The Application Process
The Admission Granted Hosts welcome second-year PhD student Lauren to discuss the application process and their experiences applying and attending during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of admission. Granted. I'm your co-host Brittany. I'm your co-host Natalie. And today we are joined by a guest Lauren. Hi, welcome. Yes for having me. Yeah. Lauren is a second year PhD student. And, um, I figured we'd start off with just introducing Lauren. So Lauren, you wanna tell us where you're from, where you went for undergrad?
Just kind of like what made you go into graduate school? Yeah, absolutely. So I'm from Huel, Pennsylvania, and I went to undergrad at a university called Eastern university. It's about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. And I've always really been interested in science and I love the outdoors and exploring nature.
So I always was kind of on the path into science mm-hmm . And then when I was, um, a junior in high school, we read the hot zone for AP biology, which is about Ebola virus. Oh, about the outbreaks. And so. That really like solidified my interest in viruses and also research as a career. I was like, oh, I didn't know.
You could do this. This is like really cool to me. So yeah, that's kind of like what set me on this path. That's cool. Yeah. I would have to say the movie contagion really helped me like decide. I wanted to yeah. Go into research and study viruses as well. That's awesome. I mean, it's, it's in really cool. How like media and arts can really, like we talked about in the last episode, can.
Um, science and inspire scientists and things like that. So, yeah, definitely. Very cool. Yeah. So today's topic on this episode is, um, the application process. What it's like to get into medical school, like apply to medical school, what's it like to apply to, um, PhD school? And, um, I invited Lauren on because during the application process this past year, it was during the pandemic.
And when I applied, like I'm. Going into my fifth year of my PhD. I applied during a like right before the pandemic, like maybe a year. Yeah. A year before the pandemic hit. And so I figured today we would combine topics of the application process. What's it like as well as what our experience was like during COVID 19 shutdown.
When we came back to school and what that was like. Um, so I figured let's start off with you, Natalie. Why don't you tell us like what your application process was like, what you need to get into medical school? Cause I have no idea. Sure. Yeah. So, um, I was a premed student. Um, that's not a major by the way, which is a big misconception.
Okay. Um, you can major in anything you'd like. like arts to chemistry, which was my, uh, major actually with a biochem focus mm-hmm , but I, um, took all the courses required to apply to medical school. And, um, while I was an undergrad, I worked on getting my letters of recommendations from professors. Okay. So I think that's important to, to keep in mind, especially early in the process, um, you also require a personal statement okay.
For the, for the application. So I worked on that and, um, got it revised by a few different people. Um, Also the MCAT, which is a huge part of the process. So the MCAT is the, um, exam that you need to enter medical school. Okay. I took it during my gap year. So after I graduated, right. Um, which we talked about a little bit in the last episode, but I think it was best for me because I was working and volunteering, interning and all while I was in school.
So studying for the MCAT wasn't really feasible at that time. Mm-hmm but during my gap year, I took the MCAT. Um, you know, I prepared for it. Yeah. What's that MCAT like, is it. Basically asking you medical questions or is it more like comprehen comprehensive? Like, can you read this essay and answer this question?
It's actually, um, a little bit of both. There's four sections to it. Okay. One of them, um, is very much like reading based. There is a psychology and sociology, um, part the other part that we need to take, um, there is a chemistry and biology part and a physics and chemistry part. So four, oh, they really cover everything.
Holy cow. Yes. Oh yes. And a lot of it's based on, um, articles, scientific journal articles. Okay. Gotcha. So it's good to, you know, get familiar with reading those and interpreting that kind of data. So, um, I took the MCAT, I prepared my application, which. Take some time mm-hmm so I definitely recommend doing it earlier than later, especially because some schools are rolling admissions.
Okay. Um, so, so when you submit your applications, so it actually changed because of COVID. Oh, um, they pushed it back, um, because of COVID and the MCAT was actually shortened due to COVID. Oh, okay. They took out some parts that were used, um, not to grade, but to make future exams. Um, they, it, it was a. Uh, adjustment.
Definitely. Yeah. Cause chaotic, yeah, very chaotic. Um, so you know, a lot of like adaptability we required, which I think is just required in general in science mm-hmm . But, um, so I mentioned the MCAT, the personal statement, and there is also an exam called the Casper exam. Okay. Which not all schools require, but upstate does require it.
