How to approach biology and biomedical graduate school interviews

biology biomedicine graduate admissions interview prep
By Ryan E.

The graduate school application process is exhausting. Tailoring multiple applications for each school is a daunting task. A sigh of relief finally arrives when invitations to interview for graduate programs arrive. However, as part of the application process, interviews carry a lot of weight, and most students don’t get a blueprint for what to expect and how to best prepare. Knowing what lays ahead in the interview process allows you to relax and sit in the excitement of starting a new chapter in your academic career.

Interview expectations from field to field differ, but this is how I best prepared for applications to biology and biomedical graduate programs. 

Be prepared to talk about your previous research experiences. 


Graduate programs in the biological sciences will spend a lot of time evaluating your letters of recommendation and prior research experience ahead of interviews. You will likely be asked about these experiences and how they informed your decision to go to grad school. 

To practice for this part of the interview, I prepared an “elevator” speech of my previous research experiences. This entailed framing a research question, explaining what approaches I used to answer it, summarizing the results of these findings, and what I plan to do next. To prepare for unanticipated questions, I also read review articles in my field and a couple papers that provided the background and rationale for my project. The more comfortable you are with your own work, the more engaging and helpful your conversations with interviewers will be.  

Do your research on your interviewers and the program to come up with questions ahead of time. 

 

Towards the end of interviews, you will often be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. This is an opportunity to really get to know them or their research, and voice your interest in the program. Often, graduate programs will not let you know who you’re interviewing with until 24-48 hours ahead of interviews. This is for a specific reason: they don’t want you to spend an exhaustive amount of time reading about the research of each individual interviewer. However, it is helpful to jot down basics about what their lab works on to ask big-picture, overarching questions that can drive conversation and open-ended discussion. 

This is also an opportunity to convince your interviewer that you have done your research on the program and are seriously considering joining for graduate school. You can reference specific labs that interest you, courses you’re interested in taking, or training opportunities that are unique to the program. Interviewers are more likely to advocate for you when they can tell that you are passionate about joining. 

Attend as many prospective student events as possible! 

 

Attending as many student events as possible will give you a sense of how life is like outside of school and let graduate students get to know you. If there are any important factors guiding your decision on whether to move somewhere for grad school, now is the time to ask them! Prepare by drafting questions on topics that are important to you such as housing, life outside of campus, access to nature, etc.

Finally, relax and be yourself!

 

Most graduate programs in biology will only interview students whose applications were already impressive, so the hard part is over. During the interview, you are evaluating them as much as they are evaluating you. It’s important for you to go somewhere you feel yourself and can comfortably call home!

Ryan completed her undergraduate studies at Cornell University in Cellular and Molecular Biology. She is currently pursuing her PhD thesis research at MIT, where her work is focused on understanding how proliferating cancer cells reprogram metabolism to maintain the metabolic requirements for rapid cell growth and division.

Comments

topicTopics
academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT college admissions expository writing English MD/PhD admissions strategy writing LSAT GMAT physics GRE chemistry biology math graduate admissions academic advice ACT interview prep law school admissions test anxiety language learning career advice premed MBA admissions personal statements homework help AP exams creative writing MD study schedules test prep computer science Common Application summer activities history mathematics philosophy organic chemistry secondary applications economics supplements research 1L PSAT admissions coaching grammar law psychology statistics & probability legal studies ESL dental admissions CARS SSAT covid-19 logic games reading comprehension engineering USMLE calculus mentorship PhD admissions Spanish parents Latin biochemistry case coaching verbal reasoning DAT English literature STEM excel medical school political science skills AMCAS French Linguistics MBA coursework Tutoring Approaches academic integrity astrophysics chinese genetics letters of recommendation mechanical engineering Anki DO Social Advocacy admissions advice algebra art history artificial intelligence business careers cell biology classics dental school diversity statement gap year geometry kinematics linear algebra mental health presentations quantitative reasoning study abroad tech industry technical interviews time management work and activities 2L DMD IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs Sentence Correction adjusting to college algorithms amino acids analysis essay athletics business skills cold emails data science finance first generation student functions graphing information sessions international students internships logic networking poetry resume revising science social sciences software engineering trigonometry units writer's block 3L AAMC Academic Interest EMT FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Health Professional Shortage Area Italian Lagrange multipliers London MD vs PhD MMI Montessori National Health Service Corps Pythagorean Theorem Python Shakespeare Step 2 TMDSAS Taylor Series Truss Analysis Zoom acids and bases active learning architecture argumentative writing art art and design schools art portfolios bacteriology bibliographies biomedicine brain teaser campus visits cantonese capacitors capital markets central limit theorem centrifugal force chemical engineering chess chromatography class participation climate change clinical experience community service constitutional law consulting cover letters curriculum dementia demonstrated interest dimensional analysis distance learning econometrics electric engineering electricity and magnetism escape velocity evolution executive function fellowships freewriting genomics harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science hybrid vehicles hydrophobic effect ideal gas law immunology induction infinite institutional actions integrated reasoning intermolecular forces intern investing investment banking lab reports linear maps mandarin chinese matrices mba medical physics meiosis microeconomics mitosis mnemonics music music theory nervous system neurology neuroscience object-oriented programming