Jump to content
blc073

Ask questions about the PhD application process!

Recommended Posts

3 hours ago, StemCells4Lyfe said:

Slightly stupid question here, but how are the SoP and Personal Statement different?

Depends on the university. For two I applied to, the SoP was more about your educational and research background, while the Personal Statement was more about you, your struggles, and what you personally bring to the university.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, StemCells4Lyfe said:

Slightly stupid question here, but how are the SoP and Personal Statement different?

Some schools that require only 1 essay even use these 2 terms interchangeably, so it's totally not stupid to ask.

For schools asking for only 1 essay, I didn't really care about how they called it - If the website has specific instructions on what to include, follow those; otherwise I would just write the same thing anyway (mostly research, a bit of explanation of how I got to where I am / aspirations, etc; if they allow greater length I'd add a paragraph about soft skills).

If a school requires 2 essays, it's likely one is more research-focused (SoP or research statement) and one is more personal (PS). WashU DBBS was an odd one though, they asked for 2 essays, but essay #2 is a "perseverance/resilience/leadership" essay. They specifically ask that you do not substitute it with your "usual" PS. 

So bottom line: general understanding is that SoP is more research, PS is more personal, but people will use them differently so just follow each school's instructions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi!

Is it worth sending an update to an admissions committee (Microbiology PhD) if a research paper I significantly contributed to is in review/been accepted for publication? I mentioned the work in my SOP, but at the time the work was still being compiled/edited and there was a limit to what I could talk about before the related patent was submitted (which it now has). I was thinking along the lines of an email to the committee's provided address with a brief cover letter and PDF of the paper. 

What do you guys think?

Thanks in advance!

Edited by Warpweft

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Warpweft said:

Hi!

Is it worth sending an update to an admissions committee (Microbiology PhD) if a research paper I significantly contributed to is in review/been accepted for publication? I mentioned the work in my SOP, but at the time the work was still being compiled/edited and there was a limit to what I could talk about before the related patent was submitted (which it now has). I was thinking along the lines of an email to the committee's provided address with a brief cover letter and PDF of the paper. 

What do you guys think?

Thanks in advance!

That sounds like a significant enough update to warrant sending it in to the adcom, but do be warned that most programs are probably coming to the end of or have already made most of their decisions. If you're going to send it, send it SOON! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi! Thank you for starting this thread. I have quite a couple of questions about PhD programs.

1) How are the programs structured? Are you assigned to a random lab in the department and then do rotations? Or do you have to pick your preferred PI from the beginning?

2) When do the rotations start?

3)When do the rotations stop and you end up working in one lab until you get your PhD? 

4) What if I'm assigned to a lab that is not a fit for me and want to change after rotations close?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Corijoys

The answers to those are all going to depend on the type of program and specific department! You have molecular bio in your profile, so most likely you will do rotations your first year rather than being sponsored by a specific PI & lab-- that's more common in the environmental/macro side of biology.

Some programs in the molecular/cellular/micro fields are umbrella programs, where you only choose your "major field" after your rotations and your first year of coursework is finished. These allow more flexibility and range of choice for labs, if you're unsure about exactly what you want to do or want to try something new. Otherwise you'll apply directly to the program for one department, which might have a vastly different system than the one next door. Read up on the websites and faculty pages! Sometimes there will be a description of "first year activities" which is really useful.

In general, 3-4 rotations of 6-10 weeks each is common, usually in your first 2 semesters but sometimes shorter. You choose a lab after your rotations are done, with approval from the PI and whoever else in the department is advising you. You might choose your rotations before you start, by talking to PIs directly, or you might submit a ranked list. 

I hope that answers some of your questions, but I'm happy to clarify!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi, quick question. I am planning on applying for graduate school this year and am unsure how many programs I should apply to. I've seen recommendations that you should only apply to 5 or so, but most of the people I've asked have applied to more than that. I've also heard that applying to too many schools can actually decrease your chances of getting an interview. What's your take on it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, drkenobi said:

Hi, quick question. I am planning on applying for graduate school this year and am unsure how many programs I should apply to. I've seen recommendations that you should only apply to 5 or so, but most of the people I've asked have applied to more than that. I've also heard that applying to too many schools can actually decrease your chances of getting an interview. What's your take on it?

I've never heard that applying to too many can decrease your chances, and I don't know how the schools would know.... I think 5-10 is the standard number, but that's only if there are 5-10 schools with faculty you're actually really excited to work with. Don't focus on how many schools you apply for, focus on finding faculty working on things you're interested in, and only apply to the schools that have 3 or more faculty members you'd want to work with.

What I did was think of areas I'd be happy to live in for an extended period of time, then look up schools in that area and look at all their faculty and their research interests. Then I made a list of all the faculty I'd be excited to work with at each school and decided which schools to apply to based on how many faculty there were that I wanted to work with.

