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Molecular wonder

All (over 40) science PhD applicants F17

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Hi

I've applied to several PhD programs in molecular biology and now i'm  still waiting. I sent my application in early (most before the end of Nov. 2017), I did pretty well on my GRE. I have a lot of research and development experience, I've been working the past 13 years in biotech doing bench work. I enjoy r&d work and I wanted to enhance my chances of one day being able to be lead as PI or maybe a lab director so I applied to several programs. I fear that I am not going to get in to any programs since its already the end of January and I haven't heard from most of them. I know there is definitely ageism at play in most of the professional decisions these days so I think although most universities state that its illegal to discriminate against older students I think that in my case that might be a factor. I had great LOR, a patent, several posters (although no paper authorships), satisfactory undergrad grades and I took grad courses which I received mostly all A's. How are people supposed to better themselves as well as be active participants in society if they're not given a fair chance. This year has already started out crazy and unfair on so many levels as seen in the political/social world and now for me it seems like its really becoming bleak. I was an optimistic person however, I think this whole application process has made me bitter about society. Are there any other people out there with similar experience or at least can give me a pep talk.

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I'm really sorry to hear this.  You sound like a really great candidate and a lot of programs would be privileged to have you aboard.  May I ask which programs you applied to?  This could help assess things better. 

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Hi! As an older aspiring phd student thought I'd lend my support. I have one rejection so far, had 1 interview and waiting to hear from 2 other programs. Sometimes I wonder myself if I am looked over because I'm older but for the most part I have found graduate school to be a quite diverse group. I'm working on masters currently and hope to be phd student next year. The one program I interviewed had at least a couple students around/near my age (I think, I didn't really ask though).

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On 1/28/2017 at 6:14 PM, Molecular wonder said:

Hi

I've applied to several PhD programs in molecular biology and now i'm  still waiting. I sent my application in early (most before the end of Nov. 2017), I did pretty well on my GRE. I have a lot of research and development experience, I've been working the past 13 years in biotech doing bench work. I enjoy r&d work and I wanted to enhance my chances of one day being able to be lead as PI or maybe a lab director so I applied to several programs. I fear that I am not going to get in to any programs since its already the end of January and I haven't heard from most of them. I know there is definitely ageism at play in most of the professional decisions these days so I think although most universities state that its illegal to discriminate against older students I think that in my case that might be a factor. I had great LOR, a patent, several posters (although no paper authorships), satisfactory undergrad grades and I took grad courses which I received mostly all A's. How are people supposed to better themselves as well as be active participants in society if they're not given a fair chance. This year has already started out crazy and unfair on so many levels as seen in the political/social world and now for me it seems like its really becoming bleak. I was an optimistic person however, I think this whole application process has made me bitter about society. Are there any other people out there with similar experience or at least can give me a pep talk.

Hey there, as an older-ish applicant who is coming from the biotech industry as well, I have some insight that I can share.

I actually don't think its age-ism at play here. Coming from an industry background and saying that you want to go back into the industry when you are done with your PhD is essentially the "kiss of death" on an application. There is a huge bias toward academia in this environment, and it is crucial to be tactful when addressing your future goals. If you wrote about how you want to go back into the industry after your PhD, that may be why your application got rejected. I've seen this happen to otherwise well-deserving colleagues. This is why people lie about their career goals. It sucks, but the reality is that adcoms do not want to bring people in just to have them go back into the industry. They want to train scientists who are passionate about research and bench-work, and they want to train them to become one of their own.  

Hope this helps. Best of luck in the future.  

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On 1/29/2017 at 0:36 AM, BigThomason51 said:

I'm really sorry to hear this.  You sound like a really great candidate and a lot of programs would be privileged to have you aboard.  May I ask which programs you applied to?  This could help assess things better. 

 

I was rejected by 3 programs that were kind of a reach in terms of their competitive pool of applicants, but I'm waiting on 3 schools now which are UC Davis BMCDB, UCLA MCIP and Cedars-Sinai (the later has an extremely late deadline of 1/31/17  so  i don't expect to hear from them until later in February).

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9 hours ago, Molecular wonder said:

I was rejected by 3 programs that were kind of a reach in terms of their competitive pool of applicants, but I'm waiting on 3 schools now which are UC Davis BMCDB, UCLA MCIP and Cedars-Sinai (the later has an extremely late deadline of 1/31/17  so  i don't expect to hear from them until later in February).

Sounds like the schools you chose were pretty competitive ones even for the younger applicants. My impression is typically the top 25 schools in the field require an ivy league or equivalent undergrad degree and/or solid publication record.Having lots of bench experience is a plus but without research publications it doesn't show that you were more than a lab tech. This is what I understood from some of the feedback I received on my applications last year, including the one to UC Davis. They obviously phrased it much nicer but this is what I got from reading between the lines. I'm 25 but I am an international student so I do understand some of the frustrations. After two rounds of failed applications I've decided to take on a research job that will help me build a publication record. The pay sucks, but that's my current plan. 

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52 minutes ago, FailedScientist said:

Sounds like the schools you chose were pretty competitive ones even for the younger applicants. My impression is typically the top 25 schools in the field require an ivy league or equivalent undergrad degree and/or solid publication record.Having lots of bench experience is a plus but without research publications it doesn't show that you were more than a lab tech. This is what I understood from some of the feedback I received on my applications last year, including the one to UC Davis. They obviously phrased it much nicer but this is what I got from reading between the lines. I'm 25 but I am an international student so I do understand some of the frustrations. After two rounds of failed applications I've decided to take on a research job that will help me build a publication record. The pay sucks, but that's my current plan. 

