Category Archives: Grad School

Place for things relating to grad school in general.

Getting A Letter of Recommendation

Getting a letter of recommendation from a professor, lab advisor, or coach for your medical school applications may seem like a daunting task. Students drag their feet with asking for a letter, some afraid they’ll offend the person or cause them more work by asking. You shouldn’t worry, most writers will be more than happy to write you a letter if they know you well.

Having had to ask for letters of recommendation for almost every graduate school application possible at this point(MS, PhD, and MD) I think I have a few tips to share. šŸ˜‰ Here are a few things to keep in mind when you go to ask for your next application. This shouldn’t be a painful process for either party.

1. Give your letter writer enough time. Most professors and other professionals that will be writing your letters of recommendations are busy people with many demands on their time. They will often take longer to write that letter for you then they say(though this is not always the case). Be sure to give them at least a month to get the letter to you by your deadline. For some professors that you know are habitually late with things, give them more time. You may be surprised at the turn around time. I think I waited about three weeks for the last letter of mine to come in during one application cycle.

2. Follow up with an email after two weeks. If you still haven’t heard anything after two weeks send an email or stop by and see the professor to give them a gentle nudge as a reminder that you’re still waiting on that letter. This was the key for me in reminding my one letter writer. They got me the letter I needed a couple of days later, along with an apology that it had slipped their mind and a thank you for reminding them. Again just remember that your letter writers are most likely busy people and your letter is probably not at the top of their priority list.

3. Make sure you are prepared to ask them in the first place. When you ask for a letter of recommendation be sure that your end of the bargain has been met as well. You should have a packet ready for each of your letter writers. This packet is designed to end the back and forth requests for information. Each packet should include:


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Nose to the Grindstone

Studying Student

It’s that time of year, the time when students crawl away into holes in the library and study for their finals. I’ve been feeling very lax(read: not quite as motivated as I should be) about my classes since getting the email notification from Ross University. That little bubble of serenityĀ burst today when I got the official letter in the mail from the school. It read something like this:Ā  Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Grad School


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First Grad School Exam

Took my first grad school exam today in Antimicrobial Drugs. It wasn’t too bad! I studied the specifics of each drug and the various biochemical mechanisms a lot, so I think I got all those questions right. I forgot a couple of the more general, basic microbiology type questions though. šŸ˜¦ Oh well. Live and learn! Take care, everyone! Happy Valentine’s Day! šŸ˜€


Posted by on February 14, 2011 in Grad School


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Got A Lab Rotation

I found an associate professor who works at a small biotech company that agreed to take me on for a lab rotation this quarter. Unfortunately, I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement before we could talk in detail about the project, so I can’t legally tell you about it. šŸ˜¦ What I can say is that it involves finding novelĀ bio-markersĀ for cancer treatment drugs. Fun fun!


Posted by on January 11, 2011 in Grad School, Research


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Grad School Orientation

A quick recap of the day-long orientation at grad school. All in all, it went pretty well save for a few hiccups. When I arrived on campus I couldn’t find a parking space that was open that wasn’t reserved for staff. I winged it and parked in a staff spot praying that I didn’t come out with my “first bill from the school” on my windshield. There were not a lot of us coming into the program in the spring semester, which I hadĀ anticipated.

The Professors’ Spiel

The dean of the school and the head professor of the grad school spoke with us, wishing up good luck and reminding us that it would be a lot of work(more so than we were probably used to in undergrad). They had some general advise and some specific advice too about places to go for registration and who to talk to about bills/financial aid. Overall, it was a warm welcome, filled with the usual fare from professors. šŸ˜›

The Unofficial Student Version

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Posted by on December 21, 2010 in Grad School


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Selling myself

Your Soul Is Mine!

I’m trying to get into a lab for the coming semester in grad school. I NEED this to graduate remotely on time and not set my med school plans back by about 2 years(give or take). šŸ˜¦ I’m writing out a lot of emails andĀ inquiriesĀ to lab heads in the hope that they will give me the chance to come in and start working with them. This is the part I hated about the PhD application process as well, this trying to sell yourself to someone you really don’t know. The polishing up your good points and trying to stuff your weaknesses into a closet so no one can see them until you’re accepted. And I know, I know you’re gonna say everyone has to do it and that you’ll do it all over again to get into med school too. That doesn’t make it any less distasteful. Why can’t I be honest without the fear of not getting anything? It would make me feel so much less like I’m trying to sell myself as the poster boy, savior of the world, awesome guy when I’m really a slightly neurotic and, at times, insecure about everything and anything in my life kind of person. End of rant.

If you’ve been through this process and would care to share how you survived without selling your soul, please share them with me in the comments. Have a great weekend!

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Posted by on December 17, 2010 in Grad School, Research


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HowĀ ToĀ ReadĀ ScientificĀ Articles

Photo fromĀ

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

I have been largely ignoring a rather important aspect of my field for some time now and it’s finally come back bite me in the ass. Yes my friends, I’m talking about the ability to read, digest, and understand scholarly journal articles. I’ve gotten by through undergrad with reading and not really getting things. Now with grad school less than two months away, I find myself deathly afraid at the thought of being asked to read journals articles again. Pants-wetting afraid people.

So apparently you don’t read them like a book. Huh…

After some serious research, and by that I mean a cursory Google search, I found a number of sites that had rather helpful suggestions for reading articles. The most shocking thing I read was that I was reading them the wrong way. So I missed the memo that the ordering of the articles in the journals are not really the best way to read them for comprehension. Huh…that begs the question then about why they even bother putting the articles in the order they do. Editors. (rolls eyes) Anyone know why articles are kept the way they are, even if almost no one reads them the way they’re presented?


Now that my brain has been properly trained to read around the garbage in journal articles, and should no longer feel the need to do things the hard way, maybe I can choke down an article or two without falling asleep. Whatda’ya say brain? We’ll start off nice and slowly and ease into the harder, longer, deeper, faster….whoa! That could have gone to strange places. Well, hopefully there’ll be a revival of the “interesting journal articles” posts around here now.

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Posted by on November 13, 2010 in Grad School, Interesting Articles


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