Of course make sure you're not applying to all/mostly "top-tier" schools.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know if this thread is active anymore, but here goes. So, I've been finalising a list of schools I will eventually apply to and during the research I came across these "Umbrella Programs". I have heard that these programs have a greater acceptance percentage compared to specialised programs (such as Neuroscience, Cancer Biology, etc.) and also a more diverse pool of labs you can choose from later. Would you guys suggest applying for these programs? What are the pro and cons of applying to umbrella programs versus applying to specific departments?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another broad question, I am intending to apply to bioinformatics programs in the fall; however, I have yet to write the GRE. For someone with a Master's, my research record is a little weak (no papers that I can really call my own, only some tertiary authorships). Do you think my time would be better spent honing my research interests over the next 3 months or studying for the GRE, so I can apply to more schools? 

 

Also, I am a bit worried my list of schools is too top-heavy: UCSF, UBC, UofT, UWash. Does anyone know of any B-tier schools that do bioinformatics? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/1/2019 at 2:45 PM, Froblinkin said:

Another broad question, I am intending to apply to bioinformatics programs in the fall; however, I have yet to write the GRE. For someone with a Master's, my research record is a little weak (no papers that I can really call my own, only some tertiary authorships). Do you think my time would be better spent honing my research interests over the next 3 months or studying for the GRE, so I can apply to more schools? 

 

Also, I am a bit worried my list of schools is too top-heavy: UCSF, UBC, UofT, UWash. Does anyone know of any B-tier schools that do bioinformatics? 

Spend most of your time on research and writing your statements. If there's faculty you're interested in working with, shooting them an e-mail to see if you'd be a good fit at the lab or institution would be a good idea too.

Places like UCSF TETRAD don't even require the GRE anymore, so the emphasis on it is steadily decreasing, especially among top-tier programs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I plan on applying to PhDs in computational neuroscience this Fall. I graduated with a physics undergrad degree (3.3 GPA) two years ago. In the time since graduating, I've taken coursework (4.0) during my post-baccalaureate program. How should I address my low undergraduate GPA? Is it okay to say something like "I struggled with personal problems as an undergraduate, but have since overcome them." ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, Logic said:

I plan on applying to PhDs in computational neuroscience this Fall. I graduated with a physics undergrad degree (3.3 GPA) two years ago. In the time since graduating, I've taken coursework (4.0) during my post-baccalaureate program. How should I address my low undergraduate GPA? Is it okay to say something like "I struggled with personal problems as an undergraduate, but have since overcome them." ?

Some people might disagree with me on this, but IMO, a 3.3 GPA is perfectly respectable and there's really no need for you to go out of your way and defend your grades, particularly if you're a couple years out of undergrad.

Obviously it's not the ideal 4.0, but I feel like trying to pass off a B+ average as "personal problems" comes across more as fishing for an excuse than anything else (Not trying to insinuate that you didn't go through personal problems or anything like that, but unless you plan on elaborating more into what they were, I wouldn't bring it up). 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've got some time right now and would like to getting started working on my essays, but none of the schools I'm interested in applying to have their applications open yet. I'm specifically interested in the University of Pennsylvania CAMB, as it is probably my top choice. Does anyone know if they require anything other than a Statement of Purpose?

Edited by drkenobi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

2 questions. 

1: for letters of recommendations. I know who I have in mind. Applications for most of the schools I'm applying to open in early/mid September. Its currently mid august. When should I let my LoT know that I chose them as LoT? Should I let them know now through email or then follow up in 4 weeks to let them know right before i send out the requests? Or should I wait closer to when the application opens?

2: in the statement of purpose. For programs that use acronyms. Like Schools name, BCMB (biochemistry molecular biology). Should I spell out the entire name or can I use acronyms? 

3: do you guys have any specific helpful tools for CV and resume formatting? I have both formats but they were used years ago to apply into industry and the format and sections were organized differently to appeal to industry. 

Thanks and good luck to all those ready to apply!

-T

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Bak3rm3 said:

2 questions. 

1: for letters of recommendations. I know who I have in mind. Applications for most of the schools I'm applying to open in early/mid September. Its currently mid august. When should I let my LoT know that I chose them as LoT? Should I let them know now through email or then follow up in 4 weeks to let them know right before i send out the requests? Or should I wait closer to when the application opens?

2: in the statement of purpose. For programs that use acronyms. Like Schools name, BCMB (biochemistry molecular biology). Should I spell out the entire name or can I use acronyms? 

3: do you guys have any specific helpful tools for CV and resume formatting? I have both formats but they were used years ago to apply into industry and the format and sections were organized differently to appeal to industry. 

Thanks and good luck to all those ready to apply!

-T

Ask letter writers a few months before the apps are due. If you tell them too far in advance, they'll forget. I suggest asking after apps open, in case they want to do it right away. Make sure to follow up a couple weeks before apps are due. Don't expect them to do them in a timely manner.

Shouldn't matter if you spell them out. If you have the space, go for it, otherwise, they know their own program's name.

I recommend making it a CV. Consider what's most important to them and order your sections that way. Mine was: education, research experience, publications and abstracts, other experience. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Quick question which may well have way too many variables to be answered specifically, but uni websites have been less than helpful. 