I completely disagree with this comment. I go to an Ivy League school for my PhD and know many people at my school and other Ivies (and top 25 schools) that neither had any publications or went to an Ivy for undergrad (I didn't have an Ivy undergrad either). Publications are really NOT a make or break aspect of your application, your research interests, experience, and fit with the program matter significantly more.

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8 hours ago, Bioenchilada said:

I completely disagree with this comment. I go to an Ivy League school for my PhD and know many people at my school and other Ivies (and top 25 schools) that neither had any publications or went to an Ivy for undergrad (I didn't have an Ivy undergrad either). Publications are really NOT a make or break aspect of your application, your research interests, experience, and fit with the program matter significantly more.

I guess you have more experience in the matter. But I would think after having 13 years of experience in biotech and taking grad courses molecular wonder would have his/her research interests figured out and more experience than most applicants? I'm just trying to figure out what areas could be lacking in his/her application.

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2 hours ago, FailedScientist said:

I guess you have more experience in the matter. But I would think after having 13 years of experience in biotech and taking grad courses molecular wonder would have his/her research interests figured out and more experience than most applicants? I'm just trying to figure out what areas could be lacking in his/her application.

Maybe their SOP wasn't strong, or they couldn't put their experience into perspective, or they didn't really match with the schools, maybe their rec letters weren't as strong as they think. There's many possible reasons for a rejection, and the only possible way of knowing why is to ask the adcom. 

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11 hours ago, Bioenchilada said:

Publications are really NOT a make or break aspect of your application, your research interests, experience, and fit with the program matter significantly more.

I agree with your statement but the statement made by @FailedScientist, whether one agrees or disagrees, also holds some value, as far as my background is concerned.

12 hours ago, FailedScientist said:

My impression is typically the top 25 schools in the field require an ivy league or equivalent undergrad degree and/or solid publication record.

I have an undergrad degree from one of the very TOP schools in the US, 1.25 publications (will have to explain the .25 another time), and, from the letters I received thus far from PIs, an impressive and exciting research background. Thus far, my responses to my applications and acceptances have been very good, with two schools left to hear from.

My impression is Research, SOPs, FIT, grades, GREs are very important in this whole application process, but from some of the statements I received about the excellent education I must have received because of the undergraduate school I attended, I cannot discount that one's undergraduate school can be a SLIGHT advantage.

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13 hours ago, FailedScientist said:

Sounds like the schools you chose were pretty competitive ones even for the younger applicants. My impression is typically the top 25 schools in the field require an ivy league or equivalent undergrad degree and/or solid publication record.Having lots of bench experience is a plus but without research publications it doesn't show that you were more than a lab tech. This is what I understood from some of the feedback I received on my applications last year, including the one to UC Davis. They obviously phrased it much nicer but this is what I got from reading between the lines. I'm 25 but I am an international student so I do understand some of the frustrations. After two rounds of failed applications I've decided to take on a research job that will help me build a publication record. The pay sucks, but that's my current plan. 

I disagree. I go to a small liberal arts college that almost no one has ever heard of and have published once (not first author, not a great journal) and I've gotten interviews to top programs. You just have to find some way to stand out to adcoms.

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10 minutes ago, Black Beauty said:

I agree with your statement but the statement made by @FailedScientist, whether one agrees or disagrees, also holds some value, as far as my background is concerned.

I have an undergrad degree from one of the very TOP schools in the US, 1.25 publications (will have to explain the .25 another time), and, from the letters I received thus far from PIs, an impressive and exciting research background. Thus far, my responses to my applications and acceptances have been very good, with two schools left to hear from.

My impression is Research, SOPs, FIT, grades, GREs are very important in this whole application process, but from some of the statements I received about the excellent education I must have received because of the undergraduate school I attended, I cannot discount that one's undergraduate school can be a SLIGHT advantage.

Sure, I cannot disregard the fact that coming from a top 5 school and thriving will make a very good impression and  give you some form of an advantage, but it is by no means a requirement, like publications. Most undergrads entering top schools do not publications from my experience knowing applicants at top schools and grad students. 

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On 2/10/2017 at 0:40 PM, Molecular wonder said:

I was rejected by 3 programs that were kind of a reach in terms of their competitive pool of applicants, but I'm waiting on 3 schools now which are UC Davis BMCDB, UCLA MCIP and Cedars-Sinai (the later has an extremely late deadline of 1/31/17  so  i don't expect to hear from them until later in February).

@Molecular wonder are you an American resident/citizen? If so, I think this could be a factor they are taking into account.

I don't think age should be a factor as long as you have things that make you stand out. As @LoveMysterious mentioned, coming from industry and mentioning that you want to go back to industry after getting your PhD might be a "kiss of death". Depending on the program you apply to, some faculty might feel like you might not need a PhD if you want to stay in industry (in fact, some of them might think a Master's could be more appropriate) and that could be affecting your applications. I hope you hear back from the other schools you have left to hear back from tho! I know it is hard sometimes to avoid feeling "bitter about society", and I hope we (the grad school cafe community) can help you with that.

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