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Can someone please help me choose the 3 strongest out of these 5 letters? All are my research advisors and are ranked 1-5 from current advisor (1) to oldest former advisor.  I added a Xth non advisor to the running as well to the chronology. I have letters recently written from these folks for other related purposes so timing is not a huge issue.

1) (definitely including) Notable Professor, important in the field, top university (2+ years of full time work here)
X?) Professor in my area of interest who taught me (pretty recently) in a class and I keep up with him
2) (I would like to include this one) Industry advisor in a biotech company, high level and an affiliate assistant professor at a university (6 month full time here)
3) Industry advisor in a biotech company, presented a poster related to this project (6 month full time here)
4) Professor at a state university, summer internship advisor in by far the least related research area of all other letters to areas of interest (1 summer full time)
5) Professor at my undergrad institution, early undergraduate part time work (small time committed)

I am slightly worried that some of my more recent work was in industry research labs and industry letters might be received less positively than Professor letters (which I have the ability to send but represent my capabilities years ago). I am very very appreciative for any help I can get in this!!!! 

 

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How ill-advised is it to address career inconsistencies in your CV? I deviated from research to a few other fields and while the deviations would be viewed as impressive, I feel they with the CV paint me as less experienced in science. Should I just address this in the personal statement and leave any explanation out of the CV? Would appreciate your advice!!

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How bad is it if I apply later into the season, e.g. like 2 two weeks before the deadline? Will this reflect poorly on the applicant? What if it was out of their hands? Is this something worth mentioning, in the app? Or even with a faculty member correspondent? Thanks in advance for any informative replies.

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17 hours ago, StardustCrusader said:

How bad is it if I apply later into the season, e.g. like 2 two weeks before the deadline? Will this reflect poorly on the applicant? What if it was out of their hands? Is this something worth mentioning, in the app? Or even with a faculty member correspondent? Thanks in advance for any informative replies.

They wouldn't know or care, tbh. The only people who would probably be upset are your letter writers, with short notice to write and submit letters. 

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On 11/24/2019 at 10:25 AM, andvoyages said:

Hi everyone! I would like to ask what counts as a "strong" LOR?  

IMO, a strong LOR is a letter from a person who knows you and your research profile closely. A lot of times it is obvious when a professor uses a form letter of recommendation for an applicant, but a strong LOR will detail that you have spent a significant amount of time with the writer, that they are especially impressed with your skills and abilities, and you rank high above the applicants that they have recommended in the past. For science programs, an  average acceptable LOR would be from a professor you had that was impressed with your coursework, a strong LOR would be that they were particularly impressed with your critical thinking skills, the way you came to office hours and went above and beyond to master the material. An acceptable LOR from a researcher would say that you are competent in the lab and pick up techniques quickly, a strong LOR will say that you performed above your position, you have the ability to think critically to design and execute your experiments with minimal supervision, that you would make an exception doctoral candidate, and that you excelled in research both independently and as a team player. 

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Hi everyone! Many programs do not require GRE scores this year, however they write that if the score will be submitted it still will be reviewed. So my quantitative score is 164 (86 percentile), verbal 158 (80 percentile), analytical writing 4.0 (59 percetile). Should i use them? I am not native speaker and doubt that I can further enhance my verbal or analytical writing scores.

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On 11/12/2019 at 6:25 PM, mountainx said:

Can someone please help me choose the 3 strongest out of these 5 letters? All are my research advisors and are ranked 1-5 from current advisor (1) to oldest former advisor.  I added a Xth non advisor to the running as well to the chronology. I have letters recently written from these folks for other related purposes so timing is not a huge issue.

1) (definitely including) Notable Professor, important in the field, top university (2+ years of full time work here)
X?) Professor in my area of interest who taught me (pretty recently) in a class and I keep up with him
2) (I would like to include this one) Industry advisor in a biotech company, high level and an affiliate assistant professor at a university (6 month full time here)
3) Industry advisor in a biotech company, presented a poster related to this project (6 month full time here)
4) Professor at a state university, summer internship advisor in by far the least related research area of all other letters to areas of interest (1 summer full time)
5) Professor at my undergrad institution, early undergraduate part time work (small time committed)

I am slightly worried that some of my more recent work was in industry research labs and industry letters might be received less positively than Professor letters (which I have the ability to send but represent my capabilities years ago). I am very very appreciative for any help I can get in this!!!! 

