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Junior Medical Dr from Australia interested in Bioinformatics and Computer Science Masters in the US


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Hi Guys,
 
It’s so inspiring to hear everyone’s stories. Good luck to everyone!
 
I wanted to introduce myself to see if anyone is making a similar journey, or has any opinions. 
 
I’m a 25 year old medical doctor from Australia, and just finished my internship 4 months ago.
 
I’m planning to apply to Masters of Science / professional masters programs this year for 2017 mid-year entry. I’m considering bioinformatics / computational biology, or computational neuroscience, or some field in computer science.
 
Since high school, I’ve done a Bachelor of Science degree (3 years, accelerated into 2) majoring in Biomedical Science, and a post-grad Medical Degree (MBBS) (4 years), both from a University in the top 50-100 globally. I’ve finished my internship and received general registration in Australia.
 
The Dream:
 
I’ve decided I want to become a data scientist and work somewhere in biotech / med-tech / genomics / machine learning.
 
I’m inspired by Google's DeepMind, and their work with Atari games and AlphaGo - designing incredibly sophisticated AI algorithms. I think this heralds an era of disruption by AI of many professional industries that depend on thinking skills.
 
I’m also inspired by Craig Venter’s work creating synthetic genomes for viruses and bacteria (the ‘first synthetic life’) and I’m excited about the promise of using synthetic bacteria to process pollution, create cleaner fuels and sequester carbon.
 
I think the two fields - artificial intelligence and synthetic life, will redefine the human condition within our lifetimes. And I think the key nexus of them is data science. I would love to build a career in this area, and work in tech startups in the bay area in San Francisco.
 
The Reality:
 
I currently have no research experience, minimal stats / data science and minimal computer science understanding (and no tertiary study in the area).
 
My Plan:
 
This year I’m working as a doctor about 30 hours per week and:
1) doing a bunch of courses in coding, machine learning, and data science
2) saving money to pay for the masters
3) get some experience in research in biomedical science
 
I’d love to hear any thoughts on the following:
 
Is a Computer Science MS realistic?
I’m more interested in AI than biotech.
Would I be a realistic candidate for top CS schools, with no tertiary experience in CS?
I had strong marks in high school advanced maths and physics, but I’ve spent 7 years studying and working in biology and med.
I can do 10-20 hours per week to up-skill in this area (roughly 6-7 months before applications are due and 16 months before the 2017 class would start)
 
How much scope is there for CS electives in bioinformatics?
I figured bioinformatics may be a realistic way to sneak into CS courses (like AI and robotics).
 
Converting GPA:
My GPA in science is 6.0 and my medical degree, 5.46 (both out of 7).
6 is a distinction average, and 5 is a credit average. I haven’t been able to work out how my GPA converts to the US though.
 
What schools should I aim for in CS and bioinformatics?
My list after limited research looks like this:
 
Stanford
UC Berkeley
MIT
Carnegie Melon
Caltech
Johns Hopkins
Cold Spring Harbour
Harvard
Georgia Tech
Oxford
Cambridge
Princeton
Imperial College London
UCLA
UCSD
Then a bunch of others in the top 50-100
 
Again, best of luck to everyone!
 
If you’d like to discuss anything further, please reply here or PM me!
 
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My feeling is that experience is key. You certainly have an interesting background, but I am not sure your background constitutes experience. People who are doing serious work at the schools you have listed are not going to be interested in teaching someone from the ground up, i.e., they will want incoming graduate students who have coded. 

It is important to note that CS and bioinformatics are not the same, nor do they really overlap. CS is going to be more along the lines of creation, while bioinformatics is going to be learning how to handle big data and make something out of it. 

If you are serious about making this career move, I suggest looking for a position in which you can do some of the stuff that interests you. Can you leverage your medical background into getting a low-level CS job? Once you have work experience in the fields that interest you, you will be a great candidate for the programs you have listed. 

Disclaimer: Take what I am saying with a grain of salt. This is out of my field, so I am simply applying my personal experiences to your situation. 

Best of luck! 

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Thank-you for your thoughts blc!

I completely agree that I need to teach myself a lot of the basics and ideally get experience working in the field to leverage my applications.

Do you think a low-level job in CS would constitute enough signalling and experience to help me get into a CS course?

How are you finding biomedical science at Harvard by the way?

I'm investigating opportunities to do unpaid research assistance at a large biomedical science research research facility here in Australia while I work casual shifts as a doctor. The lab head previously worked in the statistics department at Berkeley.

I have a friend (also a doctor) who pivoted during his bioinformatics degree to take electives in machine learning, and ended up making it into more of a quant masters degree. He's just finished, so I'm not sure yet how successful he's been at bridging the gap to get jobs in biotech, but it looks promising.

 

 

 

 

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