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BA Psych --> PhD Bio advice?


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If this is a bit long, I apologize, but I think some context may be useful here.


I graduated a few years ago with a BA in psychology with very few science and upper-level math classes. I took a few neuroscience courses and a graduate psychopharm class, worked for a year and a half in a cognitive psych lab and gained experience with fMRI and facial electromyography. I wrote an honors thesis on a widely studied visual cognition phenomenon and graduated with research honors. I should’ve gone the BS route and taken at least chem/bio/calc etc. … but I didn’t.


The science and math deficits on my transcript upset me for a long time, but I finally decided the only way to change it was to stop being angry and take more courses. I’m currently enrolled in a coursera genetics course and I’m signed up for a systems bio class when genetics ends. I’m also investigating taking calculus at a local university for credit, and possibly bio and chem as they fit into my schedule (I work full-time).


I’m planning to apply to PhD programs this fall, and I want to apply to biosciences programs. I’ll probably apply to some neuroscience programs, but I’d really like to get into a biology department and do work on population genetics. (This isn’t because I’m taking the genetics class now — I took the class because it’s interested me since high school bio.)


If I take extra courses on my own time, some via coursera/udacity and others through a local university, will this begin to mitigate the deficits on my transcript? I know online/coursera courses won't count "officially" but I want the knowledge, and I also want to demonstrate to admissions committees that I'm disciplined and motivated. This is something I really want.


Do I need to go the masters route first since my background is so lacking? Do I take a couple of subject GREs to demonstrate proficiency in areas I don't have on my transcript? Should I just give up on this and go the neuroscience route since it's aligned with my background?


I apologize for the length of this! Thanks for reading, and any advice is much appreciated.


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 I do think it is very possible if you do well in your Bio GRE scores.  Keep in mind it is a huge jump from psychology to population genetics.  If I were you I would sit in an evolution and population genetic classes to see if you are truly interested in the topic and read several science journals on the topic.  Who knows maybe you might be interested in how the brain involves or something?  


Unfortunately, some schools might turn you down just for having the lack of biology background.  I remember getting turned down simply for not doing strong research on molecular biology  

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I think the biggest hurdle you will run into is answering the question of how you decided on your field. Without much background, it's going to hard to sell to admissions committees that you are really set in your research interests. If you're set on applying this fall, you'll want to spend a lot of time crafting a good answer to that question, and definitely address it in your SOP. Otherwise, I think it would be a good idea to try to take a course (for credit) in population genetics or try to get involved in similar research.

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It may be a good idea to apply for some lab tech positions that research population genetics or a similar field. You already have some research experience so this should be pretty easy for you. Taking the classes is nice but relevant research experience is what gets you in PhD programs. If you take classes that don't go on your transcript, I would suggest taking either the Biochemistry or Biology GRE to show your knowledge even though you may lack the formal instruction. Good luck to you!

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