Um, and this test assesses, professionalism, empathy, and other soft skills like that. So that's something good to know, because not a lot of people know that mm-hmm until they actually have to take it. Um, there's nothing you can really do to prepare for that. Just hope that you know, you have the soft skills I guess.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it's not a pass fail exam, so it's nothing to stress about. Oh, okay. and then you submit your application. Mm-hmm you are offered secondary applications from some schools, depending on, you know, if you meet the criteria to attend. Oh, okay. And then you get secondary applications. You fill those out, you send them out and you wait to hear back, um, for invitations to interview.
Okay. Okay. I just clarify the secondary application. So like, let's say you applied to upstate, they would send you another form to fill out . Yes. Um, yes, but you know what? Luckily Upstate's secondary. Uh, it's very straightforward. Oh, okay. Yeah. I, I really appreciated that about this school. Um, but some of the other schools require you to answer questions, um, you know, based on your experience or, you know, scenarios that you might be in and things like that.
So, um, there's a lot of resources online for all of this information. So I do encourage anyone who is applying to look into that, but, um, yeah, uh, interviews usually start around December. Oh, okay. Oh, so you probably applied then in the summer? Yes. I'm sorry. I didn't mention . Yeah, no, that's fine. Um, I submitted my application.
I believe it was in June. Okay. Yes. It feels like so long ago. I was gonna say, how long did you, like, how long did it take you to do the application? Like, it seems like it would take you. what, like a month, right? To write your statement, fill out the application. Oh, it varies. Yeah. It varies from person to person.
I was, um, taking care of my grandmother at the time and it was, um, it took me a little longer. I think that it would have otherwise. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Okay. That makes sense. Yeah. So Lauren, um, was your application process similar to Natalie's like. Were deadlines pushed because of COVID like, do you wanna just walk through your application process?
Yeah, absolutely. I don't think any deadlines were pushed. Um, I know that for me. So I had anticipated taking the GRE mm-hmm , um, as part of applying to grad schools, but a lot of the places I had was, um, applying to. Where either they had waved it completely, like they didn't use G scores at all, or they had waved it due to COVID for a year.
Gotcha. And so I ended up not taking the GRE, which was kind of nice. Cause I didn't have to pay for that. Or like do that study. I could just focus on the applications. Yeah. Yeah. Um, and I think a lot of the applications that I had were due at the beginning of December or. Or, or like the beginning of January.
Yeah. And I think that's when I applied to upstate, I think theirs was closer to January. Yeah. So I talked to some people in admissions, um, for the PhD portion of upstate, um, the GRE is no longer required for application process to Upstate, whereas it was required when I applied. Um, so I thought that was interesting.
It seems to me that schools are moving away from standardized testing. Yeah. Um, but in addition, most schools. Yeah. Like in my application process four years ago, um, everyone was like December 1st deadline. Mm-hmm but for Upstate it's I think this year it's February. Oh, wow. So, um, I was a little surprised that it's a little later mm-hmm but when I was talking to someone in admissions, they said that it's very beneficial for students in applying to the PhD program to get their application in
around December, because that's when they start looking at applications. Oh, wow. Because the application opened in September, so that's when all like the committee sit down and they start looking at everything. So that makes sense. Yeah. Yeah. So did you, um, also do three letters of recommendation? I think that's what's needed.
Yeah. Yeah. I did three letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Mm-hmm um, and I think I also. Uh, you attach a CV or resume, so right. I use my CV. Yeah. So one thing I think that's important to talk about is the letters of recommendation. So Natalie, you wanna start with telling me, like, who wrote your recommendation letters and like what their relationship with you was like?
Sure. So I actually had five recommendation letters, um, and I had them all submitted to my school. yeah. Yeah. It's it's quite a bit, I think you don't require that many. Um, but I'd had them all submitted to my, um, The pre-health counselor at my school. Mm-hmm cause there is something called a committee letter that a lot of undergraduate schools offer.
Oh, okay. For medical school applications. Yeah. So it's basically a letter that compiles all of these recommendations and you it's written by someone who actually doesn't know you. So it's a very unbiased interesting. Okay. Um, point of view. Um, I did speak with this person over the phone because of COVID we couldn't meet in person.
