Jump to content
  • 0

Applying for Neuroscience PhD with no Neuroscience Background and Low Undergrad GPA



Hello everyone, 

I wanted some advise on whether I should pursue a neuroscience PhD at MIT given that I have no background in neuroscience. I'm mainly interested in solving problems on brain diseases and wanted a degree in neuroscience to complement my engineering background for my career.   

My background: I have three degrees in electrical/mechanical engineering (a bachelors, plus MIT two master's degrees).  
GPA: not the greatest undergrad GPA (below 3.0/4.0) but much better grad school GPA (4.8/5.0). 
My hesitations: no neuroscience background, no papers published in the area (obviously), and my undergrad GPA was much less than ideal
What might help: I already have a couple of degrees at MIT, my GPA was much better in grad school, and I worked at several neuroscience labs part-time for about 3 years during my time as a student here, mostly learning the basics like how to run brain scans, dissecting mice and imaging their brains, etc. I also have a couple of bioengineering papers coming out soon (no bio background, just got lucky with an opportunity that needed my engineering skills). I'm also hoping to use my engineering degrees and years of industry engineering experience as leverage as most neurosci labs I worked in were eager to have me there because of my engineering skills. 

So, given the info, do you think I have a shot at a PhD in neuroscience? Or should I even bother? I'm thinking of applying to MIT (and maybe Harvard). If you think I should apply, do you have any suggestions on how I can make my application look stronger (what to focus on in my essay, test scores to aim for in my GRE, etc.). 

Thanks in advance! 

Edited by j118
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 answers to this question

Recommended Posts

  • 1

If you worked in neuroscience labs you have experience, which will be helpful! I would suggest casting a wider net though, if you really want a phd in neuroscience.  There will be applicants with similar degrees as you, and more research experience with presentations and papers specific to neuroscience.  Forget about the gpa for now.  I'd suggest to find out what questions in neuroscience interest you, and what schools have faculty focusing on that area.  In interviews, people will ask where else you've applied, maybe to see if you are serious about pursuing the area of research you have talked about in your essays. 

You should also focus on reaching out to specific faculty at each department you are interested in that are focused in that area.  Because you have been out of undergrad for a bit and may be a more mature applicant, I'd guess that adcoms would want to see a continued interest and dedication to neuroscience; especially since you don't have a degree in it.  One way to show that is by being well-versed in the community around the subject you are interested in- have you read the seminal papers, are you able to name major PIs in the field, and most importantly, can you talk about the broader strokes/open questions in the field -- as well as more specific stuff!  All of this will come through in your SOP and interviews if you have thought enough about it.  That being said, if and once you get in, you may change your interest and that is totally fine (but probably not so much that it would change the set of schools you would apply to).

As for test scores, make sure they are not too low, and you'll be fine.  Many places aren't even looking at them anymore.

You can definitely PM me if you have more questions

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.