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Stephen_Hao

2022 Fall Applied Math/Biostatistics PhD Application Plan and Evaluation

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Posted (edited)

Hello everyone,

I am a rising junior and planning to apply for PhD programs (and/or Master programs, if any) in Biostatistics and/or Applied Math (Analysis). Maybe it is too early; I have listed my information below and hope that you could provide some advice about which schools I could apply for. 

Undergraduate Institution: Brown University

Concentration: Mathematics (Honors Bachelor of Science) +  Applied Mathematics (Standard Bachelor of Arts)

GPA: 4.0/4.0 (We do not have official GPA, but currently grades for all my courses are A)

Type of Student: International (Asian male)

Courses taken (freshman and sophomore year):

  • Applied Math: Intro to Statistical Inference and Probability (A)
  • Math: Intro to Mathematical Analysis(A), Intro to Abstract Algebra (A), Topics in Abstract Algebra (including Galois Theory and representation theory) (A), Cryptography (A), Ordinary Differential Equations (A), Complex Analysis (A), Multi-Variable Calculus (A), Linear Algebra (A) (Self-learned: basic point-set topology)
  • CS: Intro to Object-Oriented Programming (A)

Courses will take in junior year

  • Math: Undergraduate Real Analysis (including point-set topology, measure theory, manifolds, etc.), Partial Differential Equations, Differential Geometry, Graduate Algebra

Courses will take in senior year

  • Applied Math: Graduate Partial Differential Equations, Graduate Probability Theory
  • Math: Graduate Real Analysis

GRE General Test: haven't taken, plan to take next year

GRE Subject Math: haven't taken, plan to take next year

Research Experience

Will research on applied PDE with a Brown professor this summer (Brown-funded)

Working Experience:

Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for both Math and Applied Math Department

Letters of Recommendation: (Tentative): one from algebra professor, one from analysis professor, one from professor who does research with me on PDE.

Currently considering schools: Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Cambridge (or Oxford), Brown (I confess that it is extremely hard for me to apply to them)

Thank you in advance for your time and advice!

Edited by Stephen_Hao

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Posted (edited)

I think you have an ok profile but you look like a pure math guy to me. Are you sure you want to do biostatistics? If I were you, I'd take more graduate level math courses and drop that applied PDE research for something more theoretical (such as abstract algebra which you seem to be really passionate about). Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, Caltech Cambridge, Brown all have top pure math programs. Why aren't you applying to pure math program at the schools you have mentioned? I really do think you have the potential to get into one of those and thrive there instead of settling for other things. You should also consider other top schools such as UCBerkeley, Columbia, UCLA for good measure. 

Edited by DanielWarlock

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I wouldn't say anything is guaranteed for international applicants, but your profile is obviously about as good as you can get, so you should apply to and will probably get into the top biostat programs. 

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Agree with the above; your profile seems a bit weird to me.

Analysis and biostats are really far from each other although you do have another year to figure out roughly what you want (but you shouldn't try and do both)

In addition if you are applying to math programs in analysis, (and want to continue doing PDEs), I think UCLA is a pretty egregious omission

I personally didn't go through math graduate admissions, but a lot of my friends did so I can say a little bit through that. You should probably apply to a broader range of schools than just the top few: I know people who took 8+ graduate courses at Berkeley (which is, according to USNews, a top 5 math program) with all As and still had a hard time cracking the Princeton/Harvard/MIT/Stanford tier of schools.

I think there is also a tendency for math graduate schools to reject their own undergrads, since its usually encouraged for undergrads to go somewhere else for their PhD.

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15 hours ago, DanielWarlock said:

I think you have an ok profile but you look like a pure math guy to me. Are you sure you want to do biostatistics? If I were you, I'd take more graduate level math courses and drop that applied PDE research for something more theoretical (such as abstract algebra which you seem to be really passionate about). Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, Caltech Cambridge, Brown all have top pure math programs. Why aren't you applying to pure math program at the schools you have mentioned? I really do think you have the potential to get into one of those and thrive there instead of settling for other things. You should also consider other top schools such as UCBerkeley, Columbia, UCLA for good measure. 

Thank you for your help! For the incoming PDE research, the professor told me that I can extend it into a more theoretical research when I learn more analysis in the future. Actually, I am not super confident such that I maybe apply for pure math PhD to some school but also apply to some economics, statistics, applied math programs as well. (I also took several econ courses)This is just a rough plan. Besides, my advisor at applied math department researches in probability and statistics, and he said that real analysis (measure theory) and probability and statistics theory are closely related. So I think maybe my profile looks good to statistics programs. 

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14 hours ago, icantdoalgebra said:

Agree with the above; your profile seems a bit weird to me.

Analysis and biostats are really far from each other although you do have another year to figure out roughly what you want (but you shouldn't try and do both)

In addition if you are applying to math programs in analysis, (and want to continue doing PDEs), I think UCLA is a pretty egregious omission

I personally didn't go through math graduate admissions, but a lot of my friends did so I can say a little bit through that. You should probably apply to a broader range of schools than just the top few: I know people who took 8+ graduate courses at Berkeley (which is, according to USNews, a top 5 math program) with all As and still had a hard time cracking the Princeton/Harvard/MIT/Stanford tier of schools.

I think there is also a tendency for math graduate schools to reject their own undergrads, since its usually encouraged for undergrads to go somewhere else for their PhD.

Thank you for your help! I will start to get to know more schools!

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15 hours ago, bayessays said:

I wouldn't say anything is guaranteed for international applicants, but your profile is obviously about as good as you can get, so you should apply to and will probably get into the top biostat programs. 

Thank you for your reply! 

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1 hour ago, Stephen_Hao said:

Thank you for your help! For the incoming PDE research, the professor told me that I can extend it into a more theoretical research when I learn more analysis in the future. Actually, I am not super confident such that I maybe apply for pure math PhD to some school but also apply to some economics, statistics, applied math programs as well. (I also took several econ courses)This is just a rough plan. Besides, my advisor at applied math department researches in probability and statistics, and he said that real analysis (measure theory) and probability and statistics theory are closely related. So I think maybe my profile looks good to statistics programs. 

Yes that sounds very good. In this case, you should continue your research with the mentor and apply to statistics programs with a theory focus: Stanford (Dembo) for instance. Who is your advisor and what kind of research he works on? In general, you should be clear about what exactly you want to do and what it is. In general, you should go to a pure math program to get a top-notch education in theoretical research even though your intended field is probability. You should not apply to statistics because you think it is less competitive than pure math programs. 

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I feel like you're getting advice that's sort of assuming what type of research you want to do, but you don't really give any indication what you want to work on. I am not sure why Daniel is assuming you would like to do theoretical research. But you should think hard about what type of program you want to be in because applied math, biostat, econ are very different. 

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I can't echo @bayessays's sentiments more. It's imperative, during this time to explore! Really make sure you want to do statistics, and if you do, start your research early. It appears you've been looking into programs already, which is great. Try and read up on things to see if they interest you. If they do, you might want to consider those as potential research areas that you will look for in programs. But, at the end of the day, it's perfectly fine to not know what you want to do research in! Plenty of people change their minds, as well, so be open-minded and find a place that fits your interests, needs and goals.

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