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Please Assess My Chances


StringTheory

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Undergrad Institution: University of Washington (Seattle)
Major(s):  Biochemistry
Minor(s):  none
GPA in Major:  3.3 (science courses only)
Overall GPA:  3.46
Position in Class: Probably the top 30%
Type of Student: Domestic white male

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q: 157
V:  162
W:  4.5
B:  Not taken


Research Experience:

Two years in a biochemistry lab under a prominent PI. In addition to my work, which has been focused on structural biology, I have independently written literature reviews on topics in the RNA field and presented them to my lab group as well as groups at UCSC and UCI. I also have a bit of research proposal writing experience from an honors biochemistry class I took. Lots of presenting and public speaking experience. My name will be on a publication, which is currently in drafting.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: 

University Dean's List for 4 quarters.

Received a research scholarship from the Mary Gates Foundation.
Pertinent Activities or Jobs

Undergraduate researcher

Special Bonus Points: 

Four letters of rec, my PI who is well known, my project mentor, and two well known professors I have taken classes with. I also have a bit of community experience doing science demos for kids from underrepresented backgrounds and mentoring a post-bac student in research techniques.
Applying to Where: 

  1. UCSC (top choice, have been in touch with a PI and a grad student for a while, visited 3 PIs at the school, gave presentation on my research to one)
  2. UCSD
  3. UCI (visited one PI at the school, gave presentation on my research to one)
  4. UCSF (reach)
  5. University of Colorado Boulder
Edited by StringTheory
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Hi,

Just wondering if you guys can tell me what you think would be realistic options, "safe" options, and reach schools for a PhD in biochem (biofuel or protein emphasis).

Undergrad Institution: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT, transfer from JC)
Major(s):  Chemical Engineering (possible a double with chemistry, undecided... it would limit the amount of research I'd be doing in the upcoming semesters).
Minor(s):  Chemistry
GPA in Major:  3.7-3.8
Overall GPA:  3.7-3.8 (at NMT, had a 3.4 at my junior college; overall from both 3.5 on 190 semester units)
Position in Class: ??
Type of Student: hispanic, non-traditional student, first generation

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q: TBD
V:  TBD
W:  TBD
B:  Not taken
Research Experience:

Summer internship with chem-startup. By this time next year, I'll have ~16 months in the same research lab. Currently working with algae for biofuel production. Professor is confident that the lab should be publishing within 6 months. 

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: 

None at NMT
Pertinent Activities or Jobs

Undergraduate researcher
Four semester as a chemistry lab TA

Tutored for 2 years
Special Bonus Points: 

I really like teaching, passionate about it. 
Applying to Where: 

This is where i'm looking for help. Not sure what is realistic and how high I should aim (without just throwing money away in applications and transcripts). 

Any suggestions as to if I should bear down and go for the double major (16-20 units per semester) or should I supplement chemE with other chem/bio courses (~14 units per semester) while putting more time towards research? Biggest difference between double majoring is the amount of time spent in labs and the additional senior research project.

Any and all advice is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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12 hours ago, cheme145 said:

Just wondering if you guys can tell me what you think would be realistic options, "safe" options, and reach schools for a PhD in biochem (biofuel or protein emphasis).

Cheme145,

This probably isn't the answer you want to hear, but I think it's important. When looking for your potential schools, select based on who's working there and what they're doing. When you attend a grad program, you'll be working with these people, so it's really important to establish that you're interested in what these people are doing, and also that you like the area the school is located in.

Once you have a nice list of places with people who interest you, take a look at how these schools are ranked. This will give you a feel for which are safeties, reaches, etc. Alternatively you could post your list here and people will give you their opinions.

In my opinion, you seem experienced and have strong academics. Take a lot of time to write an awesome statement, get some good LORs, and you'll do great!

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I just submitted my applications and I'm curious to see what you all think of my chances.  

Undergrad Uni: University of Illinois at Chicago

Major: Neuroscience

GPA 3.53

GPA in Major: 3.45

GRE Percentiles: Verbal - 72%   Quant. - 56%    Analytical - 59%

Research Experience: I have worked in two different labs, one for organic and biochemistry and another in neurobiology.  I will work in the neurobiology lab at least until I graduate giving me a total of 15 months of research experience.  In both I was an undergraduate research assistant. 

Neurobiology-  My project was to characterize a mutation in a gene which caused abnormal left-right development of neurons in C. elegans.  This required me to elucidate the dominant or recessive nature of the mutation and the location of the gene in the worm’s genome. 

Organic/Biochemistry- While working in this lab, I gained experience with both organic synthesis and chemical biology.  My responsibilities included synthesizing various molecules so graduate students in the lab could use them for their own research, and training new undergraduates.

Awards and Affiliations- 4 appearances on the deans list and member of the Nu Rho Psi National Honors Society

Statement of Purpose- I had a post-doc look it over and she said I did a great job.

Special Feature- I was a student-athlete all four years competing in cross country and track and field.  I was named captain on both teams my junior and senior year.  I also managed to win NCAA D1 National Cross Country athlete of the week.  My selling point for this is that I am able to do well in class, manage graduate level courses, and do research with less time on my hands than my peers (about 24 hours a week). I also have volunteer work.  

I have 4 letters of rec- 2 from professors I have done research for.  Both should write great letters, as one of them offered me a summer job after volunteering for a semester.  Another form a prominent professor at UIC and my coach also wrote me a letter, which will undoubtedly be good.  

Schools Applied To: 

All are for the Neuroscience graduate program

USC- Been in contact with a grad student for a professor I want to work with

UCSD

UCSF

UCLA

University of Oregon

University of Illinois at Chicago- I currently work for the PI doing recruiting for the program

Edited by laserlobotomy
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23 hours ago, StringTheory said:

Cheme145,

This probably isn't the answer you want to hear, but I think it's important. When looking for your potential schools, select based on who's working there and what they're doing. When you attend a grad program, you'll be working with these people, so it's really important to establish that you're interested in what these people are doing, and also that you like the area the school is located in.

Once you have a nice list of places with people who interest you, take a look at how these schools are ranked. This will give you a feel for which are safeties, reaches, etc. Alternatively you could post your list here and people will give you their opinions.

In my opinion, you seem experienced and have strong academics. Take a lot of time to write an awesome statement, get some good LORs, and you'll do great!

StringTheory, thanks for the feedback and compliments. 

I've been told before that finding the right lab and advisor are crucial to grad school success. In all honesty, I'm just trying to get a rough fit as to where people with similar backgrounds were accepted. I got a lot of research and emails to write; thats for sure. Tricky part is looking for chemEs that transitioned to a biochem or biotech grad program. 

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