In general, the purpose of LORs is to vouch for your potential to do research.  You generally have more responsibilities working in industry than you do working in a university lab and your coworkers and managers tend to get to know you a heckofalot better as their bottom line is financial not prestige or their CV.  If you have already left undergrad and are working, it only makes sense to have one or two LORs from industry.

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On 12/7/2019 at 12:35 PM, alraun said:

Hi everyone! Many programs do not require GRE scores this year, however they write that if the score will be submitted it still will be reviewed. So my quantitative score is 164 (86 percentile), verbal 158 (80 percentile), analytical writing 4.0 (59 percetile). Should i use them? I am not native speaker and doubt that I can further enhance my verbal or analytical writing scores.

My scores were rather similar (165 (96%), 154 (53%), 4.5 (81%)) and I figured they didn't really stand out enough in any direction to send them anywhere that didn't require them - worked out fine in my case

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How is a research statement different from a motivational letter? 

There's a PhD position in Switzerland I'm applying to and they require me to attach both. 

Thanks in advance. 

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So I have finally hopped onto a grad school forum! I didn't do that prior to submitting my applications just because I had no time. I have now heard back from 4 out of my 5 schools- all offering to fly me out for interview weekends. Unfortunately 2 of the interview weekends are the same so I am waiting to hear about an alternate set of dates from my lower choice. I received interviews for the Harvard University Virology program, the UW-Madison Microbiology Doctoral Training Program, the Baylor College of Medicine Immunology and Microbiology Program, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Biological Science Graduate Program (Virology). I have yet to hear from the University of Colorado-Boulder. 

So my question is, what tips do you have? How should I prepare? What should I wear each day? I have already sent them each my list of up to ten faculty that I would have an interest in speaking with at the interview weekend. It has previously been recommended to me to read a few of their papers, have notes, and be able to discuss their research as well as your own. I have also been told that preparing visual hand-outs to give to the PIs is greatly appreciated when talking about your own research. So I know a decent amount about the scientific aspect of the weekend (thanks to an SROP and a series of graduate school seminars). But what kinds of questions do they ask that aren't necessarily related directly to research? Should I be prepared for the dreaded 'what is your biggest weakness' or 'what were the last three books that you read' or the 'tell me about a time when you struggled and how you overcame it?'

Sorry if this is a lot, but thank you in advance! Every bit of advice is appreciated! (P.S. feel free to tell me if other schools do things differently- the research based portion of the interview intel that I received was directly from UW-Madison)

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Has anyone had any experience meeting or speaking with POIs before receiving an interview decision from the program?

After submitting my applications I shot out a couple of emails, and to my surprise I actually got a response from a POI at UCLA saying that he'd be happy to meet and discuss how he "can be of help to my interest/career". I was hoping to have gotten the official interviews invitation or admissions rejection email from the school before the meeting, but now that's not looking likely. 

So now I'm not sure how to approach this meeting. I've spent the last few hours powering through a few of his recent publications, but he works in neurosurgery so a lot of it went over my head. He told me that his lab does have the capacity for a new grad student (which I'm assuming is why he emailed me back in the first place), but since I don't have any info on my application status, I really don't know what to ask him. I obviously can't cancel the meeting given that if I do get the official interview invite he'd be my top choice PI, so any advice on questions to ask him/topics of conversation/etc. would be very much appreciated! I'm hoping that if he likes me, this meeting will help me get that official interview and potentially even an acceptance down the road... 

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1 hour ago, PathHopeful said:

Has anyone had any experience meeting or speaking with POIs before receiving an interview decision from the program?

After submitting my applications I shot out a couple of emails, and to my surprise I actually got a response from a POI at UCLA saying that he'd be happy to meet and discuss how he "can be of help to my interest/career". I was hoping to have gotten the official interviews invitation or admissions rejection email from the school before the meeting, but now that's not looking likely. 

So now I'm not sure how to approach this meeting. I've spent the last few hours powering through a few of his recent publications, but he works in neurosurgery so a lot of it went over my head. He told me that his lab does have the capacity for a new grad student (which I'm assuming is why he emailed me back in the first place), but since I don't have any info on my application status, I really don't know what to ask him. I obviously can't cancel the meeting given that if I do get the official interview invite he'd be my top choice PI, so any advice on questions to ask him/topics of conversation/etc. would be very much appreciated! I'm hoping that if he likes me, this meeting will help me get that official interview and potentially even an acceptance down the road... 