Yeah. But she did. Um, she was able to go through my letters and experiences and have me explain a little bit about myself and why I was interested in those specific, um, people writing my letters. Okay. So that's my first letter I got was actually in my. First semester back in school. Mm-hmm it was from my English 1 0 1 professor Dr.
Jessica YD, brilliant woman, um, who I connected with based on the fact that we both were very passionate about advocacy and public health and things like that. And English 1 0 1 is actually one of the pre prerequisites for med school. Um, and then I got. Letters from science professors at Leman college as well.
One of them was a bio, um, biochemistry professor and the other one was physical chemistry. And these were people that I also got to know on a personal level that knew that I would, you know, I always showed up to class. I always did my best. I always offered to help. Um, and I, you know, liked to go a little above and beyond
for those courses. So I did ask them knowing that they would write me strong letters. Right. Um, then I had a letter from, um, the unit chief at the psychiatric unit that I volunteered at that I mentioned, um, last episode. So, um, I knew that she would also write me a, um, strong letter because I worked there for two years.
Um, We also developed a personal relationship. And, um, then my last letter was from the PI of the research, um, that I did the public health research. Gotcha. So I worked one year volunteering in the field. Um, like I mentioned, mm-hmm, gathering data, but then I was offered a position as a, um, part of the intervention.
So I was, um, my position was titled. Health educator. Okay. And that was actually a paid position. So again, I knew that she trusted me and that she would have positive things to say about me. Yeah. Yeah. So you have a lot of letters from the medical field and even outside the field. Exactly. That's, that's really important.
Yeah. So Lauren, your letters of rec, they were also your science professors that you had a close relationship. Yeah. And I think, um, especially in PhD programs, I noticed a lot of applications were recommending that you have at least one person who has directly supervised you when you're doing research.
Okay. Um, a lot of places require you to have at least some research experience. Yeah. Um, and so if you do have that, they expect a letter of recommendation from that person mm-hmm . So I had a little bit of a hiccup in my letters of recommendation where my undergrad, um, PI my research mentor, she ended up leaving for industry like a great position.
Yeah. Very exciting for her. But. was in an industry where she couldn't use her work email, and she didn't feel comfortable using her private email to send me letters, recommendation, which I totally understand. That's kind of like something you're not supposed to do for grad school applications. Mm-hmm um, so I wasn't able to use her, but I listed her as a reference still, um, which I think was really helpful to have there with an explanation of why she couldn't send me a letter of recommendation.
Um, and then I used a PI from a summer research internship that I did at Ducan university as a recommendation. And. Um, two of my professors at Eastern, one of them who had also, uh, supervised me during research and then one who I had TAed for. Yeah. People who I all had a very personal connection with, um, and who could speak to my research abilities and my interests and Eastern is a really small school.
So even though I wasn't directly under all of the professors throughout like the bulk of my research, mm-hmm they all knew you. Yeah. They had seemed in, in the lab, they knew, you know, my work ethic and yeah. Yeah. All of my recommendation letters were very similar to that. I did an internship in Madison county.
Um, where we documented tracked, counted mosquitoes that were infected with triple E or west Nile virus. Yeah. Yeah. I got mom, my supervisor to write me a recommendation letter. And then I also did research in undergrad. Those two professors, two different research topics. Uh, they also wrote me recommendation letters and it seems that what really helps you get into graduate school, medical, PhD, that it's letters that are
supportive and strong saying that this person is, um, a hard worker. I can be accountable for, um, the work that they do and that they would be good for this field. Like, I feel like that those are the kind of letters you need to get into a graduate school. Yeah, definitely. Okay. So we talked about recommendation letters.
So now I just wanna focus on the interviews. Um, what your interview was like, what your interview was like, Lauren, Natalie. Um, and then what my interview was like, because it's definitely a lot different . Sure. So, um, Lauren, why don't we start with you? Um, what was your interview like? Was it on the phone?
Was it over zoom? Yeah. Who did you talk to? It was over zoom. Yep. So I got the email, um, that. I was, I got interviews mm-hmm and one of them was with, uh, PI in the micro immunology department. Okay. And then one was with a PI who was in the pharmacology department, so, okay. So two interesting. Yeah. Two. Yep.
