[BiO BB] Graduate School Advice

Steven Sotero ssotero at mail.com
Thu Oct 25 18:04:25 EDT 2001

Greetings all,

I have recently found out about Bioinformatics and I am very interested in getting into the field. 

I've been scouring and I was able to find several schools that have or are starting Bioinformatics programs in the US. My problem now is trying to decide on which schools I can apply to. I have a Bachelor's in CS and I have been working at a Financial company. I was premed during my undergraduate studies as well, so I do have exposure to the Biological Sciences, however, I don't have any experience in research.

I’m also not sure if I should be trying for a Master’s or a PhD. From the various information I’ve gathered and from what I’ve been told, Master’s is geared towards a career in industry whereas a PhD is usually for people who want to do research, teach, or become a “scientist.” Due to my lack of experience in research, I’m not sure if I would make a good scientist, but I do know that I am currently unhappy with my desk job and I was hoping to move away from cubicle oriented work and get some lab experience.

I'm really interested in pursuing a PhD in the field, but I'm afraid that my lack of experience may prevent me from being a qualified candidate for these highly competitive programs. I've noticed that a lot of the universities that offer degrees in Bioinformatics are top notch and I'm wary of how difficult it may be to gain acceptance. 

I was wondering if any of you out there in the field or in academia might have some helpful advice in what schools you think I might have a chance. Should I focus on a PhD or Master’s programs? I was also wondering what qualities or skills that one needs to be good at independent research or to be a “good scientist.” How can I turn my experience as a programmer (behind a desk in a cubicle) into qualifications that match the criteria of a “good scientist?”

I have spoken to grad advisors at my undergrad school and I have been in contact with the directors of some of the programs I’m interested in and some students. But I’m still unsure about which schools to apply to. The advice and experience that other students have shared often doesn’t seem to apply to my situation because they often came from a biologically intensive background and have had plenty of research experience.

I do have a tentative list of schools that I want to apply to:

Washington University in St. Louis – Ph.D in Computational Molecular Biology
Boston University – Ph.D in Bioinformatics
Rensselear Polytechnic Institute – Master’s in Applied Science with a concentration in Bioinformatics
RICE – Master’s in Computer Science with a  concentration in Bioinformatics
Rutgers – Ph.D in Computational Biology
Carnegie Mellon University -  Master’s in Computational Biology
Keck Graduate Institute – Master’s in BioScience

I chose a mix of programs, although I would like to get into a good PhD program, primarily for the degree but tuition remission doesn’t hurt, I also plan to apply to Master’s programs. I am still fearful about my chances, and I at least want to get in somewhere. I would appreciate any comments or advice, even (and especially) if you think I would be wasting my time applying to a certain school, or if you have any suggestions for other programs or schools.

I apologize for my garrulousness, but I am running out of avenues to explore and I am trying to exhaust all resources available to me. I hope that I have not taken up too much of your time.

- Ste

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