[BiO BB] Graduate School Advice

Joel Dudley Joel.Dudley at DevelopOnline.com
Thu Oct 25 18:54:32 EDT 2001

You forgot a school! Arizona State University will be starting a
Computational Biology Masters next semester. It is a Sloan foundation
program. They will not be offering a PhD because they feel that a masters is
more practical for individuals who want to work in the bioinformatics
industry. Part of the masters requires that you intern at a company so thay
are building great relationships with local companies doing bioinformatics
work (Motorola Life Sceinces division for example). The program is very
flexible and offers several pathways. The program is geared towards
biologists and computer scientists, but they are welcoming people from
various backgrounds. I am  already taking classes towards this degree, but
it will not be oficially available until next semester. There are some great
professors working in computational biology at ASU including Sudhir Kumar
who is the author of MEGA (www.megasoftware.net).  Oh yeah, there is
sunshine over 300 days out of the year here too! :-)

Hope this helps.

- Joel

-----Original Message-----
From: Steven Sotero [mailto:ssotero at mail.com]
Sent: Thursday, October 25, 2001 3:04 PM
To: bio_bulletin_board at bioinformatics.org
Subject: [BiO BB] Graduate School Advice

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

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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