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Chances of being accepted into Biomedical Engineering PhD Programs?


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I go to school at a small liberal arts college (not many people know it even exists), and I'm interested in applying for a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. I'm going to be a senior this year, and here is my profile:


Major: Biochemistry

Minor: Pure Mathematics


GPA: 3.55 (I suffered from an undiagnosed medical disorder and had a bad semester the fall semester of my junior year. After it was treated I came back in the spring with a 4.0 semester)


GRE: Haven't taken yet, planning on taking in August. Been averaging 165Q 159V on practice tests


ECs: Organic Chem research for 2 years (I began an independent research project), Organic Chem TA, Organic Chem Tutor, involved in student leadership position on campus


I also participated in a study abroad program for a semester. 


I'm nervous because I am coming from such a small school, and I feel my GPA is a little low. Because my medical complication was treated, I am expecting to have a good gpa for my senior year. If I get straight A's it'll only bump me up to a 3.68 (which I still feel isn't high enough). 


I'm really interested in neuroengineering research; the whole controlling prosthesis with your mind absolutely fascinates me. Nothing would satisfy me more than creating something that could help improve the everyday lives of others. 

I also know these programs are super competitive. I am interested in some feedback on my profile. Should I even apply to some top programs? Or is it a waste of time and money. 


Some of the programs I'm looking at:


UC Davis


U of Washington

UC Berkeley

Johns Hopkins



U of Illinois- Urbana Champaign

Texas A&M


I realize not all of these have neuroengineering research programs, but I am also interesting in medical imaging, so that's why other schools are on the list.


Thank you! :)

Edited by blackcoffee5
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I'm not sure how much I can help, but I'll give you my 2 cents and experience. I'm currently at RPI in the Biomedical Engineering doctorate program. For the GRE I scored 164V/161Q. I had a similar undergrad GPA in mechanical engineering from BYU (lots of core engineering classes and sprinkled in O-Chem as an elective). Widely varied research experience, but nothing very in-depth (and no publications as a result). RPI was the only school to which I was accepted (and to be honest I was the second choice of the professor who invited me to join his group). So in essence I kind of got lucky (at least that's how I feel).


That said, here are a few things I learned during the application process that I wish I would have known:


1. Every school (and even department) admits students in a different way. In the biomedical engineering department at RPI, the only way you are going to get accepted is if a professor that has room in their research group wants you there. They sift out the obviously poor applications and then send the rest to the professors to look over. However, in the chemical engineering department, the department accepts the best X number of applicants and then the students and professors kind of choose each other over the course of the first semester. Each school is different and it would be very helpful to place some phone calls and emails to the schools you're interested in to find out how it works there.


2. Research is king. Your GPA, GRE and extracurricular stuff are great, and will generally help keep you out of the pile labeled immediately "Deny Admission" or maybe help break a tie with another applicant; however, a professor that takes you into their group wants to know that you can and will be able to contribute as soon as possible. You need to be able to show the professors: "I want to research X in graduate school. So far I've done Y project and Z research that show I am capable of performing that research at a high level in your lab." Graduate school is much more that just classwork and they want to know you can do it.


3. Your adviser can make/break your experience. You will be spending quite a bit of time with your adviser and it is so much easier if you get along well with him/her. I think a lot of people (me included) apply to schools based on their notoriety, rankings, etc. And to be honest, those things very well may help you get started in a great job/career, but in my mind it wouldn't really be worth 4-5 years of misery. Life is way too short for that. You have to decide what is most important to you.


4. Contact as many people as you can. Maybe you really want to work with professor X at University Y, but the fact of the matter is, if that professor doesn't have funding to take on another student when you apply...they probably can't/ won't unless you're some sort of wunderkind (I wasn't and to put it bluntly, you don't appear to be either). Look for schools that are doing research you are interested and contact the professors doing that research. You don't have to give them your whole resume and life story (in fact, don't), but say you love what they're doing (maybe read some of their publications and comment about them briefly) and are interested in joining their research group next year if there is room. DO NOT send out a mass email just changing the name of the professor (you can tell and it will only hurt your chances). Most professors (not all) will reply in some form and let you know that you should go ahead and apply to the school. They also may say, "Don't waste your time, not taking anyone next year." If you really want to work with them, then it will only help if they've at least seen your name and maybe even have some sort of rapport with you.


This is decidedly longer then I planned so I'll end now. Again, this is just my take on the matter, YMMV. Let me know if you have any other questions and I'll do what I can to answer them.


Good luck with everything.

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