And we set up a meeting over zoom and I think from talking to other people in my cohort, they also had two interviews, so. Okay, interesting. Yeah. Yeah. Um, but we set up a zoom meeting. The first one, um, was about an hour long. I think we got into. conversation about their research and it just, uh, lasts a little longer.
And then the second one was about 30 minutes long, so. Okay. Yeah. Gotcha. And you, did you preference in your personal statement that you wanted to be in the microbiology department or the pharmacology department. Do you remember? I know that my personal statement mentioned that I was interested in viruses and that eventually I wanted to study that.
So I'm, that might have played a role in it. Um, I was gonna say, it sounds like maybe the admissions committee probably was like, Hey, this student is interested in these two departments. Um, we would like someone to interview her from these two departments. Yeah. I hadn't put any preference for pharmacology.
So I'm wondering if they also do like an outside department just to see. The student can still connect about research with somebody who might not be within their specific interests. Yeah. Interesting. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Natalie, what was your interview like? Was it, was it on Zoom as well? Yes, all of my interviews were on Zoom.
Okay. Um, and I'm grateful for that because I saved a lot of money I'll travel. Yeah, for sure. Um, and I think it's gonna continue to be that way, uh, at least for the, um... Yeah, definitely. That's what the emissions committee said. Everything's gonna be on Zoom. Okay. So yeah, it's um, it's great. I love that. Um, I had a couple of different interviews at different schools.
The one here I really enjoyed because I got to speak to a student, um, as well as a faculty member. Oh, okay. So yeah, I got to speak to both of them and it was very much about what my personal interests were, the type of okay. You know, the type of, um, person I am, what I like to do outside of school and things like that.
Because I think at that point they realize that you have all, everything you need yeah. To succeed. Yeah. In the program. So they really wanna know if you know how you will interact with your peers, um, your personality and things like that. So that was my Upstate interview, but again, all interviews are different.
Um, some schools did group interviews. Um, oh, so like there was like 10 of you on a Zoom call, something like that. Yeah. Interesting. Okay. yeah. So, um, and then they did like a group based learning activity. Interesting. Yeah. Okay. So they. They're trying to assess, I think how you work with other people. Okay.
You can work as part of a team, how encouraging you are, things like that. And there was someone like watching, like as we're doing this, with their camera off. Yeah. All I can think of is like camp activities. Like, you know, like, okay, everyone, you have to stack the cups, you know, like you only using tape or something.
I don't know. Yeah. Yeah. Which, you know, in a way it's like, kind of cool, like, you know, you figure out like what other people's strengths are mm-hmm and you're like, oh, I think it's a, it's a good learning experience. Um, and I guess it's a good way to assess a, you know, a person how they work in a team.
Yeah. Yeah. So that was your first interview. And you, did you have a second interview with Upstate? No. I only had one interview with Upstate. Okay. Is that typical? Yeah, I was just gonna ask that typically. It's just one, one interview. Okay. Um, and again, every school is different, but I really appreciate that.
I got to talk to a student from Upstate. Yeah. That's nice. Get their perspective because it's also the student or the applicant interviewing the school as well. Right. You know, we have to see if the school is a good fit also. Mm-hmm and one thing I noticed immediately from Upstate is that all the students are like happier than they are in other schools.
Um, for some reason. So, yeah, I noticed that too. Yeah. When I inter, when I met with some students that they seem happy. Yeah. Which is nice. Yeah. That's important is nice. Yeah. Yeah. So my interview process. Was on the phone guys. I had to call them and um, yeah, so I talked, is it typical? I'm sorry. Is it typically like that?
Well, so from what I heard, yes, it was typically like that, that they would call you on the phone and you would answer mm. Um, And so they would give you like a timeframe, like, you'd get an email saying like, Hey, so, and so is going to E or excuse me. So, and so is going to call you, um, please be ready. So I remember sitting in my dorm with my cell phone out and like my laptop up with like topics highlighted, like, okay, we're going to talk about this and this and this.
Um, but yeah, so I had a phone call interview last about an hour. I remember having technical difficulties, the call kept dropping. And it's probably because I went to undergrad in Potsdam, which the cell signal's very sparse there. Um, so yeah, I interviewed with someone from the biochemistry department, um, which is interesting because I remember referencing the microbiology department.
