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2018 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

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2 hours ago, BiomedicalPHD123 said:

Hi! Similar to some other people, I'm having trouble deciding between two schools: Harvard BBS and Gerstner Sloan Kettering. Basically overall I got better vibes at GSK from both the faculty and students there, I could really see myself living in NY (and already have friends there), and I've also worked there before making me feel confident that it would be a good environment for me in terms of fit. In addition, there are various aspects of the program that I like for instance that you don't have classes and rotations at the same time, and the smaller size of the program makes me feel like I would get more attention and support. With that being said, Harvard is Harvard and I'm having a really hard time turning it down. During my visit I did talk to some faculty that I could see myself working with, although the same could be said for GSK. In addition, the program is a lot bigger which worries me in terms of student community/support etc. I think overall I'd be happier at GSK, I'm really interested in cancer cell bio so I think it would be a good fit research interest wise too, but Harvard definitely has the prestige factor. 

Anyways I'm super stuck so I'd appreciate any thoughts/help/opinions. Thanks!

From your post it sounds like you've answered your own question, and GSK is the right choice for you. Picking for prestige is probably widely considered a bad reason to pick a school. 

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7 hours ago, BiomedicalPHD123 said:

Hi! Similar to some other people, I'm having trouble deciding between two schools: Harvard BBS and Gerstner Sloan Kettering. Basically overall I got better vibes at GSK from both the faculty and students there, I could really see myself living in NY (and already have friends there), and I've also worked there before making me feel confident that it would be a good environment for me in terms of fit. In addition, there are various aspects of the program that I like for instance that you don't have classes and rotations at the same time, and the smaller size of the program makes me feel like I would get more attention and support. With that being said, Harvard is Harvard and I'm having a really hard time turning it down. During my visit I did talk to some faculty that I could see myself working with, although the same could be said for GSK. In addition, the program is a lot bigger which worries me in terms of student community/support etc. I think overall I'd be happier at GSK, I'm really interested in cancer cell bio so I think it would be a good fit research interest wise too, but Harvard definitely has the prestige factor. 

Anyways I'm super stuck so I'd appreciate any thoughts/help/opinions. Thanks!

I agree with @hurryskurry. Ultimately it's what you achieve in grad school that matters. And this will be heavily influenced by your PI, your cohort, and how happy you are in general. 

Also, GSK has a very strong name in academia especially in cancer bio, but I'm sure you already know that!

Edited by factanonverba

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10 hours ago, BiomedicalPHD123 said:

Hi! Similar to some other people, I'm having trouble deciding between two schools: Harvard BBS and Gerstner Sloan Kettering. Basically overall I got better vibes at GSK from both the faculty and students there, I could really see myself living in NY (and already have friends there), and I've also worked there before making me feel confident that it would be a good environment for me in terms of fit. In addition, there are various aspects of the program that I like for instance that you don't have classes and rotations at the same time, and the smaller size of the program makes me feel like I would get more attention and support. With that being said, Harvard is Harvard and I'm having a really hard time turning it down. During my visit I did talk to some faculty that I could see myself working with, although the same could be said for GSK. In addition, the program is a lot bigger which worries me in terms of student community/support etc. I think overall I'd be happier at GSK, I'm really interested in cancer cell bio so I think it would be a good fit research interest wise too, but Harvard definitely has the prestige factor. 

Anyways I'm super stuck so I'd appreciate any thoughts/help/opinions. Thanks!

Let me start by saying that you are dealing with the best dilemma in the world: should I go to amazing school A or amazing school B? :lol:

Definitely take a moment to be proud of yourself for being in this position! 

I can give you general advice, then I'll make a push for BBS, because of course I will. 

Both programs are absolutely outstanding. GSK is GSK and they have one of the best programs in the world for cancer biology. If you are dead set on cancer biology, GSK is a great choice. With the being said, at Harvard you will find not only Dana Farber, but also the cancer center at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Koch Institute at MIT. In addition, as a BBS student, you will be able to take Harvard's cancer courses and MIT's cancer courses (Bob Weinberg, the guy who literally wrote the book on cancer, teaches the MIT cancer course). So in terms of research and coursework, GSK might be a bit better, but I'm not convinced they are leading the field. 

