentative list is: UWashington, OHSU (NGP), Northwestern, UCSF, UC Davis, UC Berkeley (Neuro),  UT Austin, BU (not sure which program yet), Pitt and UCSD.

I'm currently looking at U of Oregon, U of Utah, UPenn, and Brandeis. Theyre good programs but I'm not particularly SO excited opposed to the ones I previously listed.

Anyone know any programs with a solid visual neuroscience subdiscipline/PI's that I may have missed?

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