So I just wonder if like, maybe that's who I was available. I know, I wonder if it is more randomized, I'm not really sure. Yeah. I'm not really sure. Yeah. So, um, yeah, I had an hour long interview on the phone. Um, and that was my only interview. And then, uh, I got an call from the admissions committee saying you were accepted.
And I was like, oh, awesome. The best news ever. Right. Yeah. I remember cause it was my birthday and I was like crying and I was like, thank you so much. They were like, okay. And I was like, okay. Um, and so the next step after, you know, you're accepted is coming to the school. I know my. Um, cohort, they had several big meetings with like other accepted students.
I was in a smaller, there were like two or three students who came because I couldn't make, um, the bigger weekend where we talked to faculty that in the department we were interested in. Um, we got a tour of the school and we had a dinner with students and, um, several in person meet and greets, kind of more for the professors to get a vibe of you and you to get a vibe of the.
Um, so I was just wondering you guys didn't get that right. They didn't invite you to the school, not to the physical school. yeah. Yeah. But we did have a Zoom event where we were, yeah. We were able to, it was like a mixer where we were to talk to mm-hmm um, other applicants that were accepted as well as like current students.
And we got to ask, you know, Off the cuff questions. It wasn't like supervised by anyone. It was very casual. So I got to learn about like what the living situation was like, how the food is up here. You know, things that like you are curious about, but don't know until you get here. Right. So I accepted my, um, invitation to attend this school before ever having come up here.
Oh my gosh. It's crazy. Yeah, but I did feel comfortable knowing that like there were other students like me, um, non-traditional students mm-hmm. , you know, there's some good restaurants up here. Yes. There's, there's beautiful nature. There's a lot of, um, cool things up in Syracuse, so, yeah. Yeah. So Lauren, what did they, what did they do for you guys?
They had also an accepted students day over zoom. Okay. And it was more structured. I think it, there was a point where we were able to talk to current students, which I found really helpful. Um, but it started out with like all of us in a zoom room and they split us into breakout groups based. Um, departments of interest.
And so we got to like go talk to, um, people who were representing the department. And then we also got to talk, uh, listen to a student led panel and talk to them without anyone else in the room, which was nice. They're like, ask us whatever you want. And they also gave us their contact information, which was really helpful for me, cuz I also, um, like am not from this area.
So like looking for apartments was really interesting. Weird. I was like, I, I was able to email one of 'em and be like, Hey, like, what is the campus housing? Like what, what are areas that, um, people live normally? Like what do you suggest? And got some really helpful feedback and yeah. Yeah, yeah. Really nice.
We'll talk about that in another episode, like housing stipend. Yeah. We'll stip in for the PhD students, medical school costs, things like that. Yeah. Yeah. Cuz financials, you know, big burden for us. Yeah. Yeah. It's a big factor too into the school that you're going to. Yeah, for sure. Um, I was also, so professor had reached out to me.
Before I came up here to tour the lab and tour Weiskotten tour, the building, which was really nice cuz during COVID I think that they were, um, encouraging professors to reach out to students who were interested in the type of research they do. Oh, okay. And so I came up and I was able to tour Weiskotten and tour that professor's, uh, lab, which was really nice and just asked some questions, one on one mm-hmm
Um, and that was a really good opportunity to cuz that was the first time I had set foot on campus and I had already accepted, um, the offer from the school. So I was already, I already knew I was going here. So it was just nice to get a little bit of insight into like yeah. Get familiar. Yeah. Right. Yeah. So. Yeah.
So I met with the admissions, uh, department for a PhD school and they said that an open house is very beneficial for potential graduate students that you never know if you can't come to campus. Mm-hmm um, after accepted students day that, you know, an open house will give you a better feel for the department, for Upstate, for the surrounding areas of Syracuse, which all contribute to your decision, whether or not to come here.
Mm-hmm yes. The admissions office also said that, like we talked about earlier strong supportive letter for your letters of recommendation, as well as, um, a personal statement that kind of feeds into more about your personality as a researcher and as well as like a future medical student. Mm-hmm I know those personal statement letters, right.
Are more about like what made you come into medicine, right? Yes. Yeah. That's what you wrote in yours. Exactly. mine was a little bit about my background. Okay. And yeah, just like my journey to medical school and why I felt like I possessed all the qualities and mm-hmm, things that are required to succeed in medical school.
