We are PhD students at Harvard Medical School here to answer your questions about biology, biomedical research, and graduate school. Ask us anything!
Edit 5: ok, that's it everybody, back to lab! Thanks everyone for all your questions, we'll try to get to anyone we missed over the next few days. Check in at our website, facebook, or twitter for more articles and information!
EDIT 4: Most of us are heading out for the night, but this has been awesome. Please keep posting your questions. Many of us will be back on tomorrow to follow up and address topics we've missed so far. We will also contact researchers in other areas to address some of the topics we've missed.
We're a group of PhD students representing Harvard Science In the News, a graduate student organization with a mission to communicate science to the public. Some of the things we do include weekly science seminars which are livestreamed online, and post short articles to clearly explain scientific research that is in the news.
We're here today to answer all of your questions about biology, biomedical research, graduate school, and anything else you're curious about. Here are our research interests, feel free to browse through our lab websites and ask questions as specific or as general as you would like!
- Joe - Viruses and virus-cell interactions
- Heather - Deep sea microbial ecology
- Radhika & Brittany - Cancer epigenetics
- Jacob - Cancer, Genetics, DNA Repair
- Troy - Microbiology and Immunology
- Marc - Early embryology, cell division, evolution
- Johnny - Protein Engineering, Genomics
- Steph - Cancer biology (lung cancer and melanoma), cell signaling
- Enrique - Drug discovery
EDIT: Getting a lot of questions asking about med school, but just to clarify, we're Harvard PhD students that work in labs located at Harvard Medical School.
EDIT-2: We are in no way speaking for Harvard University / Medical School in an official capacity. The goal of this AMA is to talk about our experiences as graduate students.
EDIT-3: We'd like to direct everyone to some other great subs if you have any more questions.
Proof: SITN Facebook Page
Summary of advice for getting into Grad School:
Previous research experience is the most important part of a graduate school application. Perform as much as you can, either through working for a professor at your school during the year, or by attending summer research programs that can be found all over the country. Engage in your projects and try to understand the rationale and significance of your work along with learning the technical skills.
Demonstrate your scientific training in your essays. Start these early and have as many people look at them as possible.
Cultivate relationships with multiple professors. They will teach you a lot and will help write reference letters, which are very important for graduate school as well.
Grades and GRE scores do matter, but they count much less than research experience, recommendations, and your personal training. Take these seriously, but don't be afraid to apply if you have less than a 4.0.
Do not be afraid to take time off to figure out whether you want to do graduate school. Pursuing a PhD is an important decision, and should not be taken because "you're not sure what else to do." Many of us took at least a year or two off before applying. However, make sure to spend this time in a relevant field where you can continue to build your CV, and more importantly, get to know the culture and expectations of graduate school. There are both benefits (paid tuition, flexibility, excellent training, transferable skills) and costs (academic careers are competitive, biology PhDs are a large time investment, and not all science careers even require them). Take your time and choose wisely.
Most molecular-based programs do not require to have selected a particular professor or project before applying (there is instead a "rotation" system that allows you to select a thesis lab). If you have multiple interest or prefer bigger programs, most schools have an "umbrella program" with wide specialties to apply to (e.g., Harvard BBS, or UCSF Terad).
Resources for science news: