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Ph.D Statistics/Biostatistics Fall 2022 Profile - Seeking advice and school rec


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Undergrad Institution: California public university (Cal. State)
Major(s): Math with statistics emphasis
Minor(s): None
GPA: 3.414
Grad/Master's Institution: The same as undergrad
Program: Pure math
GPA: 3.944
Type of Student: Domestic Hispanic/Latino Male

GRE General Test: Have not taken yet.
GRE Math Subject Test: Have not taken yet. Should I take this?
Coursework and grades(Math/Stat/Comp Sci):
  • Undergraduate Lower Division: Calculus 1(C), Calculus 2/3(A), Linear Algebra and Differential Equations(B), Discrete Math 1(B), Discrete Math 2(A), Introduction to Programming in C++(B), Introduction to Statistics(A), Pure/Applied Math Seminar(A)
  • Undergraduate Upper Division: Undergraduate Analysis 1/2(A), Introduction to Probability Theory(A), Introductory Numerical Analysis(A), Intermediate Numerical Analysis/Numerical Linear Algebra(A), Survey Sampling(A), SAS Programming(A), Ordinary Differential Equations 1(A), Mathematical Statistics(A), Multivariable Real Analysis(A), Advanced Linear Algebra(A), Regression Analysis(A), Multivariate Statistical Analysis(A), Data Structures and Algorithms(B), Abstract Algebra(A), Mathematical/Convex Optimization(A)
  • Master's/Graduate: Point-set Topology(A), Introduction to Knot Theory(A), Introduction to Algebraic Topology(A), Real Analysis/Measure Theory 1/2(A), Stochastic Calculus(A), Introduction to Functional Analysis(A),  Theory of Computation(A), Abstract Algebra 1(B), Abstract Algebra 2(A), Complex Analysis(A), Introduction to Riemann Surfaces(A), Modal Logic Independent Study(A), Extremal Combinatorics Independent Study(A), Analysis of Algorithms(A), Partial Differential Equations(A), Sobolev Spaces Seminar(A), Random Matrix Theory Seminar(Officially Audited)


Research Experience:  No undergraduate research experience. Currently working as a summer research assistant in area of functional analysis/operator theory. Planning to do a poster presentation on it in a few months.  I'm not sure if this counts, but several courses in my graduate program had projects that were meant to give us a taste of research. They often required us to read several papers and summarize results in 5-10 pages. 
Research Interests:   Spatial statistics, time series analysis, missing data, statistical learning, statistics education, but really anything that allows for collaborative statistics. I would love to engage in collaborative research that allows statistics/biostatistics students to work with people specializing in one or more of animal science, environmental science, plant science, epidemiology, and research on human aging. In particular, working on anything that has to do with marine ecosystems would be ideal. 
Future Coursework(Fall 2021/Spring 2022): I need help making a decision. I notice that a lot of biostatistics programs often recommend taking life science courses(biology, environmental science, agriculture, etc). As a result of having only focused on math/stats/cs courses and my interests changing just in the past year, I have not taken many life science coursework. I have one more semester, or two more if the second semester would count, to take any of them. I have only taken an introductory biology course over 10 years ago(B). As such, I'm returning to the community college that I transferred from and I am considering one or more of the following courses, all of which are lower-division.  Which do you think would be the most helpful in my case?
  1. General Chemistry 1(Standard first course in college chemistry)
  2. Applied Botany
  3. Biology(Either Human, Environmental, Organismal, or General Ecology)
  4. Oceanography
  5. Climate Science
I'm afraid of these courses not having much of an impact on the application since they are not upper-division or graduate level classes. Is this concern warranted? Would I be better off reading research papers I am interested in and picking up knowledge along the way?
Letters of Recommendation:  My research mentor who I am working with now expects to write me a letter of recommendation. I hope it is a good one. I have never taken any courses with her, and this summer project is the only setting I've interacted with her.
The second letter is from a computer science professor holding a Ph.D in mathematics. I've taken several courses with him, and graded for his graduate algorithms course. He wrote his willingness to write me a letter of recommendation for Ph.D applications without me bringing it up, and he even vouched for me to become a lower-division computer science lecturer(which I can't take because I am still a student) with a strong recommendation which resulted in me landing a CS TA job. I imagine the letter for Ph.D applications from him will be pretty strong.
The third letter is up in the air but I have two people who I can ask. One is a knot theory researcher who I have taken a couple of courses with, and I imagine he will gladly write a good letter of recommendation. The other is a PDE/ML researcher who I have taken convex optimization, stochastic calculus, PDE, Sobolev Spaces, and Random Matrix Theory with. The knot theorist could potentially comment on my knot theory course project as some exposure to light research level work, whereas the PDE/ML professor really only has good course performance to go off of with the exception of one 20 minute presentation on a topic of my interest. I get along well with both of them though, but have a slightly better relationship with the knot theory professor. Which would you recommend me asking?
Teaching experience: TA for 2.5 years of business calculus in the math department. Upcoming TA assignment in the computer science department for a discrete math 2/linear algebra course, and an introductory numerical methods course, both of which will have programming assignments in Python. 


  •  Having no statistics professor letter writer. All my letter writers are pure or applied mathematicians.
  •  Having no statistics research experience. With the exception of some statistics projects in my undergrad, and some pure math projects in my master's classes, my only true   research experience is in functional analysis/operator theory as a summer research assistant.
  •  Having almost no life science coursework. 
  •  Poor undergraduate GPA and poor lower-division math/cs grades.
Notes: I am an older than average student. Early 30s. I had a very rocky start in my early 20s which resulted in many Ws at my first community college, with a couple Ws in my graduate courses due to outside circumstances and pandemic magnified issues.
I would like help figuring out what programs to apply to that align with my research interests, but programs that I would have some chance of getting into based on my profile.  I have no idea how competitive I am, and so any constructive feedback would be superb and highly appreciated. I am willing to move anywhere in the US, but would be willing to go to Australia or somewhere in the EU. It doesn't matter whether it is a biostatistics program or a statistics program, as long as there are opportunities for collaborative research in one or more of the areas I mentioned above. My dream school is U.C. Davis, but I am considering applying for the University of Florida and University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  I would greatly appreciate recommendations, as well as thoughts on what schools any of you think I honestly have a chance of getting into. Thank you very much for reading.
Best regards and sincere thanks,
Edited by Oatsey
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I think you're tremendously underselling yourself. That's a whole lot of math, and not having life sciences coursework doesn't matter at all (I got an offer from Harvard Biostat and I had zero sciences background). Biostat at UW-Harvard-JHU might be too tough to crack, but I think an application to like UNC-Michigan would be worth it and I think you are very competitive at a place like Minnesota. For Statistics onwards I'd apply to a few schools at the level of Duke-UW-Michigan then work your way down to some safeties with the bulk of your applications in the USNR 20-40 range (I think Rice is a really safety school).

Good luck!


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Your math background is extremely broad, and you've received a bunch of high grades in graduate level math courses. That said, it's hard to know how adcoms will view you because of your undergrad GPA and getting low grades in calculus / linear algebra, which are the two most important prerequisite courses in statistics / biostatistics. You will have to address these discrepancies in your SOP.

Given your math background, I recommend that you take the math subject GRE. I think you could do quite well on it, and if you do, no one is going to care about your undergrad grades as a lot of material on the math subject GRE is calculus / linear algebra.

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