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Program Recommendations for Microbial Ecology



I'm gearing up to apply to PhD programs this cycle, but I'm having trouble hammering out my list of institutions that I want to apply to. Particularly, I'm having a hard time figuring out the relative selectivity of a program, especially in the case of direct admit ecology programs. I want to make sure I'm applying to some schools that are a bit less selective, but still have a vibrant department, particularly for microbial ecology/disease ecology. It's getting time for me to finalize my list and start reaching out to PIs, but I keep going back and forth about where I'd like to apply.

A bit about me: 

  • Undergrad degree in Biology with a minor in Religious studies from a NESCAC small liberal arts school.
  • GPA 3.89/4.00
  • Took a gap semester during Covid F' 2020 to work in a malaria immunology/infectious disease lab.
  • Undergrad capstone research in disease ecology
  • I've taken ~2 years off after undergrad to work in a human microbiome lab, where I helped my PI set up her first lab
  • Co-first author on a mini-review article published in Trends in Microbiology, currently working toward a larger first author metatranscriptomics paper. I've presented oral and poster presentations at a handful of regional conferences. 
  • 3 semesters of mentoring undergraduate students in the lab
  • I'm most excited about research that combines molecular and ecological methods. I've been bolstering up my computational biology skills in this job, but I'd like to end up somewhere where I can get up from my computer every now and then for some field work or bench work. I'm especially interested in the intersections between microbiology, community ecology, and One Health. A lot of my previous research has been human-health focused, but I'd prefer to study eco/evo, rather than biomedical research.
  • After my PhD, I'm looking to go into academia (professor at a PUI) or work in industry.

Right now I'm thinking of applying to: 

  1. Dartmouth EEES
  2. Cornell CALS microbiology 
  3. UWisconsin (MDTP -- bacteriology/ insect microbiome)
  4. Michigan State
  5. NC State
  6. Penn State Huck Institute of Life sciences
  7. UC Davis
  8. UMaine
  9. UMaryland

Are there any other programs I should consider? I hear plenty of folks tell me where I shouldn't apply ("Yale's a stress cesspool," "Penn State has dated facilities", "UMass Amherst is a mess"), but I'm not sure how much weight to place on these opinions? Any advice?


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