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Advice for PhD application

Hello,

When applying to PhD's what do you think looks more attractive for admissions, a Master's without a thesis while working in a research lab or a Master's with a thesis? I have a low undergrad GPA and am trying to make up for it with a Master's before a biology PhD. #college #biology #gpa #phd

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Keith’s Answer

This is a really challenging question. There are a host of issues within it, and I'm not sure there is a "right" answer; however, I'd like offer some thoughts.

On one hand, I read your question and wonder if it isn't a false dichotomy (this versus that). Why isn't it possible to write a thesis and work in a lab? That path is clearly the best one. So, if you are looking for the best path, it is to take on a clearly challenging situation and rise to the occasion. We can accomplish whatever we believe we can accomplish. My wife (when I was dating her) worked a full-time job, a part-time job, a seasonal job, an took care of her two immigrant parents while attending university full-time, yet she graduated with a decent gpa. I saw her do it and realized that people have more time than they think; we just have to want things bad enough.

If a choice between lab and thesis is necessary, I think the question becomes which element of biology do you want to focus on more. You application to PhD programs will have to "sell" your strengths. Some programs may value the lab work as they focus on more applied work; others will give more value to a thesis as they focus more on the academic element and like that there is evidence that you can do solid research (which is useful when you have to write a dissertation). You might consider reaching out to a few of the PhD programs that you will consider applying to and asking their opinions on which they value more; it will also show that you take initiative as many students wait until they are about to apply before trying to make those connections.

In the end, the most important thing is display excellence in whichever path you take. If your lab work is suspect, it won't help you. If your thesis is poorly developed, it also won't help you. Select a path and follow it with passion.
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Michael’s Answer

Hi,
The undergraduate GPA is important but not impossible to overcome.
Graduate work requires planning. Thinking of what field of study, and not just biology, that you want to be in first, then go to the school that offer the program that would lead you there. Be prepare to accept alternatives, because many of us do not get to do what we studied. Know what you want is the key. Is it academia or industry? There is a whole world out there that you need to explore.
The first thing you must have is a plan. Plan ahead.
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Paresh’s Answer

Hi,

Most of the Ph.D. in Biology field involve lab work, hence applying with Master thesis certainly adds value and credential to your application. During the Master's thesis work, one is exposed to various research methodologies, writing problem statement and hypothesis, organizing resources/materials, testing different formulated hypothesis and provide hands-on experience with multiple instruments. This will provide a suitable launch pad for starting your Ph.D., especially in the first year.

The a great idea and dedication can overcome the low GPA !

I hope it helps!

Thanks,

With kind regards,
Paresh Vadgama
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