I thought finding compelling science would be my top priority when I chose where to go for grad school. This is certainly true of MIT Biology, but when I visited the department, I also found faculty who cared that their students were happy and well-rounded. Together, these factors convinced me that MIT was the right fit for me. My PhD advisor, Jing-Ke Weng, also emphasizes hiring people who support each other’s diverse interests both in and out of the lab.
The MIT Biology Graduate Program is structured to encourage graduate students to get a flavor of different sub-areas within biology, and that was the fit that I was looking for. I have come to realize that the program is all I expected and so much more. The biology community at MIT is vibrant and well knit; the professors are welcoming and excited to discuss their science, the graduate students know each other well, and the environment helps you be the best scientist you can be!
When I visited MIT Biology as a prospective student, I remember everyone seemed friendly and happy — which was promising because grad students are a good reflection of what a program is like. I’m a biochemist by training, but the department’s broad interests have allowed me to meet people with diverse research backgrounds. For example, in the Keating lab, I collaborate with computational biologists to study protein-protein interactions.
The energy at MIT is unparalleled. Whether it’s gene expression, cell division, or regeneration, people here are jazzed about their research. The Burge Lab, where I work, combines high-throughput bench techniques with computational biology to study gene expression and RNA processing. With this combination of skills, I can ask complex questions and push the frontiers of knowledge in my field. Awesome research and students who are always down to nerd out about nature make MIT a great place for grad school.
Not many people know that MIT has a thriving biophysics community. It’s a mix of mechanical engineers, chemists, biologists, and physicists. There are specific course requirements, and we go on retreats and participate in seminars to share our research and discuss collaborations. I really enjoy thinking about physical principles and how they apply to biological problems, and the methods we use Martin lab are incredibly visual. You can literally see a fruit fly embryo fold, which is both informative and aesthetically pleasing.
MIT Biology really values its graduate students, and many of our department-wide events are student-driven. Even the recruitment weekend, where accepted students are invited to campus, is run entirely by graduate students. I found it really reassuring that the department entrusts its students with so much responsibility, which I’ve found to be true in my classes and in lab as well. The professors treat you as an equal and give you a lot of freedom to pursue your interests.
As an MD-PhD student, I arrived at MIT Biology after finishing my med school exams and was extremely excited to begin research. The department’s philosophy is all about understanding how to ask scientific questions. All first-years take a paper-reading class, which dissects classical and modern scientific papers to examine how best to approach problems. I learned that I really enjoy being in lab, coming up with questions, and designing experiments. It’s freeing; I can pour all of my energy into one thing.
MIT Biology stood out to me because the research interests of the faculty are so diverse. My background is in biochemistry, and I expected to be forced to choose between studying that or exploring other realms of biology — but MIT Biology doesn’t draw those distinctions, and instead incorporates many disciplines into one department. As a result, I’ve discovered new interests in plant development and genetics. I was drawn to Jing-Ke Weng’s lab in particular because his calm and open attitude made for a harmonious research environment.
As part of the Drennan lab, I get to do chemistry that my undergraduate classes didn’t have time to delve into. Using metals and free radicals to do chemistry opens up a whole new world of chemical reactions. I’m working on a metal-containing protein that’s only just been discovered, and there’s so much to learn about its fundamental biological function. I think that’s why basic research is so appealing to me; you never know where the work will take you, or the impacts it could have on human health later on.
I chose MIT Biology because of the breadth of labs — I could study microbiology or molecular biology within the same department. Gene-Wei Li’s lab had a perfect mix of both. Gene is one of the smartest researchers I’ve ever met while still being incredibly humble. His was a new lab, looking at biological questions from a very different perspective than other labs. We’re asking fundamental questions about protein production, with consequences for cell survival and human health at large.
One of the main reasons I chose MIT Biology was because I wanted teaching experience. You have many opportunities to mentor undergraduates and summer students, and as part of the program you serve as a teaching assistant for at least two classes. If you face challenges as a graduate student, there are also plenty of resources — there were tutoring services that I used my first year, which helped a lot, and the professors here are very accessible.
I am a first-generation college student, and the first in my extended family to pursue a graduate degree in STEM. I didn’t know what to expect or what it would take to succeed. I am grateful to the upperclassmen in MIT Biology, who helped me navigate classes and lab rotations, gave advice about choosing a lab and studying for the qualifying exam, and served as scientific mentors. The strong sense of community within the program definitely helps students develop these relationships.