Yeah. So that's what I wrote about everyone is, you know, obviously has a different journey. So I think it's really important to let your unique characteristic. Kind of shine through. Yeah, definitely. And I think that also applies to, um, PhD. Yeah. I think we tend to get stuck in, like, this was our research experience and this is all the research that I did and I've done a lot of research and I have experienced
Um, I know those were all the same words, just tied in different like order. But, um, I think, you know, when you have your interviews with PIs, um, for PhD school, they're looking for enthusiasm, they're looking for you to talk. Um, your research, your experience kind of troubles you, right? Because they want to see that you are ready to dedicate your life six years here.
Yes mm-hmm but that, you're also excited about research and that you'll be driven to do research and sort of, right. Like set your brain up to move out of the undergrad, thinking, taking tests, writing essays, and more into like creating questions, um, and looking into different topics. You. Sort of more an independent yeah.
Researcher. Mm-hmm I agree with you, Brittany. Um, I think it's also true that admissions committees, as far as I can tell, are also looking for well rounded, um, candidates mm-hmm because like you said, you do have to do a lot of work on your own. It's very like self-motivated. Yes. So I think it's important to, um, not only talk about things that are going to show the admissions committee that you can
succeed, not only as a student, but as a person mm-hmm and because you know, hard things will happen in your life. Yeah. While you're in school. So I think it's important that they know that, you know, you can really motivate yourself and, and take care of yourself. Yes mm-hmm yeah. Yeah. So, um, I think that part of your application really came through through my class.
So. COVID happened. Shutdown happened. I was in my second year, so I was getting ready for my qualifying exam, which is basically a test. Um, you write an essay, you write a grant, um, and then you do an oral presentation and it's basically to test whether or not you are ready to become a PhD candidate.
Mm-hmm , um, that you're ready to explore your research and that you have enough, um, like basic skills and your brain is able to think in a certain way that like you could move forward as a researcher. Right. Um, and I remember just being so confused during shutdown because I was like, just, just joined my lab and I was still really new.
Still didn't really know my way. And my boss and I were like trying to figure out what way I learned best mm-hmm um, so when everything shut down, we changed to Zoom classes were canceled. The meetings and presentations for students that was like, I think that was really tough. And during the qualifying exam, like you are doing a lot of research and writing, but, um, I had, no, I felt like I had no one to talk to.
Yeah. Um, because even though people in my cohort were going through the same thing, everyone was in a different department. Um, I think, yeah, I only had one other student in my department who. another student who was accepted into my department. Mm-hmm . So the experience for your qualifying exam is different for each department.
Um, and yeah, I just, wasn't really sure about the process. I kind of like got sucked back into the, you know, what, like, I don't really know if I wanna do graduate school, like imposter syndrome. Yeah. Really took over my brain during my qualifying exam. And, um, I think it really showed like during my test that like I was unsure of.
How I felt as a researcher and I think it portrayed through my exam, but I think that the faculty here were so understanding absolutely. Like they helped me through my exam. Um, and my boss even stated, he was like, you know, we haven't seen her like C everything was shut down. She's like clearly struggling.
And, um, wow. They, they cared and they noticed that that's amazing. Yeah. And they noticed that. And they talked about that during, like, after my. so much so that they were like, we know you'll be a good researcher and you passed like, congratulations. Oh, yay. But we're going to rewrite some sections in your test to make sure that like, um, the growth that we, the potential growth that we see is can actually come, like can actually move forward.
So that was really nice that like the faculty were able to understand. And I feel like a lot of students struggled during their qualifying exam mm-hmm um, during COVID, but that, um, initial like resilience and enthusiasm for research, I feel right. Like, you can see that in an application, like you can see people are driven for sure.
So I think, you know, we definitely realized how resilient we were during COVID and shutdown and like that graduate school is the next step for us. I think that's incredible that the school was able to recognize that and encourage you and meet with you one on one. Um, yeah, I love that about upstate. I've definitely seen that in different, you know, in the med, in the college of medicine as well.
Um, one thing I wanted to mention is just like, just to kind of tie in what we've been talking about so far, um, aside from the application process, we've all had to adapt. Yeah. And it's like, I think one of, as a human race, just one of our. one of our greatest strengths is our adaptability mm-hmm . And I think it's important to also remember that we have had to adapt as individuals, but also like the school has had to adapt to the application process.
