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Choosing the right PhD program (genetics)


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I am an international student considering applying to a PhD to start on the fall of 2022. I am at the first step (selecting universities) and I was wondering what criteria did you guys use to choose which universities/programs to apply.

Did you narrow your focus at the beggining of the process or did you choose schools that had several research lines that might be interesting to you? In other words did you start your applications with a broad interest such as "genetics and genomic medicine", or did you narrow it down at the start to something like "understanding the RAS-MAPkinase pathway"? 

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On 2/8/2021 at 7:55 AM, WaywardVulcan said:

I am an international student considering applying to a PhD to start on the fall of 2022. I am at the first step (selecting universities) and I was wondering what criteria did you guys use to choose which universities/programs to apply.

Did you narrow your focus at the beggining of the process or did you choose schools that had several research lines that might be interesting to you? In other words did you start your applications with a broad interest such as "genetics and genomic medicine", or did you narrow it down at the start to something like "understanding the RAS-MAPkinase pathway"? 

I didn't start looking at places until the end of summer, which was a bad move, imo. So it's good that you're starting now. Start by asking your advisor what the top programs for your interests are; you can use USWNR or similar as a rough guideline. Don't take the rankings as gospel. Consider what locations you want to live in too.

Once you have a list of ~20 programs, start looking at faculty you'd be interested in working with and make sure to note which ones have rotations vs direct admission. Take your time with this. Open up google scholar and check out their rate of publication and h-index. Look through their lab page and see how lab alumni are doing. Use ProQuest if lab website doesn't list alumni; you can also use ProQuest to check out who your prospective advisor's advisor was. Finally, ask around about quality of life factors - stipend, insurance, RA funding availability, advisor's mentorship style, etc. 

Now make sure that these programs are realistic for you. Ask your advisor's opinion, look at previous year's results, etc. Narrow your list down to ~7-8 programs with 2 "safeties", 3 "targets", and 2 "reaches" and start applying. 

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