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What do T32 Directors Want? Kathryn Chaloner Professor and Head Department of Biostatistics, University of Iowa

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Presentation on theme: "What do T32 Directors Want? Kathryn Chaloner Professor and Head Department of Biostatistics, University of Iowa"— Presentation transcript:

1 What do T32 Directors Want? Kathryn Chaloner Professor and Head Department of Biostatistics, University of Iowa NIH NIGMS T32: Statistics for Microbiology, Infectious Diseases and Bioinformatics June 10-12th, 2009; MORE Directors Meeting, Colorado Springs

2 Abstract The primary requirement for support on a T32 predoctoral grant is admission to a relevant PhD program. This is usually a decision made by an admissions committee made up of faculty members. Requirements for admission to the University of Iowa Biostatistics PhD program are described and are very similar to most programs. Specific requirements may be waived in individual cases. The most important considerations are letters of recommendation from faculty, the difficulty of courses and the grade point average, and the personal statement. A summer research experience adds great strength to an application, but is not typically expected as there are relatively few such opportunities in biostatistics. Requirements for admission to the University of Iowa biosciences programs are also described and are similarly flexible. Applicants can apply to a specific PhD program, or to an “umbrella" biosciences program where they apply to a specific program at the end of the first year. In contrast to the Biostatistics PhD application, research experience in a laboratory as an undergraduate is expected, and the applicant is expected to be able to discuss their experience in an interview.

3 NSF National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences Alliance of math faculty at minority schools and mathematical science departments at some majority PhD granting schools working together to: ensure that any underrepresented student who wishes to pursue a doctoral degree in the math sciences is given the tools, nurturing and encouragement needed to ensure that he or she will be prepared for a PhD program in an Alliance graduate department. Facilitate enrollment in summer REU programs, provide small grants to students, discuss undergrad curricula issues, Field of Dreams Conference. Undergraduate conference September 25-27th 2009, funding for travel, lodging and registration for underrepresented minority and disadvantaged undergraduates. NSF, NSA, ASA, AMS, IBS, UI, ISU, UNI, ITF, ACT, SAS

4 University of Iowa Twenty nine T32 awards at UI. Include MD/PhD, some postdoc only. T32 in Statistics for Microbiology, Infectious Diseases and Bioinformatics: requires admission to UI PhD program (in biostatistics, statistics, microbiology, biology, or biological sciences). Biostats students learn microbiology and do lab rotations. Microbiology/biosciences students learn statistics. All students work together in a seminar. Other T32s require admission to relevant PhD program.

5 Admissions to Biostatistics PhD (Similar to Statistics) Three semesters of calculus, one of linear algebra (math major is desirable but not required, math skills required, proofs) Programming in a language (C++ or other, but can make up) GRE (general, not subject) minimum of 1200, average for admission is ~1325 (Q ~775, V ~550; MS admit average lower) Emphasis on letters from faculty, personal statement, difficulty of course work, GPA (grades in math and science) Preferred major is biology or math: ideal is double major in math & biology (some kind of biology) Communication skills Commitment to work hard

6 UI Biostatistics/Statistics PhD In Biostatistics 70-80 applicants, 50-60% from US, 1-3 enroll straight to PhD, 6-10 enroll in MS (may go on to PhD), all have aid, 50% of offers accepted 2-6 PhDs in Biostatistics and 2-6 PhDs in Statistics awarded each year A lot of overlap and coordination between programs 2-3 years course work (includes MS), 1.5 to 3 years thesis work Average time to completion of degree 5.3 years Comps (same exam for all), choose PhD adviser after comps Financial aid as fellowship/teaching assistant/research assistant: tuition plus stipend Lots of time in the computer lab Job opportunities in academia/industry/government (national shortage of biostatisticians, MS and PhD)

7 Microbiology/Biosciences/Biology PhD Desired coursework (grades in science courses are important). – Biology coursework ( ~20 s.h.) – 1 year physics, organic chemistry – 1-2 semesters calculus, biochemistry, genetics – GRE > 1200, (V ~550, Q ~680), GPA 3.4 Also desired – Summer research experience at research university (be prepared to discuss at interview, more than one experience is best) – Communication skills – Independent problem solving – Interest and drive – Biosciences: 250 applicants, 50 accepted, 25% to 35% enroll At UI – EITHER enter a specific program (biology, microbiology, immunology, molecular physiology and biophysics, etc.) – OR enter an umbrella biosciences program for one year, at the end of which be admitted to a specific program.

8 Biosciences at UI One year of core coursework and laboratory rotations. After first year, choose/match with an adviser and lab Additional course work, comprehensive exam (focused), lots of time in the lab Financial aid. 5 year typical time to degree in biosciences (T32 leads to faster graduation) 6.3 years in Biology (TA support) Lots of time in the laboratory

9 What Should Student Applicants Look For? Look for a good fit Visit Ask questions: – What proportion of students pass comps? – What proportion of students admitted complete a PhD? – What is the median or average time to degree? If there are no answers, then that is information. Look for programs with RA support (NIH grants) as well as TA support Don't take the best financial offer - take the best fit A good fit is where you feel comfortable and students are mentored Do students provide peer support? Or do they compete? Going from a small institution to large institution can be difficult, similarly minority to majority Look for the program to commit to your success

10 What Can Student Applicants do to Prepare? Be prepared with coursework Take GREs (required for fellowships, T32 progress reports). Address weaknesses in record. Seek summer enrichment: – Enroll in summer REU ( – Enroll in Summer Institute for Biostatistics ( Biosciences at Iowa

11 The End

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