As far as program size, I have never felt unsupported by the program. The BBS program administrators are amazing and I get replies to emails within an hour, usually sooner. I don't know about the GSK experience, but I can say that BBS is a phenomenal program that makes every student feel supported. 

I think it's safe to say that most academic aspects are similar, so a big part of your decision will have to come down to location. Do you want to live in New York or Boston for five to six years? That's a super personal question. Personally, I can't see myself living in Manhattan that long. It's such a crazy town. Boston and Cambridge are super chill. You can get a cocktail for less than $17 and rent isn't ridiculous. My fiancee and I have a two-bedroom house to ourselves in Cambridge (ten minutes from Harvard Square), and we still save quite a bit of money, go on vacations to Europe once a year, and are paying for our own wedding. That's all from our grad school stipends (neither of us come from money). 

My unbiased advice is to consider seriously where you want to live. Both programs will get you into industry or a top post-doc, and you will make your grad school experience what you want it to be. The question is whether you want to do it all in NYC or in Boston. 

For my unabashed push for BBS, I'll start by saying that I ******* love BBS. I'm not being paid by them to say anything, and honestly I don't really care who is in the new BBS class in the fall, but I can seriously say that the program has been absolutely phenomenal. Susan Dymecki (program head) is one of the nicest people I've ever met. She is genuinely helpful and supportive. The whole BBS office is supportive, and I've never felt like I am in a class of 75. I have my friends in the program, then there are people in the program who I haven't really met. That's how it works with large programs. I could just as easily be in a program of ten. I actually think the larger program increases your chances of finding people with whom you click. 

I don't really believe in coursework as a legitimate pedagogical pursuit, so I can't say much about coursework. I mean, I enjoyed my courses, but whatever. You can take courses at HMS, Harvard College, MIT, and a few other places. Don't let GSK's weird year-long course persuade you to do anything. You can build an equally effective course plan at Harvard. I should state that doing rotations while taking courses is a really important part of the first year. If you want to spend the first year only taking courses, go to medical school or do a masters. You need to be in the lab to instantiate the compendium of scientific knowledge you'll be learning. I'm pretty shocked and disappointed that there are programs that separate coursework and rotations. GSK needs to chill. 

Here's a big factor to think about: if you have any reason to believe that cancer biology might not be the only thing you like, you have to go to Harvard, right? I mean, yeah, you can be a great cancer biologist at GSK, but you can also be a great cancer biologist at Harvard. However, you can't be a great neuroscientist or geneticist or microbiologist or computational biologist at GSK. Harvard lets you explore other fields. I did six years of cancer research before starting grad school. I interviewed at cancer only places and my research statements were all about cancer cell metabolism. Then I came to BBS and now I am in a neurogenomics lab using single cell RNA-seq to study neuron-glia interactions. It's a crazy world, so you don't want to put yourself in a box before even starting your PhD. Harvard also has something like 800 faculty with whom you can work. It's almost overwhelming how many choices you have. 

Finally, Boston is just a wonderful place to live. My fiancee and I are from the midwest, but we've actually been really happy here. There are tons of breweries and great restaurants. The harbor is super fun. We live in a nice quiet neighborhood in Cambridge, and everything is chill. Harvard is always having events, so it's easy to find your niche. 

Overall. I'm sorry your weekend at Harvard wasn't everything it's supposed to be, but I can honestly say being in BBS is pretty great. I don't think you'll regret choosing BBS over GSK. I've said a lot here, but I'd be happy to talk with you more in private message or elsewhere. I can also put you in contact with a first year BBS student who decided to join BBS over GSK. 

Good luck with the decision making! 

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I've officially committed to Cincinnati's MDB program! I feel like a huge burden has been lifted off my chest!

@BiomedicalPHD123 You have a very hard decision ahead of you! Make sure that you take into account your gut feeling about a place. If you're really interested and committed to cancer cell bio for your graduate training, then I'd go ahead with GSK. If you think that you may want to venture out into other fields, then I'd say go to Harvard because they are pretty good, if not excellent, at many things bio-related. I'm a little bit leery about the rotation/class thing at GSK personally, but if that works for you and seems to be well-liked by the current students, then go ahead and do it!

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38 minutes ago, devbioboy said:

I've officially committed to Cincinnati's MDB program! I feel like a huge burden has been lifted off my chest!

 

Congratulations! I know at least one current grad student at Cinci from my undergrad department and she's very happy there :). Wishing you an awesome time! 

