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UC Berkeley MCB vs. Harvard BBS


biograd2012
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Hey everybody,

 

I've narrowed my top choices to UC Berkeley's MCB program and Harvard's BBS program.  Berkeley seems very graduate student oriented (more so than Harvard), but Harvard's BBS program has so many labs that I can do just about anything I want.  Any thoughts regarding these two programs?  Any advice would be much appreciated!!

 
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One criticism of BBS that I've heard (at the recruiting weekend for a different grad program) is that it's "too big." Both professors and grad students seem to say this. I don't have specifics on what downsides there are to this, but I get the impression that the program might lack student attention and that people feel they're getting lost in the shuffle? That's really speculative, but it's my impression. 

 

Good luck with the decision! They're both so great that you can't really go too wrong (: 

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Harvard BBS I heard is too big and impersonal. Also Harvard's faculty compete with each other for tenure spot and the stress trickles down to grad students. Honestly UCB is the same way... Both places are full of cutthroat self-starters if you enjoy that type of environment go for it! UCSF BMS/Tetrad/iPQB and Yale BBS programs have nicer faculty and graduate students who care more about you from my experience.

 

You can trust me on the Harvard's assessment because my PI got his PhD from Harvard and in his words "It was good for my career but I wasn't happy there." He did the PhD in the smaller Harvard MCO program which was suppose to be more personal so you know how worse it is for BBS.

Edited by SciencePerson101
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I am currently a Berkeley MCB student, but I interviewed for both the programs you are asking about.  I definitely am biased towards Berkeley.  The difference for me, was that I liked how much more localized the Berkeley program was compared to BBS that was spread out over so many building in boston (longwood campus, MGH campus).  To me it felt like there was a greater community between the graduate students at Berkeley where BBS you dispersed into your lab and never saw people again.  I judged this from the # of older grad students involved in recruitment and younger grad student knowledge of the scientific interests of their classmates .  As a student at Berkeley I can say that there is a strong cohort feeling to my class and my impressions as a recruit were accurate of the program.
 
I think one of the bigger differences is the scientific approach between the two programs.  Berkeley is WAY more basic science, where the majority of the BBS labs has a translation slant to them.  So you will be exposed to way more biomedical science within BBS, where Berkeley is more about fundamental basic biology.  Both are important, but it might be better to pick based on that.
 
For me I knew I could be excited about both types of science and ultimately I cared most about being trained in a program/lab that really cared about their students.  I ended up at Berkeley and am very happy.
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I think one of the bigger differences is the scientific approach between the two programs.  Berkeley is WAY more basic science, where the majority of the BBS labs has a translation slant to them.  So you will be exposed to way more biomedical science within BBS, where Berkeley is more about fundamental basic biology.  Both are important, but it might be better to pick based on that.

 

Thanks for all the responses!

 

To AutumnLover - I am interested in more biomedical/translational research but was actually leaning towards going to Berkeley because I liked the environment at  Berkeley more (and because I've already identified some PIs at Berkeley with whom I would like to work).  I was wondering if it would be possible to transition into more biomedical/translational research after doing basic research at Berkeley.  And, do you know of any labs at Berkeley that have a more biomedical/translational slant?

 

Thanks!

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there definitely are labs with active work in biomedical applications, and even in labs where it isn't obvious(my lab is a great example, its a structural biology lab by trade, but there are a couple of postdocs working in stem cell models) but its not as wide spread as the labs that are closely tied with the hospitals like at Dana Farber and MGH.  

 

I don't think doing your thesis work in a more basic lab setting limits you from moving into a translational field afterwards.   Its just more about what you are exposed to outside of your research on a daily basis.  Grad school is about learning how to think and formulate questions which you can find methods to answer them.  Whether you do that in a basic biology setting or not doesn't change the foundational skills you are learning or limit how you apply them after grad school.

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