computational biology: changing research fields between undergrad/grad

Feb 24, 2012
13
0
Status
Pre-Medical
Long story short, I am double majoring in molecular cell bio and applied math. Prior to this semester I had never thought of pursuing MD/PhD programs, because I thought these programs were limited to wet-lab sciences. I worked for 4 semesters+2 years in a cell biology wet-lab. While I liked many aspects of the wet-lab, I don't think I love it enough to have it be the basis of my career. I really enjoy the logic and very techy aspects of my applied math major, enough to consider just going for a PhD in a bio+mathy field, such as comp bio, biostats, math bio, you get the gist. Only recently did I realize that for some schools, these fields are also available, and for me that definitely throws the option back into the mix. I think I'd love to do something computational to study biomedical questions.

I left my wet-lab early this semester, and haven't found comp bio research opportunities, as they are less common. I have something in this field lined up for this summer that I'm excited about. I'd like to apply this cycle to Md/PhDs (aka would very much prefer not to take a gap year). So my question is, would my lack of experience in comp bio be an automatic red flag if that is what I am mainly looking at now? I'd be relying on what I enjoy from coursework and talking to people in the field to justify my interests. To defend my lack of comp bio experiences a little, undergrad research experiences for mathy fields (my background) just aren't the same and not as accessible, at least at my school.

For those of you on this track, what were your experiences prior to applying? And what are some schools I should look into?
 

tortuga87

7+ Year Member
Aug 11, 2010
185
44
Status
MD/PhD Student
It is not a red-flag. Make sure you have good letter from the wet-lab and have a good reason why you want to do math-bio type work at the interview. The applied math degree will give you a heads up. Adcoms are generally aware that undergrads may not get a chance to work in a lab they like and are still searching for themselves.

I applied with work in cognitive neuroscience and wanted to switch to computational neuroscience when I interviewed. Did not even have a math degree, and it worked out fine
 

Asklepian

10+ Year Member
May 25, 2009
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Resident [Any Field]
removed
 
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Gnomes

10+ Year Member
Dec 29, 2008
139
1
Long Island
Status
MD/PhD Student
Our lab at NIH does computational biology. My PI just hired a postdoc who is a statistician and interviewed two other candidates, an applied mathematician and another statistician. The last postdoc he hired was a computer scientist who worked on data mining. I'm was closest thing, coming in, to an actual computational biologist, since I majored in CS and had the pre-med biology coursework (and a bit more, but not amounting to a dual degree), but that's about it.

Basically, almost nobody has done their undergrad in computational biology yet. Most of your competition is also coming from different fields. You'll probably be fine getting into comp bio. Very trendy at the moment - good luck.
 
OP
X
Feb 24, 2012
13
0
Status
Pre-Medical
ahh thanks guys! I'm quite a bit relieved :) and good to see that there are people on sdn interested in computational work

any tips for locating appropriate programs, since comp bio doesn't usually fit nicely into certain traditional departments? I've been researching, and the list of schools that offer this option seems very top-heavy.
 

Lil Mick

5+ Year Member
Apr 23, 2009
927
33
The South
Status
MD/PhD Student
Send me a PM. This is related to my areas of research, and I can probably help you find programs...