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2 hours ago, devbioboy said:

I've officially committed to Cincinnati's MDB program! I feel like a huge burden has been lifted off my chest!

@BiomedicalPHD123 You have a very hard decision ahead of you! Make sure that you take into account your gut feeling about a place. If you're really interested and committed to cancer cell bio for your graduate training, then I'd go ahead with GSK. If you think that you may want to venture out into other fields, then I'd say go to Harvard because they are pretty good, if not excellent, at many things bio-related. I'm a little bit leery about the rotation/class thing at GSK personally, but if that works for you and seems to be well-liked by the current students, then go ahead and do it!

Congratulations!!!  Cinci was my second choice after Wisconsin, and it was really hard for me to say 'no' to them.  I loved my visit there and the facilities/core at the Children's Hospital is amazing!

Edited by StemCellFan

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2 hours ago, devbioboy said:

I've officially committed to Cincinnati's MDB program! I feel like a huge burden has been lifted off my chest!

@BiomedicalPHD123 You have a very hard decision ahead of you! Make sure that you take into account your gut feeling about a place. If you're really interested and committed to cancer cell bio for your graduate training, then I'd go ahead with GSK. If you think that you may want to venture out into other fields, then I'd say go to Harvard because they are pretty good, if not excellent, at many things bio-related. I'm a little bit leery about the rotation/class thing at GSK personally, but if that works for you and seems to be well-liked by the current students, then go ahead and do it!

 

18 minutes ago, AllieKat said:

Just sent in my letter for Baylor's biochem and molecular biology program!! What a RELIEF that this is over.

Congrats all! :)

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Anyone else on a waitlist and struggling to be patient? I hate not knowing where I’m going yet, but I don’t want to give up.

I have other great options I’d be excited to go to also so no matter what I’ll be fine - I just hate waiting.

Edited by jasbee

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1 hour ago, jasbee said:

Anyone else on a waitlist and struggling to be patient? I hate not knowing where I’m going yet, but I don’t want to give up.

I have other great options I’d be excited to go to also so no matter what I’ll be fine - I just hate waiting.

I am in the same boat at you are. Just holding onto hope, and April 15 is getting closer, so that means a decision is getting closer, as well.

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Committed to Columbia Metabolism! Ayyyyyye thanks for everyone’s help along the way! It’s definitely more harder than I thought as being an international student. But I guess I am lucky enough this year, I’m more than grateful to get in Columbia and start my new journey!!! 

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Similar to other people on here, I really need help with decisions!

I got admitted to two great programs at Harvard and MIT, and I love both of them for different reasons. I'm applying for a PhD in the general field of biology, specifically microbial ecology. Harvard's program is a direct admit into a lab, and the lab I applied to seems awesome. The PI and I seemed to get along, and he's really pulling for me to attend there. There's a lot of flexibility in terms of projects, but the PI seems to be very busy and other than his lab, there aren't a lot of other people in the department that do similar work, so if something were to happen I would kind of be out of luck.

At MIT, the program is a rotation system, with heavier coursework requirements the first two years. There are a number of labs I'm interested in, but none where I felt the same kind of rapport as at Harvard (maybe because I only met like 2 of them for 30 minutes each). I like MIT as a school, but this program is a little more industry-oriented and while people have told me that grad school is different from undergrad, the rep of MIT concerns me a little. The research fit is great, though, and I might have more options.

So what should I do?? Please help, I have been thinking about this issue for several months now, but I just received MIT's offer so now it's getting a lot more real!

 

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45 minutes ago, mochamocha73 said:

Similar to other people on here, I really need help with decisions!

I got admitted to two great programs at Harvard and MIT, and I love both of them for different reasons. I'm applying for a PhD in the general field of biology, specifically microbial ecology. Harvard's program is a direct admit into a lab, and the lab I applied to seems awesome. The PI and I seemed to get along, and he's really pulling for me to attend there. There's a lot of flexibility in terms of projects, but the PI seems to be very busy and other than his lab, there aren't a lot of other people in the department that do similar work, so if something were to happen I would kind of be out of luck.

At MIT, the program is a rotation system, with heavier coursework requirements the first two years. There are a number of labs I'm interested in, but none where I felt the same kind of rapport as at Harvard (maybe because I only met like 2 of them for 30 minutes each). I like MIT as a school, but this program is a little more industry-oriented and while people have told me that grad school is different from undergrad, the rep of MIT concerns me a little. The research fit is great, though, and I might have more options.

