Jump to content

Unconventional Comp Bio PhD Applicant


Recommended Posts

Hi everyone,

I'm a really non-traditional PhD applicant and was hoping for any advice since I haven't found any threads, resources, or met other applicants similar to me. I'm an older granpa applicant (31) whose had a non-traditional path to PhD applications.


  • Undergrad: Non STEM major, almost no STEM courses and abysmal GPA. I address this in my SOP.
  • Non-Matriculating Biology/Chemistry:  B/B+
  • M.S. Bioinformatics: A-
  • Integral Calculus: Just finished... took the course to have it formally on record. Outside of my M.S., I'm self taught or took non-credit math courses through linear algebra which really makes me self conscious. Grade pending.


  • 11 publications co-authorships. No first authors. Some 2nd and 3rd authorships. Half high impact publications (CNS).
  • 6 abstracts/conference papers (I didn't present but was co-author).
  • Half my career in health informatics (big data clinical research) and other half in bioinformatics/Comp Bio. Almost all publications for the latter.

Schools Applying to:

NYC area programs (Columbia, Tri-I, Weill Cornell, NYU, Mt. Sinai, Rockefeller University, GSK). Only submitted GRE to Columbia with quant 161. Took GRE once before discovering schools weren't requiring it and decided to focus on publishing - so I didn't re-take. 

Unfortunately, I need to stay in the NYC area for personal reasons and schools here are extremely competitive. Last year only applied to Albert Einstein, Tri-I & Weill Cornell. Got interviewed at Tri-I and Weill Cornell and wait listed at the latter. Rejected in all three.

LOR are fairly strong from well established PIs I've worked under or collaborated with on publications. Felt my SOP was good.


I'm not sure how competitive an applicant I am - and perhaps it's impossible to tell. I've got major imposter syndrome and feel like I barely squeaked into interviews last year (I did mediocre in them, wasn't sure what to expect, tried to discuss too many research topics, didn't have good questions, etc.). It feels hard to compete when everyone seems like a recent 4.0 STEM ivy league grads in their early 20s with a publication. I haven't met any applicant remotely similar to me.

Also, since I have a limited formal math undergrad record, should I avoid expressing more purely quantitative interests with PIs of interest or in the applications (e.g. ML or new stat analysis for single-cell sequencing)? My strengths seemed to be perceived as CS/engineering and bridging biological principles with computational analyses.       

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I understand you are concerned about the age. I'm even a couple of years older than you and I'm applying this round as well. International applicant, fairly OK undergrad GPA in a STEM major and a decent master's GPA in biology. I have fewer publications than you do, but two of them first-authored. I can't give you advices but I wish both of us good luck this time! 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think your profile looks very competitive, in my opinion. I am also applying to bioinfo/comp Bio phd programs this year. And your profile is way better than me, with a lot of publications and research experience in relative field. And I am similar to you that I don't have a very strong quantitive knowledge background. But if you cannot get admitted, I am very worried that I have no chance at all, and I am even an international student.

But as you said, programs in NYC are very competitive, so I am really not sure how they gonna value your profile. 

Best Luck!

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.