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Grad school dilemma(s)


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Hi all!


I am trying to decide between several offers, and I would really appreciate any input I can get. I’ve narrowed it down to Berkeley biostats MA, U Penn biostats PhD, and Stanford Bioinformatics PhD. They are all funded offers, and I am hoping to do well enough to perhaps have a shot at some academic institution, eventually. I am finding it really hard to decide since I am worried about specific component(s) of each offer:

  1. Berkeley is a MA offer, even though they claim they take their MA students for PhD slots. I’ve also been cautioned that the department might be too small and converging to causal inference (this might a very biased opinion, I am just repeating it). I’ve had great chats with few of their faculty members, however.
  2. I am interested in statistical genomics/bioinformatics/machine learning/large-scale inference of high-dimensional data, which does not seem to be big at U Penn. I am not sure how good of a “fit” U Penn is, but it overall seemed like a very good department.
  3. Despite it being very heavy on stats, I am afraid a PhD in data science/biomedical informatics will shut the door on more theoretical components of statistics (research-wise) & future appointments. There is however some possibility of working with few big names from the stats department, and their biostats concentration will be within the bioinformatics department in near future (as the program changes to "Data Science").


 Thank you for your input and congrats to all on all the amazing offers :)

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If you're interested in "statistical genomics/bioinformatics/machine learning/large-scale inference of high-dimensional data", Stanford bioinformatics seems like the best choice. Hastie and Tibshirani from the stat department are affiliated with that program and as you know they are huge leaders in these areas.


In terms of competitiveness for academic jobs, I don't think you'd be more competitive for academic jobs in stat/biostat departments coming from Penn biostat over Stanford bioinfo if you had a strong statistical component to your research. Looks like the bioinfo program has had a number of placements in top statistics and biostatistics departments like Harvard biostat, Duke stat, UNC biostat. Horvitz and Heckerman now at Microsoft Research, too, were graduates from an earlier incarnation of the program a couple decades ago. As an anecdatum, my statistics department has a recently tenured faculty member who did his PhD in biomath. If you work with someone who is a BFD in the fields you apply for positions in -- and there are numerous such people at Stanford -- it wouldn't seem to matter the exact name of your program.


Also, bear in mind the growth in these umbrella "data science" research groups, like what you're seeing the Stanford bioinfo department morph into. When you're on the academic job market in ~5 years, I would guess that quite a few of the opportunities you'll be looking at will be linked to newly formed programs mixing statistics, CS, informatics, computation, and applications. A bioinfo PhD from Stanford would be no less competitive for those kinds of positions than a biostat PhD from Penn.

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