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Choosing Programs (Immunology/Biochemistry): HELP


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I am applying to PhD programs this cycle and am trying to make absolutely certain I'm not being ridiculous in my choices.  I really want an urban area with things going on and most importantly strong research with a biomedical slant.  I find myself increasingly interested in immunology as a crossroads of cell biology, genetics, micro/virology, biochemistry, and medicine.  So I've tried to choose programs strong in both basic science and with a medical center.


Here is information about me as a student:


BS in biochemistry

Minors in microbiology and genetics

Large public university in the midwest (I believe it is considered "R1" or something similar)


3.74 GPA/3.91 Major/science GPA

Coursework (including fall semester):

CHEMISTRY = Advanced General (+lab), Analytical chemistry (+lab), organic chemistry (+lab), quantum mechanics, chemical thermodynamics

BIOLOGY = General I/II, Genetics (+ lab), Molecular cell biology, neurobiology

BIOCHEM = Chemical Biology, Intro to Biochem (+lab), Comprehensive I/II, Biochemical Research Techniques (senior-level research course), Molecular Signaling

MICRO = General (+lab), Medical Micro, Immunology, Bacterial Molecular Genetics/Microbial Physiology&Phylogeny/Pathogenic organisms, Virology

GENETICS = Molecular Genetics, Advanced Developmental Biology

PHYSICS/MATH = Calc I, Calc II, Diff EQ, Classical Physics I, Classical Physics II


I will have taken 25 graduate credits upon application, all in my field:

Comprehensive Biochem I/II, Molecular Signaling, Immunology, Molecular Genetics, Virology, Advanced Developmental Biology, Bacterial Molecular Genetics/Microbial Physiology&Phylogeny/Pathogenic organisms (with 7 more grad credits by interview time: Molecular biophysics (+lab), biochemistry of eukaryotic gene expression, and cell techniques (a technique lab class))


Research at my home institution since January 2014 (same lab) --> Sole researcher on a pilot project that just earned a seed grant

NSF REU in Microbiology at University of Tennessee --> Publication under review at PNAS

Harvard Amgen Scholar


Letters of Recommedation:

1 from my PI at home (she was also my cell bio prof)

1 from REU PI

1 (hopefully!) from Harvard PI


I've presented a poster twice, (will have done it again in addition to an oral presentation by the end of the summer), as well as multiple othe smaller lab presentations.


Extracurriculars have included my department's biochem club, involvement in my department's undergrad research symposium planning, and a camp for girls in science.  Although mostly now I'm in the lab if I'm not in class.


I am going to take the GRE in August and expect very good scores. (fingers crossed!!!)  I test extremely well and have currently averaged 165V/166Q on practice exams.  So hopefully that holds up.  I do not plan on taking the subject GRE.


Here are the schools are programs to which I will be applying:



Harvard University (Immunology)

Yale University (Biological and Biomedical Sciences -->Immunology Track)

Princeton University (Molecular Biology)

Stanford University (Biosciences --> Immunology)

University of California - San Francisco (Tetrad)

Unviersity of Washington (Immunology)

Vanderbilt University (Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biosciences)

University of Tennessee (Microbiology)


I am really interested in immunological signaling as it relates to infection, cancer, or autoimmune disease in the context of immune development and mature immune cells.  Basically I have it narrowed down to a general topic and am flexible on what I end up studying for 6 years.  I am extremely nervous about applying to these top schools and getting my heart set and then disappointed later.  I only applied to 1 undergrad institution, so the process is nervewracking.  I appreciate anyone's input and wisdom!  (sorry for the long post; I didn't know what info was necessary so I included everything)

Edited by biochemgirl67
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You have nothing to worry about, honestly! But let's face it, you're going to worry about it anyway (which is natural). I hope I can give you some relief. Just make sure your SoP/Personal Statement is great, have some people read it. Best of luck.

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If you can see yourself at any of the aforementioned institutes and don't set your sights on one particular school, then after all the dust settles you should have a few choices to play with. Just make sure you have at least 3-5 PI's at each program you could see yourself working with or I would advice you against applying. Good luck. 

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I think you're in good shape. You have a good GPA, you have varied research experience, you have a publication in the works. It sounds like you'll be fine on the GRE. As long as your letter writers try to sell you and you write a good SOP you're a competitive applicant. For you, I think the question is less if you can get into graduate school, but where you will be going.

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