Hey, congrats on this interview. 

Before starting my application process, I sent e-mails to potential advisors and I asked them whether they accept new students or not. If they are interested in taking students and if they are interested in your research ideas they ask for an informal interview.

You can ask your questions in your mind For example you can be curious about the prelim exams, how they lab environment is, what his or her research agenda is, or funding issues. Generally, first you explain your background and what you want to study in grad school etc. 

Don't worry about it. It is pretty causal.

Best of luck!

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Hello fellow researchers!!

I applied for 5 programs this year, and I got one interview invitation from my dream program, a confirmed rejection from a safe choice (which was surprising) and haven't heard from others (they have sent interview invitations in Dec so I assume they all failed.) The very tiny pool of interview invitations made me confused about why I even got invited by the very competitive, top program (and I even had a dream that I got another email saying the invitation was a mistake 😂). 

As I am preparing for the only interview weekend I have so far, I feel less and less prepared :( The more papers I read about my POI, the less I think I know about the field. And as I read from here and there on this forum, many of you have talked to your POIs before even receiving interview invitations, but the only contact I got from my POI was a general reply from their assistant. I don't even know if it was a good match, especially because their work is not directly related to the current project I am doing right now. (Hence why it has been hard reading.) 

I know getting frustrated and lingering on the question of why i got the interview at all will get me nowhere, so here are the questions I am asking: 

Should I, or is it a good move in general to email my POI again about the interview weekend and ask for pointers (e.g. current work for me to think about my potential projects working with them, recommendations for other faculty members that I should talk to as I need to name a few for one-on-one interviews)? Is it unnecessary/bothering, or will it be very helpful if I ask for an informal chat with them before the interview weekend? 

And also the general tips about preparing for interviews. How do you read about your POIs? Should you get more familiar with your current work to showcase your research abilities, or should you focus more on the POIs? If they are doing research you are very interested in but you haven't done any direct work/use any methods in the field, how do you prove that you have the ability to work with them?

And a more abstract question about dealing with your strengths and weaknesses. How do you highlight your specialties/strengths to stand out in the crowd, and how do you deal with obvious shortcomings? By strength I'm talking about more specific qualities, not "fast-learner/academically strong/experienced at independent research" that almost every researcher has. Examples from your own applications will be very helpful! 

Thanks for bearing my whining and looking forward to your inputs...

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5 hours ago, RobertMoog said:

Hello fellow researchers!!

I applied for 5 programs this year, and I got one interview invitation from my dream program, a confirmed rejection from a safe choice (which was surprising) and haven't heard from others (they have sent interview invitations in Dec so I assume they all failed.) The very tiny pool of interview invitations made me confused about why I even got invited by the very competitive, top program (and I even had a dream that I got another email saying the invitation was a mistake 😂). 

As I am preparing for the only interview weekend I have so far, I feel less and less prepared :( The more papers I read about my POI, the less I think I know about the field. And as I read from here and there on this forum, many of you have talked to your POIs before even receiving interview invitations, but the only contact I got from my POI was a general reply from their assistant. I don't even know if it was a good match, especially because their work is not directly related to the current project I am doing right now. (Hence why it has been hard reading.) 

I know getting frustrated and lingering on the question of why i got the interview at all will get me nowhere, so here are the questions I am asking: 

Should I, or is it a good move in general to email my POI again about the interview weekend and ask for pointers (e.g. current work for me to think about my potential projects working with them, recommendations for other faculty members that I should talk to as I need to name a few for one-on-one interviews)? Is it unnecessary/bothering, or will it be very helpful if I ask for an informal chat with them before the interview weekend? 

And also the general tips about preparing for interviews. How do you read about your POIs? Should you get more familiar with your current work to showcase your research abilities, or should you focus more on the POIs? If they are doing research you are very interested in but you haven't done any direct work/use any methods in the field, how do you prove that you have the ability to work with them?

And a more abstract question about dealing with your strengths and weaknesses. How do you highlight your specialties/strengths to stand out in the crowd, and how do you deal with obvious shortcomings? By strength I'm talking about more specific qualities, not "fast-learner/academically strong/experienced at independent research" that almost every researcher has. Examples from your own applications will be very helpful! 

