The amount of response from y’all has been helpful, if not stressful. Regardless, it’s highly appreciated, and you’re all encouraged to keep posting rumors, fun facts, or reasons why I should drop chemistry all together and move to Fiji to become a massage therapist, or SCUBA instructor. Really, any information you can give me would be awesome.
Under normal circumstances, I’d wait a bit for responses to roll in, and take a bit more time to craft such a lengthy post, but considering that due dates for applications are fast approaching, I’d rather get as many questions/comments out there as soon as possible.
With regards to not selecting some of the obvious choices – Scripps, Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, Stanford. The latter three didn’t really have enough professors I was interested in.. pretty much the “two professors I’d like to work with, and then nothing else…” symptoms I had described in the previous post. MIT has Movassaghi and Danheiser, Berkeley has Sarpong and Vollhardt, and Stanford has Wender, Du Bois and Trost (but Trost’s on the older side of things…). Beyond the two obvious choices (for me, anyway) at each university, there’s not much else I’m super into.
Come to think of it, on second thought, although there’s only 2 I’d really like to work with, Wender also strikes me as synthesis oriented, but with an eye towards drug development as well… Stanford may be back on the list, lest my PI and other recommenders crucify me for switching anything up so late in the game.
Scripps and Harvard.. well.. I didn’t think I could get in. I have plenty of research experience, but my grades are (were) only so-so. Worst part of it, it’s really freshman grades and a little bit of soph grades that are lame. (most of which are not chemistry grades) However, at by the start of junior year, and taking on more advanced chem classes, things clicked, began firing on all cylinders, and since, I’ve generally been kicking ass, and taking names. However, at the end of the day, my overall GPA is still lower than I’d like, and (with no ‘supporting info’) I suspected that given the caliber of either institution, they’ll be looking for reasons to not accept people, and that would be mine…
(and for anywhere else, it’s a matter of addressing it on the personal statement or not, which is a tricky proposition in itself)
However, some news has come to me recently, that, while amazing, may be too little too late. Work I was involved with is getting published. I’m going to be on it. Despite the less than entusiastic and stressed nature of this post, there will be a celebratory post with all kinds of glee and exclamation points soon to come. In fact, I’m going to be on two publications. And a patent. Pretty sweet, right? Totally solidifies my application, and (ideally) shows an admissions committee that I’ve turned things around, and am down to work?
I learned that I was going to be on the publications over Thanksgiving break, some undisclosed time after they had been drafted. While I could not be happier with the fact that my name’s going on stuff, I can’t help but feel peeved that I wasn’t informed of their existence sooner… which would greatly have influenced my decision whether or not I’d be applying to places like Scripps. I can still apply to places like Scripps, but for Scripps itself, the deadline is Dec. 1st. In two days. Yeah… As for any other places that I’m scrambling to consider/re-consider, I have to take into account any lead time required for recommendation writers – all other deadlines I’m looking at are in January – so by adding any schools with hard deadlines of Dec 15th, I’ll need to clear it with other prof’s, and fast!
Then, there’s the “issue” of my PI. I came to him with my epic rough draft of the Master list, and he said “narrow it down to about 6 schools. 2 reach, 2 mid-range, and 2 safety.” So naturally, I whittled it down to 8 schools in total, that I thought packed most organic possibility per application. (Before learning of publications) Now, I would feel a bit more comfortable also applying to places with only two professors I’m interested, just to see what happens, especially the ones that claim “we try to not focus on one part of your application, but we do especially consider research experience.” However, I’m not the most comfortable asking my prof. for even more recs, because let’s face it, I’m a bit intimidated by him. I have the recurring fear that if my list were to expand to, say, 10, he’d go all “I thought I told you 6?” For all I know, the difference between 6, 8, and 800 is just a few more copy-paste sequences for him, but considering his recommendation will easily be the most important, I’d like to keep him as happy as possible while writing them.
Yikes. That’s a lot of writing. Anyway, comments and concerns toward this, or anything else are appreciated.
In response to some previous comments:
Everybody: Don’t do total synthesis! It’s a trap!
Fair enough. It aint what it used to be. However, are these cries of warning also intended toward the combination of drug design/medicinal chemistry/molecular pharmacology type work in tandem with heavy duty synthesis and methods, or is that combo wide enough to better support different options in the future? (most likely, continue in academia, or go to pharma.) If that’s still not enough, then what? Is there a last bastion for those of us that want to “make stuff,” or will we forever run into the dilemma of choosing a field we like, but with less job security, or choosing a field we’d rather not do, but take content in being able to find a job later on?
Also, from everybody:
Pick a good PI who you can get along with
Duly noted! Long before I questioned the internet for opinions on grad school, I knew this was going to be a major influence. Hell, even now, with regard to getting recommendations, I’m seeing where it plays a key role. However, I should say that I’m kind of an odd ‘un, in that I still like the idea of spending more time in lab. So what some might consider a lot, I just consider “intense.” And I’m fine with intense, just so long as it does not become “insane.” Presumably with a reasonable professor, that distinction will remain clear…
Via a response to Chemjobber’s Post:
Regarding your personal statement, don’t mention specific profs since the assistant profs are often on admissions committees.
Huh… I’d always heard it doesn’t hurt to name-drop specific faculty if you can readily tie in their work to your overall plans for grad school. Supposedly, it shows why you’d be a good fit there, vs anywhere else. 3rd party opinions?
Paraphrasing: So-Cal ain’t that great, as rent and car insurance are expensive
The rent’s no better in Boston. As for the car situation, I’m very OK with biking everywhere, and Zipcar-ing when necessary (biking is my designated non-chemistry hobby. Also, please note the relative abundance of velodromes in southern California…) But I suppose I’d find out if that system really worked if/when I got there.
Paraphrasing: What about Penn, Princeton, or Columbia?
Looked into all 3. Columbia I’m only really interested in Snyder and Danishefsky (and Danishefsky’s gettin’ old), and at Penn I’m only really interested in Joullie. Actually, in light of recent events, I’d consider adding Princeton to the list for MacMillan, Sorensen, and Doyle. MacMillan and Sorensen for synthesis. No intent to work for Doyle, but just because she’s adorable. Abigail Doyle: Totally Cute.
If I were to add any new applications to the list, they would probably be 2 out of the following 3: Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton.
Have I forgotten anything?