1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What to do with my BS Biophysics degree?

  1. Feb 28, 2012 #1
    Hello forum

    I recently graduated this summer from UCLA with a BS in biophysics. For the last 3 years, I was completely certain I wanted to go to grad school to either study physics or biophysics. As soon as I graduated, I took the PGRE and scored in the 49 percentile... That was a few months ago. Two weeks ago I decided that I would start studying again so that I could retake the test in April. But I have come to the realization that even if I study everyday for the next two months, it's highly unlikely that I will significantly improve my score on the PGRE. Especially since I have consistently scored in between the 40-55% on all the practice tests I've taken. Then, given my low test score and my 3.3 cumulative gpa, I am wondering just how hard physics grad school would be for me. I understand that getting in to any school of my choice in itself would be a huge hurdle but even if I did get in, I don't know if I would even survive by the looks of my grades/scores. So now I've sort of given up on even retaking the PGRE and am really wondering what other options I have. I know I definitely want to further my education because the prospects of a physics BS are not that great and I eventually want to have a higher paying job than say a research assistant. One field which recently (literally today) started looking into is Biomedical Engineering. The nice thing about it is that only the general GRE is required so I wouldn't have to submit my crappy PGRE scores. I've also read into many of the graduate program descriptions and the various disciplines all look interesting to me.

    Does anyone in a similar situation have other suggestions or considerations?
    Also, does anyone know much about the biomedical engineering field? (Grad and post-grad)
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 28, 2012 #2
    biomedical engineering sounds cool and exciting.

    therefore it pays low.

    ok ill be honest with you. i'm looking at the field too and one of my friends recently graduated with a BS in BME from a top 50 school; the news is NOT GOOD. the biomedical companies are hiring CS, EEs and MEs over straight biomedical engineers by far. the problem with BME is that you learn a little bit of everything and know nothing. You learn a bit of biochemistry, genetics, physiology, mechanics, physics, signal processing and programming, and basic math needed for science, but nothing really deep.

    Even at the graduate level, at my school the courses required for graduate BMEs is a scattering of unrelated classes in quantitative physiology, biochemistry, 2 advanced math classes and a field trip to the ER.

    you can try a very specific subset of BME like biomedical imaging. that would use all your physics, chemistry and bio knowledge, I guess that might be useful.
  4. Feb 28, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the reply chill_factor. Would you say that what you've stated is generally true for the biomedical engineering field regardless of whether you get a Masters or Phd? Would you say in your opinion that the low salaries are not really worth the time and effort you would have to put in? And when you say its that it pays low, how low are we talking?

    Also, another alternative I've been looking into is electrical engineering. I noticed that the California schools that I would like to go to only require a general GRE so it seems much easier to get into one of these programs than a physics program. Does anyone have the experience to compare and contrast graduate school in EE versus grad school in physics? And how is the job market for someone with an EE degree?

    To be honest I'm really just looking for some security in my future above most else. Of course, I would like to do something related to physics but these alternatives are looking pretty attractive right now so I just want to get an idea of how well I could do with one of these degrees.
  5. Feb 29, 2012 #4
    I'm just now getting into the biophysics field (will be starting an MD/PhD next fall), so I'm not sure what to tell you as far as the pGRE stuff goes. I did a ton of tests (MCAT, general GRE, math GRE, and physics GRE) mainly because I have a masters degree in music performance from 5+ years ago and little formal coursework in science, so I needed strong test scores to show I meant business and had a strong foundation in those fields since all I have to show for how I learned science is "self study", auditing, and OCW, haha.

    What area of biophysics are you actually trying to get into? Would you do any better on the bio or chem GRE? or the MCAT? If you're really worried about your pGRE scores, maybe taking a different test that highlights your strengths is what you should do.

    Most of the biophysics programs I have been looking at ask for one of any of the above, because they know they're getting people from many backgrounds depending on what they're looking to research. Like if you're trying to get into protein folding, I don't see how many programs could judge you that harshly if the reason you don't do well on the pGRE is because you don't have a wonderful understanding of relativity, optics, physics lab techniques, or E&M ... when will that matter compared to your programming skills, knowledge of biochemistry, physical chemistry, and statistical mechanics?

