MDwannabe09

5+ Year Member
Nov 2, 2009
66
0
Status
Pre-Medical
I'm about to register for my next quarter's classes and most are already full, (horrible registration time). After looking at what classes are still open and interesting to me, I've found a graduate school class on immunology. I have the required pre-requisites for it and the class sounds exactly like what I'm interested in. I'm pretty sure I can get into the class, (with instructor permission), but I'm wondering if I would be in over my head.

How demanding are graduate school science classes, (research seminars in particular), compared to upper level undergraduate science classes? I've done well in my undergrad. classes and have a solid understanding of immunology; however, I've never been in a research seminar class. If I don't end up taking the class, I'll audit it anyways.

Should I go ahead and try it out, or just stick to undergraduate classes?
 

OCDOCDOCD

5+ Year Member
May 26, 2012
1,607
120
Status
Non-Student
I took a graduate neuro class in my last semester in college. I felt that my undergrad classes had prepared me pretty well for the course. The material wasn't really any more difficult than my undergrad neuro classes, but it was a LOT more in-depth. In my case the course was on the cerebral cortex, and every class was 3 hours of the professor endlessly listing off anatomical connections, cellular morphologies, layer sizes and cellular constituency, and function of each area. Then he would do it all again for different species. So first you'd hear about chimpanzee cortex, then human cortex, and then rat cortex (usually followed by some rant about how different rats are...he had a chip on his shoulder when it came to rats).

The class threw about 300 pages of reading at us per week (all of it primary literature, no textbook), which according to the grad students in the class was pretty normal for a grad class. However, you could easily get away with not doing the reading; even the professor said it was mostly just there for "your own personal benefit". The class had on test which thankfully was a take home exam, although it ended up being far harder than I ever thought a take home exam could be (it was actually harder than a lot of in-class exams I've had). The rest of the course's grade came from an in-class presentation each person had to do and a 15-20 page term paper (also pretty standard according to the grad students who were juggling 4 such papers at the end of the semester).

The reason I just described all of that is that I think my experience was pretty normal. So if that sounds like something you're willing to put up with and you've done very well in undergrad, I'd say go for it.

If the class is a seminar though then it'll probably involve a lot more papers and no tests. You'll also probably be expected to lead a discussion in a group following the speaker's presentation of their research. Seminars are usually classes intended to get you comfortable with critiquing and understanding other scientists' research.
 

kami333

10+ Year Member
Aug 15, 2007
1,454
27
Status
Medical Student
If the class is a seminar though then it'll probably involve a lot more papers and no tests. You'll also probably be expected to lead a discussion in a group following the speaker's presentation of their research. Seminars are usually classes intended to get you comfortable with critiquing and understanding other scientists' research.
^ I think this is the biggest difference between grad seminar classes and undergrad classes, you aren't expected to just memorize the material but to critique it and come up with future directions.

How is the class graded? If it's in the form of a final project such as a mock review article or research proposal, I've found that I was at a disadvantage for not having as much experience as the grad students in writing them. I took a couple grad school classes during my postbacc after I had already been working in research for several years so I was fairly comfortable with reading primary lit etc but there was still some adjustment. I've also seen many essay test questions that are framed as "what's the next step" which can be difficult if you don't have a research background.

Not sure if some of the younger grad students felt the same way but I felt like I had to spend a significant amount of time doing research/studying on just the background before I understood the significance of the lecture.
 
OP
M

MDwannabe09

5+ Year Member
Nov 2, 2009
66
0
Status
Pre-Medical
^ I think this is the biggest difference between grad seminar classes and undergrad classes, you aren't expected to just memorize the material but to critique it and come up with future directions.

How is the class graded? If it's in the form of a final project such as a mock review article or research proposal, I've found that I was at a disadvantage for not having as much experience as the grad students in writing them. I took a couple grad school classes during my postbacc after I had already been working in research for several years so I was fairly comfortable with reading primary lit etc but there was still some adjustment. I've also seen many essay test questions that are framed as "what's the next step" which can be difficult if you don't have a research background.

Not sure if some of the younger grad students felt the same way but I felt like I had to spend a significant amount of time doing research/studying on just the background before I understood the significance of the lecture.
Looking at the course description, the class is based off of presenting the major findings of a research paper selected by the professor after a brief overview of the general topic is given. I feel like I can read primary literature and understand the main points and findings, but I don't know if I'm at graduate level. I'm very interested in the course topic, (mucosal immunology), and I've been able to follow along with some research papers I've found in the subject online, so I'm willing to put in any extra time needed to fully comprehend a more in-depth paper.

I have a Ph.D. student friend who may have taken the course and I can ask him what the research seminar really entails. I don't want to talk with the professor until I'm relatively sure I want to pursue enrolling in this class.

Any more thoughts?
 

cerno

Crave Case
5+ Year Member
Oct 30, 2011
249
33
Status
Medical Student
I agree with the earlier posts. Do you have any background in immunology already? Those that I have spoken with have found that graduate level immunology classes can take an already difficult and loaded subject to a completely new level.
 
OP
M

MDwannabe09

5+ Year Member
Nov 2, 2009
66
0
Status
Pre-Medical
I agree with the earlier posts. Do you have any background in immunology already? Those that I have spoken with have found that graduate level immunology classes can take an already difficult and loaded subject to a completely new level.
Yes, I've taken an upper level immunology course and am currently doing research involving immunology. The pre-req for the course is a basic immunology class. I think it's safe to say that the course definitely goes into greater depth since it focuses on just mucosal immunology.