Thanks for bearing my whining and looking forward to your inputs...

Unhelpful to ask for an informal chat before interviews.

I found it completely unnecessary to read papers for my interviews in advance. I started off doing them, but the papers never came up. You should have an idea of what they do, but focus on knowing how to talk about your own research. Also know why you want a PhD and why that program is a good fit for you. They are unlikely to test your knowledge of their science, and more likely to test your knowledge of your own science.

You also won't be expected to come in ready to do their research. You're expected to show interest and intellectual ability, they'd teach you whatever technical skills necessary to perform research in their lab. It's school, after all.

I don't think any of my interviewers asked me about my strengths and weaknesses...

Your goal in the interview is to show them you're passionate and dedicated and KNOW you want to be there.

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9 hours ago, BabyScientist said:

Unhelpful to ask for an informal chat before interviews.

I found it completely unnecessary to read papers for my interviews in advance. I started off doing them, but the papers never came up. You should have an idea of what they do, but focus on knowing how to talk about your own research. Also know why you want a PhD and why that program is a good fit for you. They are unlikely to test your knowledge of their science, and more likely to test your knowledge of your own science.

You also won't be expected to come in ready to do their research. You're expected to show interest and intellectual ability, they'd teach you whatever technical skills necessary to perform research in their lab. It's school, after all.

I don't think any of my interviewers asked me about my strengths and weaknesses...

Your goal in the interview is to show them you're passionate and dedicated and KNOW you want to be there.

That's very helpful, thanks a lot! 

And not an actual question about strength and weakness, but generally how you stand out and why they would admit you out of hundreds of applicants. It might be a great match of interest (and hence the question how do you specifically show your interest and passion if you don't have to read papers), strong intellectual ability, or a clear idea of what research you would want to do as a PhD (when your current field isn't directly relevant to your POIs, and when you have done many other different types of projects, how do you show that you are focused and dedicated to research in that field?) 

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2 hours ago, RobertMoog said:

That's very helpful, thanks a lot! 

And not an actual question about strength and weakness, but generally how you stand out and why they would admit you out of hundreds of applicants. It might be a great match of interest (and hence the question how do you specifically show your interest and passion if you don't have to read papers), strong intellectual ability, or a clear idea of what research you would want to do as a PhD (when your current field isn't directly relevant to your POIs, and when you have done many other different types of projects, how do you show that you are focused and dedicated to research in that field?) 

Most interviews go like this:

They ask you about your research experience. You start telling them about it, they occasionally stop you to ask questions.

They tell you about their research (this is why reading papers in advance is unnecessary). Ideally, you try to ask questions or relate their work to yours or things you've heard of.

They ask you if you have any questions about the program. You ask questions about how their lab works (how big it is, if they send people to conferences, if they have space for you, where their funding comes from, what their students go on to do, etc). This shows them you know what goes into a PhD.

You shouldn't be focused on one particular line of research. You should be open to studying many things within the general field. If that's the only professor studying it at that school but he isn't taking students, they won't accept you. Or if multiple do but aren't taking students, same thing.

You should show that you're excited to talk about your own work, you are able to think about other people's work (by asking questions about their research), you know what goes into a PhD, and you know why you want a PhD. If you're not sure about the why, they'll likely be able to tell, and they won't want to accept anyone who might end up quitting their PhD.

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Perhaps this is a dumb and paranoia-induced question, but if my POI has already booked plane tickets for me to come to interview weekend (at UT Austin EEB), should I be worried about not being invited to interview weekend? I've gotten no formal notification from the Department that I've been invited, but I don't think my POI would buy nonrefundable plane tickets for me if she wasn't absolutely sure that I would be invited. I'm not expecting anyone who hasn't applied to UT themselves to have magical insight into the inner workings of UT Austin's EEB invite process, but I'd like to hear others' thoughts about this. 

Edited by evolking0425

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Hello there, I want to ask what is the chance of applying for transition to phd in BME in ucsd. Is it as competitive as you apply for other school(As a fresh applicant) or is it easier if you have good master gpa/recommendation from lab you work? Also, if I apply for a transition to phd can I switch field(ie. BME to Neuroscience)? 

Thanks for any replies, appreciate ur help.

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Hi y'all. Junior actively looking at the entire PhD process rn, and I don't know if I should pursue the PhD application or shoot for a Masters in biology (4 BS+1 year Masters through my current uni).