    So yeah, I guess I'm saying that if you still want to do biophysics grad school, try to highlight your strengths, and downplay the stuff you're bad at (like don't submit pGRE scores). If you're a beast at P chem, get really strong recommendations from old P chem profs, review your orgo and take the chem GRE (since that would probably go better), see if you can do something with an old prof to beef up your CV. If you're just all around good at science but not super strong in a single area, take the MCAT since with a biophysics BS you should have had all the courses covered on that exam.

    Good luck with all of this, especially if you end up going a different route than what you did during undergrad. For what it's worth (since chill_factor mentioned CS, EE, and ME): 4/4 of my friends with EE degrees have decent jobs in a variety of fields.
  6. Mar 28, 2012 #5
    I'm interested in biophysics as well and did some searching for programs a few weeks ago. I remember finding quite a few biophysics programs that didn't actually require any GRE subject tests. Some of these programs were housed in the biochemistry department or "biochemistry and biophysics". I would do some looking around if I were you. You're bound to find something that fits well for you. Take a look at Ohio state's program. I believe they were pretty easy going as far as prerequisites etc...
  7. Sep 11, 2013 #6
    Old Student

    If I were you, I would check out the websites below (see bottom of this post) and realize that science is and always has been about discovery and adventurousness. You undoubtedly have a great education and what you lack is experience and a bit of maturity to let that education percolate in your system. Micheal Faraday was mostly self-taught and it was his desire to discover how things really worked that made him one of the greatest experimentalists of all time. Today, there is far too much emphasis on jobs and money (granting that we all have to make a living) and not enough on what we really want to do. Test scores tend to be more about what leaders in a field expect you to know at a particular moment in time and not about what you could potentially discover if given or if you give yourself the chance. If I were you, I would consider learning all you can...on your own and with the help with trusted mentors rather than getting an MBA...the venture capital business. And MBA could be helpful from Harvard or Yale, but if you apply your math skills to learing the following subject areas, you will be just as well off without getting yourself 100K in debt: accounting, finance, business law, FDA approval processes, SEC reporting rules, corporate organization forms, cash flow forecasting, mergers and acquistions, current events in the economy and some economic theory, grant writing, derivative securities and stock option valuation. I know...none of this has to do with Biophysics per se, but read the following article and you will get my point.


    There is also an article by Lawrence Fritz himself in an issue of Forbes Magazine, but I could not get the page to come up on the internet at the present time for some reason. Part of the link is www.forbes.com/.../fritz-pfizer-biogen-leadership-clayton-christensen-in [Broken].....
    Or just google "Larry Fritz contributor to Forbes" and the first result is the one I think you should read.
    Good Luck. To me you have the exact right degree to be productive. You just need to start your learn something about business to round out your package. Good luck with your adventure.

    http://wuphys.wustl.edu/~katz/scientist.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  8. Sep 11, 2013 #7
    One other idea with respect to learning the business stuff is to read all books by Bruce Wasserstein.
  9. Nov 19, 2013 #8
    Hey so what did you end up doing? I'm going back to ucla next fall to finish my degree and thinking of switching from Astrophysics to Biophysics. Were you able to find a job or did you end up going to a grad school? Any insight into the expected path would be appreciated
  10. Sep 11, 2014 #9
    also very curious^^ bump for curiosity yay! i mean what are the prospects of getting into some sort of biochem related research?
  11. Sep 13, 2014 #10
    A 49 on the PGRE is par for the course for the typical American student if I'm not mistaken, and with it you can get into some decent programs; biophysics in general seems to be less picky about the stats of the students, presumably because even theoretical labs are often empires consisting of as many as 50 people (!!) and they need warm bodies generating data or taking measurements.

    The point is that you should aim for graduate programs in the 30-50 range on the rankings, and it's possible for you to get into at least one of them and do physics. The effect the name of the school will have on your future is probably negligeable assuming you can get a decent advisor; the real problem is that you are the sort of person who gets a 3.3 and 49th percentile on the PGRE, which is fixable. I actually know people with similar stats to you who've survived qualifying exams and other barriers, in fact people with even worse stats. So there's definitely a hope that you can get a PhD.

    That said there's nothing wrong with doing your PhD in engineering and as others have pointed out, it could be logistically simpler.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook