Graduate school advice, please

OK, I’m about to go into my senior year of college here, and I have decided that I am going to apply to graduate school, as a fallback if I get no job (a big possibility.) I’m majoring in biomedical engineering (with a concentration in mechanics) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and would like to pretty much continue with that path, or something similar. So projeted majors would be biomed engineering, biophysics, biochem, biotechnology, etc… I was briefly considering med school, but then I would have to take the MCATS, plus I looked around and most med schools wasnt a year of organic chemisrty and regular chemistry, I only have the regular, so that’s out as an option.

So I need advice on where to apply, basically. I don’t really care where (aside from staying in North America.) So far I have a few schools I think/know I will apply to:
RPI (Hell, the fee is waived for RPI undergrads, so why the hell not?)
University of Vermont (I know the are very well (grew up there), and it is very cheap, especially for VT residents)
Boston University (I like the city of Boston, and have a few frineds/family in the area, and it looks like a good program.)

Graduate school is a big commitment, and I’d advise never using it simply as a backup in case you don’t get a job…you really need to know what you want to do first. Getting some work in the field you want to study can be a big help. That being said, sometimes you just have to make the plunge and figure the rest out later. There are a lot of good guides to help you pick schools with good graduate programs. I’d advise you to apply to a wide range of schools that have programs you’re interested in…look for course requirements, how many research rotations you’re allowed, time to get your degree. The interview process will really help you make your decision. Good luck!

Buddy of mine is at Michigan State doing a Master’s in industrial microbiology. The program includes a research project that is overseen by both a professor and a biotechnology company. Sounds like it would be a good “in” into the industrial sector. Last time I talked to him he seemed to be enjoying it. Could get more specifics from him if you like.

Here’s the link:

In my experience, the number one priority is to find a supervisor that you get along with. Good luck!


I just graduated with a Bachelor’s in BME from the UW-Madison. I was checking out gradschools with good BME programs, so I’ll give you a list, in no particular order, of some schools that ranked in the top 25. My concentration was in biomaterials, and I got a second major in biochem, but I have an increasing interest in biomechanics. By the way, you’re going to need organic chemistry if you’re serious about going to grad school in biochem. Anyway, here are schools that I remember (mostly because I was interested in them):

-Johns Hopkins (usually ranked #1)
-University of Washington
-University of Michigan
-Georgia Tech
-University of North Carolina
-University of California-Berkeley
-University of California-San Diego
-Boston University of Boston College (don’t remember which one)

In last year’s US News & World Report rankings, the UW-Madison was tied with the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for #25. I can tell you from personal experience that Madison is much more focused on electronics and instrumentation, and the UMN has some good tissue engineering stuff.

It’s generally looked down upon to go to grad school (especially for a PhD) at the same school you got your undergrad from. But YMMV.

I will probably return to this thread when I go home and find my list of rankings for BME programs from 2001 and 2002.

These days, if you want better pay in life sciences than that had by a janitor, you will either need a graduate degree or a bachelor’s degree and many years’ experience. Go for graduate school.

I completely disagree with the remark that you should only do grad school if you want a big commitment. A masters degree can be had in just one year (hell, you have to, at RPI), will most likely be free (with a decent stipend, to boot), and will, at the very least, be kind of interesting. If you don’t like it, you can quit after your masters, but that extra degree, and an extra year to let the economy figure out what the hell it’s doing can only help in the long run, even if you DON’T end up going into a field that directly uses the degree. Remember the key here: It’ll probably be free.

Why’ll it be free?

I’m going to be starting my first year of undergrad soon and I’m just curious.

Many graduate students (myself included) obtain assistantships that cover tuition payments (though not fees, at least here) and provide a monthly stipend in exchange for X hours of work (in my case, it’s 10, and I still have to take some loans because $500 a month doesn’t fully cover living expenses). At my university, health insurance is also supposed to be provided as part of the assistantship, beginning this year.

Pretty much all undergrads I know who applied and got into RPI’s grad school had their first year free (all tuition covered and a stipend) in exchange for X hours of researchand TAing. I think it stems from the fact that professors know the students personally, and are more willing to let the school give them money for the aid of the student in their research. One guy I know went so far as to guarentee me that my first year will be mostly free.