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Research and Graduate School .

  1. Apr 20, 2015 #1
    Hi Guys! Perhaps this a commonly asked question on Physics forums. If this has been addressed before then I apologize. I really value the input on this board from the experienced folks, hence the question.

    My first question :

    1) What is required to be accepted for internships for places such as these, while still pursuing undergraduate degree.

    a) https://pande.stanford.edu
    b) http://labpages.moffitt.org/andersona/

    I would assume a great GPA, good LOR's, hands on research experience with a reputed group and perhaps some previous experience in the respective field.

    My second question :

    1) Would it be beneficial to go to an ivy league school in undergrad with the prospect of getting into a top their grad school?

    Third and the final question :

    2) What are the qualities and elements that graduate schools with top programs look for in their applicants?

    My assumption is the GPA, GRE, LOR, research experience and ability to conduct research.

    Looking forward to some input. Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 21, 2015 #2


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    1. Internships are usually competitions, so it's not necessarily a case of satisfying a set of requirement and automatically getting in. A lot can really depend on the pool of candidates for the position and what you bring to the table. For example they'll often take someone who knows how to program in C++ and has completed relevant coursework in statistics over someone who doesn't have those traits but has a slighttly higher GPA - if those are the skills that they're looking for.

      In contrast to what I just said, positions for undergraduates are also generally set up as tools to give the students work and/or research experience. So sometimes having relevant experience won't matter at all. In such cases they can go by either lottery or GPA, or simply by taking the students who had enough initiative to inquire about the possibility of a job in the first place.

      If you have some specific labs that you're interested in work at, contact them and ask what they are looking for and how to apply
    2. Yes and no, but more on the no side for what you're really asking.
      The prestige of an undergraduate program will have only a minor if any effect on your graduate opportunities. Far more important are factors such as GPA, research experience, positive letters of reference, and the relevance of your course work to your proposed program. A high quality undergraduate institution (it doesn't have to be an ivy league) will likely offer you more opportunities for research and more opportunities for specialized courses and so in that sense there may be an effect. So the point here is to chose the school that you believe you will perform best at and will give you the specific opportunities you want. There may also be a self-selection positive bias. Some schools may give preference to their own undergraduates because the people on the admissions committee will know the references if not the applicants themselves. Again, this is a higher order effect though.
    3. While it will vary from school-to-school, your assumptions are correct.
  4. Apr 21, 2015 #3
    I appreciate the detailed and prompt response. :)
  5. Apr 29, 2015 #4
    Is it true that if you try getting into research with a certain faculty ( not your major ), they would rather choose their own over you? For example , would it be difficult for a mathematics major to get into biophysics research in undergrad? Would the biophysics or any other research ( insert name ) department be biased towards their own?
  6. Apr 29, 2015 #5


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    It's going to vary depending on the situation, but generally departments will tend to favour their own students. One reason is that the faculty offering the position will tend to know the student in question, and people tend to select in favour of people they know. Another reason goes back to the point of research positions for undergrads. Often these are set up to give students an opportunity to get involved with research in the discipline they are studying. As a department with a goal of preparing your students for future graduate work in the field, you would want to make sure your own students get these opportunities. Third, sometimes the funding may come with caveates that the student hired be within the department.

    All of that said, it's certainly not hopeless if you're interested in a position outside of your major. Lots of students get opportunities to work on projects that are outside of their field. Some even switch fields because of it.

    The bottom line is that if you find an opportunity you're intereted in, apply. If you can, talk to the person leading the project and find out what that person wants. The only time it's a lost cause is if there are specific requirements for the position that you don't meet.
  7. Apr 29, 2015 #6
    Appreciate the input Choppy. :)

    I have always been told that it is easier to transition from certain fields then vice versa. Case in the point, I know a professor who teaches financial engineering at a reputed school. He said that for someone with a strong mathematics background who might have majored in mathematics, physics etc, it is very easy to teach him/her about finance, economics and business versus the other way around.
  8. May 1, 2015 #7


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    I don't think that's necessarily true. I did research with a theoretical chemistry professor in undergrad (although the only chemistry or materials science aspect was we were trying to identify the physical phenomena in real materials). A lot of professors in fields like chemistry or theoretical biophysics would be happy to have someone who knows a lot of math. Computational biology is pretty much a subfield of applied math.
  9. May 1, 2015 #8
    The latter is simply false; just look at the courses for a graduate program and you will see that you get mostly computer science, then physics, then usually at least one course in biology. The former really depends on the group, with most groups I'm aware of heavily favoring a strong background in physics since few groups make use of abstruse mathematics.
  10. May 1, 2015 #9


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    Notice that I specifically mentioned "applied" math. Obviously pure math won't do much but a lot of people in applied math are interested in areas like computational biology. When I was in undergrad and considering a major/minor in math, I noticed that there is actually a biological mathematics concentration within our math major at my university.

    Actually there is quite a bit of overlap between applied math and many fields like computer science, physics, etc. One of my friends from undergrad who is now in grad school for CS majored in both CS and math in undergrad and actually focused on some very abstract math. Theoretical computer science can get very abstract.
  11. May 1, 2015 #10
    Hmm fair enough, I suppose you could argue that applied math plays a large role in the subject.
  12. May 1, 2015 #11


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    People are actually using tensor Netwo theory to study neural networks in the brain). This looks similar to using tensor network states to study entanglement in quantum systems. There was a talk I heard about that was about something related to this but unfortunately I didn't get to go. Basically, tensor network states relates entanglement to geometry and it seems like that might also be applicable in neuroscience.
  13. May 2, 2015 #12
    Weird, I haven't decided quite yet what I'm going to work on in comp bio so I'd be interested to have a look at a paper on the subject if you know of a good one. This might also give the OP a sense of what s/he might be interested in.
  14. May 2, 2015 #13
    Hello! I am undergraduate (sophomore) who is currently conducting the computational biology research on gene regulation. Our lab use machine learning theory to map out the gene regulation of biological system and try to discover undiscovered signaling pathways and candidate molecules. Computational biology is very fascinating field since the systems biology (current trend in modern biology) is based on using the computational biological tools to analyze the huge amount of biological data and find the patterns & predictions.

    Computational biology demands a high maturity in mathematics & statistics and computer science (especially code writing and artificial intelligence).
  15. May 2, 2015 #14
    I also want to add that abstract mathematics is very useful in computational biology due to a lot of important CS fields like machine learning and automata theory are heavily based on abstract math. Those CS fields are frequently used in computational biology.
  16. May 2, 2015 #15
    Well I work more on the single molecule biophysics end of the spectrum and all of the machine learning papers I've come across have been aggressively lackluster.

    I do know that it is widely used though, what are some specific cases?
    EDIT: Moreover the comp bio grad program wants me to take a machine learning course so I've been trying to gauge how useful it is.
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