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Biophysics Programs

  • Physics
  • Thread starter thelaxiankey
  • Start date
  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hey y'all,
I posted here a while back, but here goes. I'm looking for biophysics schools/labs with realistic assessments of how likely it is I'll get in. Also looking for forums to post to besides this one :)
Summary:
Senior undergraduate at UIUC, dual degree in Physics, CS + Math. 3.7 GPA, physics grades are a smattering of A's and B's. So-so research experience. Looking for spots that have a good mix of experiment and theory! Happy to apply to masters and take 'unorthodox' paths (masters in data science or similar) if that's what it takes. Willing to apply out of country.

What I'm looking for:
I guess my 'ideal' would be some mix of experiment/theory, as I've come to realize experiments are way cooler than I gave them credit for early on as an undergrad, and I think they're just so important for grounding my physics. Math-wise, in particular I like dynamical systems, and am looking to learn stochastic processes (I keep trying to take a course on it and the university kept making it difficult, so maybe I'll take one while working or something. Don't really know what to do about this). I know a bit of discrete diff geo as well, and am pretty good at numerics-style linear. Generally I've enjoyed some of the population dynamics kinda stuff I've seen, but I'm aware of my lack of experience and willing to try new things if there's a reasonable way to try them.

Most of my problem is my best contact point in biophysics I met this semester, and will not have 'easy' access to due to covid. He's sent me a few papers and stuff and we've talked, but we haven't started skype calls yet or anything. Maybe soon, though. So I'm sort of going in blind.

Additional details:

Grades (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign):
  • Physics grades are about half A's, half B's. Graduate stat mech with a B (I know I ****ed up, loved the class to bits and this is my biggest regret of uni). An experimental biophysics class with an A, maybe a rec letter from the prof.
  • Math grades are almost all A's, Graduate dynamical systems with an A-.
  • CS grades are straight A's, a couple A-/B+.
Scores:
  • GRE subject physics: Didn't register for April because of Covid 19 (currently stuck in CA). Anticipating about top 20%, can definitely do better with practice if it's important; I don't really know.
Research/career experience/rec letter:
  • Internship at Google, job that I will hopefully not be laid off from lined up for this year. I intend to be applying to graduate schools while working.
  • Internship at Sandia National Labs doing raytracing sorta stuff, they really liked me there and definitely would be happy to vouch for my comptence.
  • Year of research doing molecular dynamics type stuff. Generally came to be sort of suspicious of molecular dynamics, but they liked me there. I sped up their (computationally intensive) program by 30% and made a poster, but unfortunately it required further work to actually get a paper and at that point I'd realized it wasn't for me. Also would appreciate suggestions for how to phrase this sort of thing in a less shitty way btw. I guess I know about symplectic integrators now, though! Pretty good rec letter.
  • Year of research figuring out discrete exterior calculus and reimplementing results from an old paper. My method is maybe useful and generalizes, so I will be talking to the professor to see if maybe I can do a masters under him and get something published. Hopefully corona doesn't make this harder than it has to be.
  • Was going to ask my experimental biophys class prof for a rec letter but class is now cancelled. I was really hoping to get to know him better but idk how to go about this at this point.
 
Last edited:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
11,483
5,009
Use Google and search on "top biophysics schools" and I got the following list:
- Johns Hopkins
- UCLA
- Univ of Michigan
- Univ of Pennsylvania
- Columbia
- UCSD
- Brigham Young Univ
- USC
-
and 20+ more...
 
  • #3
I don't really have a great way of distinguishing them besides looking at professors/groups within the schools. And while I could spend a few days researching, say, 10 professors at each school for 10 minutes each, it would take upwards of ten hours and definitely not be a complete list. Some sort of broad strokes ranking or 'well given your interests, so and so is good' would be very helpful and easily save me a huge amount of time, which is why I'm asking.
 
  • #4
11,483
5,009
Sadly, these quick decisions will come back to haunt you. You really need to do this legwork yourself if you want to know what school is what. Interview your undergrad profs to see what schools they recommend. Check with your academic counselors to see what they know. See if there are any students who went to the schools of interest. Look for interesting papers in the journals and see what schools the authors come from.

i can tell you Cornell is an excellent school because i know a close family member got a dual PhD there in Veterinery Science and Biology Specializing in Epigenetics. I can also say UT at Austin is an excellent school in general because I know many people who‘ve graduated from there with degrees in Engineering, Biology and Biomedical degrees. However, I don’t know if they have a program in biophysics.

However, you need to define some criteria and use them to evaluate the school, the profs and the program. It might be a subjective analysis but at least you’ll have some sense of directing your own destiny and choosing a good school and a great program. Why because you chose them?

When all else fails you can always use a dart board or throw some dice to make the final decision.
 

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