I'm an international applicant (UK) applying to a bunch of EEB programs across mostly big private colleges. In the hypothetical scenario that I manage to get one or two interviews come Jan/Feb, would there be any chance the university would fly me over? I'm aware they'll pay the expenses for domestic applicants from across the states, but I haven't seen any mention of international travel, except these application guides mentioning that Skype would be used as a last resort.  I'm hoping to avoid online interviews, since I really think it limits your ability to make an impact. While there's little chance I'd be able to afford a big trip — especially if any interview dates are interspersed — I would like to be able to budget myself over the winter, and make the appropriate allowances for my master's thesis. 

Looking for anecdotes if there's nothing concrete. Cheers. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, sjc97 said:

Quick question which may well have way too many variables to be answered specifically, but uni websites have been less than helpful. 

I'm an international applicant (UK) applying to a bunch of EEB programs across mostly big private colleges. In the hypothetical scenario that I manage to get one or two interviews come Jan/Feb, would there be any chance the university would fly me over? I'm aware they'll pay the expenses for domestic applicants from across the states, but I haven't seen any mention of international travel, except these application guides mentioning that Skype would be used as a last resort.  I'm hoping to avoid online interviews, since I really think it limits your ability to make an impact. While there's little chance I'd be able to afford a big trip — especially if any interview dates are interspersed — I would like to be able to budget myself over the winter, and make the appropriate allowances for my master's thesis. 

Looking for anecdotes if there's nothing concrete. Cheers. 

I have nothing concrete, but I met someone during an interview who had been working in Italy and she said they flew her over. She had to pack all her interviews into a month though to limit how many flights had to happen. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How important is it to contact professors in the program you are applying to? I have heard mixed things about this or is it more important to write in your personal statement the faculty you are interested in doing research with vs emailing them a random thing saying you read a few of their papers. Thank you!! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What woud be a general timeline for preparing your applications? Such as requesting recommendation letters, looking at what type of research at each school, preparing your personal statement etc etc etc 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also I had a lot of personal/mental health issues throughout college and managed to raise my GPA from a 2.75 (sophomore year) to a 3.2 (end of senior year). Should I address this in my personal statement or will the committee see my grade improvement in my transcripts. (I went from getting Cs in lower level science courses to As in 300 level biology courses) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, meghanx0919 said:

How important is it to contact professors in the program you are applying to? I have heard mixed things about this or is it more important to write in your personal statement the faculty you are interested in doing research with vs emailing them a random thing saying you read a few of their papers. Thank you!! 

It's not required, but suggested. It's more for your own benefit, though, than for your application. You should contact the people you're most interested in, express your interest in their research, and ask them if they're even taking students. If they're not, maybe you don't want to apply. If they are, having a conversation with them will give you an idea of if you like them as mentors or not.

9 hours ago, meghanx0919 said:

What woud be a general timeline for preparing your applications? Such as requesting recommendation letters, looking at what type of research at each school, preparing your personal statement etc etc etc 

I finalized my schools in August and started working on my SOP. Didn't finish my SOP until October, probably. Requested letters of rec in September, sent them my CV and SOP once I was done with it, followed up in November to make sure they met the Dec 1 deadline.

The only thing that has to be done Ina timely manner is requesting letters, because you want to make sure they do it in time. You can start writing your SOP a few weeks in advance and be okay if you write well. Make sure to have people review it for you though. 

9 hours ago, meghanx0919 said:

Also I had a lot of personal/mental health issues throughout college and managed to raise my GPA from a 2.75 (sophomore year) to a 3.2 (end of senior year). Should I address this in my personal statement or will the committee see my grade improvement in my transcripts. (I went from getting Cs in lower level science courses to As in 300 level biology courses) 

That's a huge improvement! Good job. You can either throw a sentence or 2 into your SOP about how you were struggling for the first half of college but improved greatly, or you can write a whole supplemental document explaining it. Or not say anything at all, because the improvement is apparent in your transcript. Up to you! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/7/2019 at 7:48 PM, meghanx0919 said:

How important is it to contact professors in the program you are applying to? I have heard mixed things about this or is it more important to write in your personal statement the faculty you are interested in doing research with vs emailing them a random thing saying you read a few of their papers. Thank you!! 

I see this was answered above but wanted to add that this does depend on your field and the programs you’re applying to. Lots of programs in natural sciences, ecology, fisheries and wildlife, etc. will require you to have been in contact with potential advisors and even have faculty sponsorship before applying, in some cases. In these fields, it’s helpful to reach out to faculty you’re interested in working with to inquire if they have funding and are accepting students for the upcoming year. Sometimes funded positions are even advertised and you will apply and interview directly with the professor before the formal application process. Disregard if this isn’t relevant to you, but this is a general biology forum so I wanted to put it out there! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/13/2019 at 1:51 PM, meghanx0919 said:

Do you think having an industry R&D position (associate scientist- microbiologist) in the field I am applying in (microbiology) is an advantage for my applications?

Meghan, you are asking if having experience in industry microbiology is good for a graduate microbio program. I'm not even going to answer that. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.