Best way to get into HIV research?


New Member
Jun 28, 2010
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
    Hey guys, I'm an undergraduate student hoping to become a HIV/AIDS researcher in the future. I'm asking you what would be the best way to go about doing this?
    I'm currently a junior in a large research university majoring in biology. I have been thinking of applying to a Ph.D. program in a graduate school (non-medical school, that is), but I'm not sure if I should apply to Microbiology, Virology, or Infectious Diseases program.
    Too bad that most professors doing HIV research are in medical schools, and I have a feeling that getting into med school Ph.D. program is much harder than admission to a regular Ph.D. program.

    Any ideas or tips would be much appreciated. :)

    Oh yeah, I'm a B+ student with little research (nothing to do with viruses or molecular stuff...) under my belt. I'm doing more research this coming fall.


    Total nerd
    Staff member
    Volunteer Staff
    Verified Expert
    15+ Year Member
    Mar 14, 2002
    the beach
    1. Attending Physician
      You need to get involved in research ASAP. Undergraduate research experience is a big part of what graduate programs are looking for in an applicant. Don't you have any labs at your undergrad in your area of interest? If not, just try to get into any bench research lab. The more you can do of this before you apply, the better.

      I'm really not sure what the GPA and GRE cutoffs are for these types of programs at stronger graduate schools. I do think that picking an exact program name as in, Micro vs. Viro vs. ID is not important. What is important is going to the strongest program you can get into that will give you a number of labs in your area of interest and has a range of investigators in the department for lectures and collaborations. Most of these stronger programs probably will be medical school based or affiliated with a medical school, though a medical school based PhD program is not necessarily a strong one.

      You'll have to do your own research to find out which programs are strong, though hopefully you can find an advisor at your undergrad in your area to help you with this. These kinds of discussions can get very field specific. This is another reason why you should be doing research as soon and as often as possible, for this kind of personal advice and connections.


      Penn Vet V'14
      10+ Year Member
      7+ Year Member
      Nov 9, 2008
      Philadelphia, PA
      1. Veterinary Student
        You absolutely need to get involved with research ASAP, graduate schools want to make sure that you know what you're getting into when you start a 5-6 year program like a PhD.

        If you are interested in HIV work, and you're sure about this, what you need to do is start googling the different schools that you are interested in applying to. Check out their various grad school depts. People are working with HIV in micro depts, virology depts, biochemistry depts, etc, so look through the websites.

        Most dept websites will have faculty listings and little paragraphs about the research they are doing. If you find one that you're like "YES! This is what I want to do!" Then file that info away. Make a list for yourself of the labs you would IDEALLY like to go into. As you start applying to these graduate programs it's a good idea to contact the PI (Principle Investigator) and tell them that you are applying and ask if they are taking on new students.

        This is very important because sometimes labs are not accepting new students and then you'll get to the school only to find that lab is not available to you.

        Hope that helps. Good luck

        Oh, and I don't think PhD programs associated with med schools are any harder/more difficult to get into . Different programs at different schools have different strengths and weaknesses.
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