So what should I do?? Please help, I have been thinking about this issue for several months now, but I just received MIT's offer so now it's getting a lot more real!

 

Congrats man! The nice thing about choosing between Harvard and MIT is that there are so many things in common between them (location, prestige, and quality of training). I applied to the Biology PhD, not to Microbiology, so there may be some differences in our experiences.

Personally, I only applied to rotation based programs as I'm not entirely sure what specific research topic I'd like to pursue. When I was deciding between programs, MIT stood out to me in a big way due to the fact that they front load the coursework in the first semester. From what students have told me, it really helps to build a strong knowledge foundation, foster cohort camaraderie, and let you focus more on choosing the right lab in the spring. Personally, I think that this will let me have an easier transition into grad school as I haven't taken any classes in the past 2 years. 

The shorter rotation times (4wks vs 8-10wks at other programs) also appealed to me as I think that this system really emphasizes the fact that you should spend the time focusing on fit rather than trying to complete a small project. If I don't mesh well with a lab, I definitely would not want to be stuck there for longer than necessary, and I think that fit can be well-determined during the course of a month. 

While there are a lot of opportunities for industry work, I definitely didn't get the sense that the program was biased in any way. I think that the program provides a lot of support and training whether you decide to pursue industry or academic work after the PhD. 

Are you worried that the lab at Harvard will not work out? Is it relatively easy to find a new adviser if things go south? In the end, it's the mentor that matters, but I personally wouldn't feel comfortable without having at least 2-3 potential advisers in a program. 

Either way I don't think there is a wrong choice here. See you in Cambridge/Boston!

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1 hour ago, mochamocha73 said:

Similar to other people on here, I really need help with decisions!

I got admitted to two great programs at Harvard and MIT, and I love both of them for different reasons. I'm applying for a PhD in the general field of biology, specifically microbial ecology. Harvard's program is a direct admit into a lab, and the lab I applied to seems awesome. The PI and I seemed to get along, and he's really pulling for me to attend there. There's a lot of flexibility in terms of projects, but the PI seems to be very busy and other than his lab, there aren't a lot of other people in the department that do similar work, so if something were to happen I would kind of be out of luck.

At MIT, the program is a rotation system, with heavier coursework requirements the first two years. There are a number of labs I'm interested in, but none where I felt the same kind of rapport as at Harvard (maybe because I only met like 2 of them for 30 minutes each). I like MIT as a school, but this program is a little more industry-oriented and while people have told me that grad school is different from undergrad, the rep of MIT concerns me a little. The research fit is great, though, and I might have more options.

So what should I do?? Please help, I have been thinking about this issue for several months now, but I just received MIT's offer so now it's getting a lot more real!

 

I also only applied to programs that use a rotation system.  This is because I wouldn't want to jump into a lab for the rest of my PhD career and find out that the PI and I don't mesh at all.  I would carefully look at Harvard's researchers and see if there are any options at all in case things don't work out with this PI.  I would be more inclined to go with MIT because of the options available, but your mileage may vary.

As far as opportunities and reputation, both are great schools and you can't go wrong with either.  Good luck!

Edited by StemCellFan

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Hey everyone! I’ve officially joined the club of agonizing over decisions.

I’m deciding between Oregon Health & Science University (Program in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences), University of Chicago (Development, Regeneration, and Stem Cell Biology), and Weill Cornell (BCMB). The research at OHSU is amazing and Portland seems like a great place to live, but their grad program doesn’t seem as well established as the others. I really liked that UChicago had a very strong grad community, but they have fewer faculty whose labs I would be interested in joining. I checked with faculty, and two of them probably aren’t even taking students next year. Weill Cornell has a lot of faculty I would love to work with, and they seem to have decent grad community (though not quite as strong as UChicago). My main concern with Weill Cornell is that it’s located in Manhattan, and because I’ve lived in California my whole life, everyone keeps warning me how different New York is from the west coast and they’ve all made me nervous that I wouldn’t like living there.

I keep going in circles with this reasoning so if anyone could give me another perspective or a new angle of looking at this it would be much appreciated!

