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2025 Biostatistics PhD Application


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Hello, I've previously posted a similar thread in December 2023. With my junior year finished, and looking to apply this fall, I want to get a final review of my profile and my school list. 

Undergrad Institution: USNews Top 50
Major(s): Mathematics
Minor(s): Data Science
GPA:  3.98/4.00 (Major GPA 4.0)
Type of Student: Domestic Asian Male
GRE General Test: Taking it soon
GRE Subject Test: No plan to take it
TOEFL Score: N/A
Grad Institution: None
 
Current Research Interests: All past works have been ML related, but I'm also interested in methodological and theoretical aspects of statistics/biostatistics. 
 
Research Experience:  
  • Funded summer research experience at my home institution (worked with a stats professor on building regression model for aerospace engineering problem, no pubs)
  • Funded year-long research in interdisciplinary conservation ecology project (building object detection network)
    • Likely result in second-author paper in non-statistics journal, but not sure if it will be done prior application deadlines
  • Recently joined another research project that will likely last for a semester
 
Other Activities or Jobs: 
  • Undergraduate TA for the following courses: two semesters of Intro to Data Science, one semester of Probability (proof-based)
  • Undergraduate TA for mathematical statistics
 
Math/Statistics Grades:  (T - transfer credit (AP Exam), P - pass/fail)
Math/Statistics:
Elementary Statistics (T)
Calc I (T)
Calc II (T)
Multivariable Calculus (A)
Linear Algebra (A)
Foundations of Math (P) -> pass/fail during covid, i hope i can remedy this with my real analysis grade
Probability and Statistics for Scientists (A)
Regression Analysis (A)
Probability Theory (A)
Mathematical Statistics (A)
Survival Analysis (A)
Real Analysis I (A) - epsilon-delta stuff
Real Analysis II (A) - intro. to measure theory (covered up to dominated convergence theorem)
 
Data Science:
Intro Data Science (A)
Intro CS (A)
Databases (A)
Data Visualization (A)
Applied Machine Learning (A)
Applied Data Analytics in R (A)
 
Plan to take:
Complex Analysis
Abstract Algebra or Advanced Linear Algebra
Statistical Learning
Bioinformatics
 
Programs Applying: 
Primarily biostatistics PhDs. My dream is to get into one of the top 10 schools in usnews, but I'm applying also those outside of top 10. 
 
Letters of Recommendation: 
- One from an assistant professor who mentored me for the first two research experience listed above -> can speak about research ability
- One from another assistant professor who mentored me for the third research experience and survival analysis -> can speak about research ability + some biostatistics
- One from a pure math professor (tenured) who taught measure theory and will be teaching complex analysis -> can speak about mathematical maturity 
- One from a statistics professor (tenured) who taught probability theory and mathematical statistics -> can speak about ability to do probability/statistics
 
Here are my potential lists, and I have some worries. My plan is to apply to many reach schools and hope to get in at least one. If not, I will first pursue a masters degree (hopefully some PhD programs I apply will consider me for masters).

Biostatistics PhD:

Harvard University 

Johns Hopkins University

UNC Chapel Hill

Brown University

Yale University

University of Washington

University of Michigan

Columbia University

Duke University

University of Pennsylvania

UC Berkeley

University of Minnesota — Twin Cities

Vanderbilt University

Emory University

Statistics PhD:

University of Michigan

NC State

Masters:

Stanford University (MS Statistics)

University of Pennsylvania (MSE in Data Science)

Harvard University (MS Biostatistics)

University of Chicago (MS Statistics)

+ Some PhD schools listed above that might consider me for masters. 

Here are some of my questions:

Q: I know most schools require 3 letters, and I'm having a hard to between choosing from the four. Any advice on how to choose rec writers? 
 
Q: I know there are lots of schools up there, and I wish to cut few out if possible. Am I reaching too high, or is this reasonable. Any recommended schools to add/remove?
 
Q: I have the choice to take either a second course in linear algebra or first course of abstract algebra. Would taking the second linear algebra course make my transcript look nicer? 
 
Q: I'm mostly concerned that my researches and background may not suit biostatistics programs (besides I've taken survival analysis and will be taking bioinformatics soon). Would I be better off applying to traditional stats programs? 
 
Thank you so much in advance and any advice/comments will be appreciated! 
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1. I'd definitely choose the research people, and then whichever of the last two knows you best/will write a positive letter that shows you'll be successful - your grades are so good that I don't think you really need to prove to people you can do the math.

2. I don't think you're reaching too high at all. I don't think you need to apply to MS programs, though - as you said, you'll be considered automatically at most places.  I think you can do better than Duke/Emory/Vanderbilt/Yale.  Admissions are still competitive, so I don't feel comfortable saying these are safeties at all, but I think you can get into some better programs.

3. Take more linear algebra, no question.

4. No, your background is ideal for biostatistics.  But I do sort of wonder why you are so focused on biostatistics, as you don't mention any particular research interests.  If you want to have more options, I'd replace some biostat schools and think about applying to a couple schools in the USNews 20s like UIUC/Ohio State/Texas.

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Hi @bayessays

Would you say I still get the letter from research person if they're new faculty (taught for 1~2 years now)? Also, I just had my GRE unofficial score of 167Q/158V. Do you think it's worth retaking for the sake of quant or just sticking with it.

Thank you so much for the advice!! 

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19 hours ago, bayessays said:

1. I'd definitely choose the research people, and then whichever of the last two knows you best/will write a positive letter that shows you'll be successful - your grades are so good that I don't think you really need to prove to people you can do the math.

2. I don't think you're reaching too high at all. I don't think you need to apply to MS programs, though - as you said, you'll be considered automatically at most places.  I think you can do better than Duke/Emory/Vanderbilt/Yale.  Admissions are still competitive, so I don't feel comfortable saying these are safeties at all, but I think you can get into some better programs.

3. Take more linear algebra, no question.

4. No, your background is ideal for biostatistics.  But I do sort of wonder why you are so focused on biostatistics, as you don't mention any particular research interests.  If you want to have more options, I'd replace some biostat schools and think about applying to a couple schools in the USNews 20s like UIUC/Ohio State/Texas.

Hello @bayessays. On top of the question 3, if a person already has a master's in Statistics but lacks real analysis (and/or bad grades in linear algebra), would it be better to take those courses in a graduate level before applying to the PhD, or taking at an undergraduate level would be enough?

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3 hours ago, suncertainty said:

Hi @bayessays

Would you say I still get the letter from research person if they're new faculty (taught for 1~2 years now)? Also, I just had my GRE unofficial score of 167Q/158V. Do you think it's worth retaking for the sake of quant or just sticking with it.

Thank you so much for the advice!! 

Yes, I don't think seniority matters at all if they have a PhD (unless the alternative is like a famous statistician or something).

Your GRE is fine, I would personally not retake it. IMO, anything 167-170 is almost the same.

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3 hours ago, alemao said:

Hello @bayessays. On top of the question 3, if a person already has a master's in Statistics but lacks real analysis (and/or bad grades in linear algebra), would it be better to take those courses in a graduate level before applying to the PhD, or taking at an undergraduate level would be enough?

The material you need to know is undergraduate real analysis and linear algebra, so I would not take graduate classes.  Graduate classes are also grade-inflated so much that they won't help you as much.  In your situation, I would probably just take undergrad real analysis and try to get an A. 

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3 minutes ago, bayessays said:

The material you need to know is undergraduate real analysis and linear algebra, so I would not take graduate classes.  Graduate classes are also grade-inflated so much that they won't help you as much.  In your situation, I would probably just take undergrad real analysis and try to get an A. 

Thanks for always replying!

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