I have a 3.36 cum GPA, and have three years of wet lab experience at a Neuroscience lab.

  • Two poster presentations 
  • 2 minigrants awarded for independent research
  • 1 Summer Undergrad Research Fellowship Program at my uni

My PI is well renown in the field and is def writing a letter, as well as a bio professor who can speak to my intellectual curiosity and my research interests. Also currently in the process of looking for jobs in biotech or an internship in the private sector.

I definitely want to enter a program for Neuroscience as that is the field I am most interested in, especially dementias and development, but I coincidentally went to a talk given by a PI at UCSD working on RNAi stuff in BioChem who I worked for in high school. He recognized me and asked me how I was doing so I was planning on emailing him and telling him that I was interested in his lab and asking him if he was accepting students for rotation. 

My question now is, is my GPA holding me back from good programs? Will a good SOP, my LORs, and experience help? I'm hoping reaching out to the faculty member at UCSD BMSE might be help as well. Or should I get a Masters/Post-Bacc to improve my GPA/Get a better Masters GPA and apply to the PhD then?
 

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11 hours ago, shadeslayer said:

Hi y'all. Junior actively looking at the entire PhD process rn, and I don't know if I should pursue the PhD application or shoot for a Masters in biology (4 BS+1 year Masters through my current uni).

I have a 3.36 cum GPA, and have three years of wet lab experience at a Neuroscience lab.

  • Two poster presentations 
  • 2 minigrants awarded for independent research
  • 1 Summer Undergrad Research Fellowship Program at my uni

My PI is well renown in the field and is def writing a letter, as well as a bio professor who can speak to my intellectual curiosity and my research interests. Also currently in the process of looking for jobs in biotech or an internship in the private sector.

I definitely want to enter a program for Neuroscience as that is the field I am most interested in, especially dementias and development, but I coincidentally went to a talk given by a PI at UCSD working on RNAi stuff in BioChem who I worked for in high school. He recognized me and asked me how I was doing so I was planning on emailing him and telling him that I was interested in his lab and asking him if he was accepting students for rotation. 

My question now is, is my GPA holding me back from good programs? Will a good SOP, my LORs, and experience help? I'm hoping reaching out to the faculty member at UCSD BMSE might be help as well. Or should I get a Masters/Post-Bacc to improve my GPA/Get a better Masters GPA and apply to the PhD then?
 

Your GPA is fine coupled with more experience. I'd advise taking a year or 2 for a lab tech/RA/research postbacc position - you make money and don't have to pay for a masters.

You could give it a shot now if you want - your GPA isnt that bad.

Do you have any publications? Awards? Presentations? These things help too 

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Hi all, I've been planning to apply this year for some time now, but given all that is going on (aka Corona messing up everything), I'm now super hesitant whether I should wait until the next round. But I thought I'd get some advice first for people who have been through the process before deciding to push applying by another year. 

I attended a top 40 university and graduated with a 3.55 GPA. I haven't taken the GRE (because I suck at standardized tests and figured it wasn't worth the time or money to take something that wouldn't help bolster my application) so I'm applying to programs that don't require it. I have been working at a top Pharma company for the past two years since graduation from undergrad and was just promoted on my 2 year anniversary, and have two papers that I coauthored with my supervisor at my job. During undergrad, I worked in two labs (the first i was at for a year and the second for 4 months, because I went home for the summer). So I do have quite a few years of research experience under my belt, 2 publications, and an average GPA from an average school. 

At my second lab experience, I started pursuing my own project, but had to wrap it up since I went home for the summer, so nothing really came of the project. I was really looking forward to starting my own project at work. I had the green light from my supervisor to pursue it and the cell line I was going to use was on it's way when COVID really hit. Now all non-essential projects (aka, my project) are indefinitely on hold until business can resume as normal. I've been told by my old PI's that starting your own project is something that REALLY is recommended to stand out in application pools. Given that one and only project I was able to start was three years ago and it didn't get very far, I'm not sure how relevant/exemplary this is to include in my application.

Is showing initiative enough for these applications? If the only project that I came up with AND worked on is too old, would the admissions be understanding if I talked about the project I had planned on running given the circumstances? Or should I hold off on applying until next year in the hopes that business can return to normal soon and I can get started on my project.

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