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7 hours ago, jlz319 said:

Hey everyone! I’ve officially joined the club of agonizing over decisions.

I’m deciding between Oregon Health & Science University (Program in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences), University of Chicago (Development, Regeneration, and Stem Cell Biology), and Weill Cornell (BCMB). The research at OHSU is amazing and Portland seems like a great place to live, but their grad program doesn’t seem as well established as the others. I really liked that UChicago had a very strong grad community, but they have fewer faculty whose labs I would be interested in joining. I checked with faculty, and two of them probably aren’t even taking students next year. Weill Cornell has a lot of faculty I would love to work with, and they seem to have decent grad community (though not quite as strong as UChicago). My main concern with Weill Cornell is that it’s located in Manhattan, and because I’ve lived in California my whole life, everyone keeps warning me how different New York is from the west coast and they’ve all made me nervous that I wouldn’t like living there.

I keep going in circles with this reasoning so if anyone could give me another perspective or a new angle of looking at this it would be much appreciated!

Hmmm.  They're all good choices.  I would sit down and think about what your top priority is when picking a program and what it is about a program that will make you happiest.  Things I've heard people tell me is that you should have a number of faculty (3-5) that you can see yourself working with, and that you think could be excellent mentors and the research is interesting.  Other things to think about is how you think you fit in with the grad community, stipend and living expenses, graduation rates (how long does it take to complete), program structure (how much coursework is required?  TA requirement?  How are prelims and rotations structured?), and if you would like living in that area for the next 5-7 years.

I know for me, I ranked my priorities as such:

1) my SO can find a job in their field

2) availability of faculty of interest/rapport with faculty/faculty research

3) graduate student success

4) overall research strength of the area I'm interested in

5) location and stipend

6) program structure

7) rapport with current students and fellow interviewees (they might be in my cohort!)

8) reputation/ranking

Edited by StemCellFan

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Hi all! Exciting to see everyone making decisions and doing so well. I'm torn between Yale, Harvard, and Rockefeller. I plan on focusing on immunology, Yale and Harvard having top departments in both. However, Rockefeller is such an amazing place itself that it makes this decision somewhat difficult. Perhaps the biggest difference I can draw between Harvard and Yale is the culture. From what I've heard Harvard is more competitive. I definitely felt that Yale was a very happy, inclusive community after visiting. In terms of location, I think Boston would be better, but I don't think New Haven is as bad as people make it out to be. Anyone have experience at any of these schools & can provide some insight? 

Edited by DeepWhaleSlumber

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On 3/28/2018 at 12:17 PM, jlz319 said:

Hey everyone! I’ve officially joined the club of agonizing over decisions.

I’m deciding between Oregon Health & Science University (Program in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences), University of Chicago (Development, Regeneration, and Stem Cell Biology), and Weill Cornell (BCMB). The research at OHSU is amazing and Portland seems like a great place to live, but their grad program doesn’t seem as well established as the others. I really liked that UChicago had a very strong grad community, but they have fewer faculty whose labs I would be interested in joining. I checked with faculty, and two of them probably aren’t even taking students next year. Weill Cornell has a lot of faculty I would love to work with, and they seem to have decent grad community (though not quite as strong as UChicago). My main concern with Weill Cornell is that it’s located in Manhattan, and because I’ve lived in California my whole life, everyone keeps warning me how different New York is from the west coast and they’ve all made me nervous that I wouldn’t like living there.

I keep going in circles with this reasoning so if anyone could give me another perspective or a new angle of looking at this it would be much appreciated!

My two cents about living in NYC - yes, it's gonna be completely different from California. But you are young, if you want to experience something different, grad school is not a bad time to do it! It would be hard to live in NYC at any other stage of one's career, but if the grad school gives you a good community, subsidized housing, etc. then I think it's a pretty good deal. 

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@DeepWhaleSlumber I am in the same boat as you (considering Harvard, Yale and Rockefeller).  I am leaning towards Yale or Rockefeller because for me Boston isn't the best location and I am somewhat concerned that there may be some truth to Harvard's competitive reputation.  However, I am less sure of my research area of interest (though I am leaning towards neuroscience or genetics).  One thing I would say is that if you are sure about pursuing immunology, you may want the wider breadth of choice that Harvard or Yale would provide in terms of PIs.

Good luck with your decision if you haven't already made it! 

 

 

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