Um, and you know, just teaching as well. Yeah. Figuring out things that work, figuring out things that don't work. Yeah. We're still kind of figuring it out. Yeah. I think the pandemic is still going, so we're still in the thick of it. That's true. Yeah. Um, I guess we can transition now into talking about how COVID has affected.
The programs that we're in. Yeah. Mm-hmm yeah, definitely. Um, Brittany, you Def, you mentioned, um, yeah, meetings are on zoom. Now. Meetings are on zoom, very convenient, especially when you're like, okay, I have to get this project done, but I also need to attend this seminar. I will just plug in my headphones, have it on my phone.
Like I can do two things at once. Yes. Yeah. And one thing that changed for the college of medicine this year, um, thankfully in my. Everything started in person. We did have to wear the masks and obviously do the social distancing, the previous cohort of medical students. They were all on Zoom, everything like even like ... Zoom. Anatomy.
Wow. Um, I'm not even sure. They, they were able to dissect in the cadaver lab and things like that. But, um, everything was mostly on Zoom. Yeah. And I'm just grateful that I was able to learn in person mm-hmm . Um, but one thing that I learned about my learning style is that I do like to be in person. I like to work, you know, be with people.
Yeah. Um, but we did have one unit speaking of adaptability. Yeah. One unit where we had to actually go stay online. Mm-hmm oh, okay. Yeah. So after the winter break we had a unit, um, cardiology and pulmonology, um, where everything was online. Okay. So that was definitely a difficult unit. Yeah. For everyone, I think because we had already adjust.
mm-hmm, being back in person. Exactly. Being in person and, you know, everything was still kind of new mm-hmm cause they're only our fifth unit out of eight. So yeah, I think we'll definitely have to have been an episode on basically like what the normal coursework is like for like first years and for PhD students, because it is so like drastically different, especially
after the pandemic. So Lauren, your classes were online your first year. So, um, your first semester as a PhD student, you take a course called foundations. Mm-hmm , which basically catches you up on everything. They think that you should know foundationally. Yeah. And it's notoriously everywhere you go. It's a fairly difficult class.
It's just, it's strenuous and it's, um, it covers a lot. So yeah, we started out in person, which was really nice. Okay. Um, and I found, I was like, I really love being in person too. I find it way easier to concentrate. Yes. I don't find. Going off task as much. Um, and then the last, so it split up into like three units and the last unit they put us online because there was just some COVID going around.
Um, oh yeah. Like within our cohort kind of. And so I remember that when all of a sudden it was like, oh my gosh, all the rotation students they're out. Right. Like they're down, they're sick. Yeah. So they're like, okay, Zoom time. That was also one of the harder units for me. Mm-hmm and I think it, uh, being on Zoom, played into that.
Yeah. I, I had a hard time concentrating and studying and I was also like, by the end of that class, I was like, I'm so tired. Like yeah. But yeah, that was hard to adapt to, but we all did. Um, I think it helped that we were. We had already transition transitioned to Zoom once before in undergrad, like we had all already gone through the, the big transition.
Right. So it wasn't as hard. Um, and then I had one course in the spring semester that was over Zoom, but it was taught in a kind of flipped manner. So it wasn't, um, That one was actually, I thought really was well done over Zoom. So yeah. Yeah. Other than that, it's been in person. Yeah. I've had some courses that have now fully transitioned, like smaller courses that were like six weeks have fully transitioned to Zoom.
Um, just out of like respect for students and faculty and like their schedules. Um, but I definitely think like in person classes are so much better. Like you make relationships with students, you know, you don't feel so isolated. You make relationships with professors like, and. I'm a visual learner. It's so much easier to learn when you're in a class and you physically, for me when you physically see it.
Same. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I think we've covered a lot of topics about the application process, basically the transition into COVID and I think the next topic we want to sort of wrap up this episode is basically how we. COVID affected public health, how we think it affected science research. Um, and how do we think it shaped the future of public health and research?
Um, so Natalie, do you have any thoughts or opinions on how you think COVID positively or negatively affected the future of medicine? Certainly. Um, I do have quite a few thoughts. Um, One thing I will say. I just want to, um, have like a moment of silence for everyone who's been affected by COVID. Um, it's been really tough and, um, definitely empathize with, with anyone who has been directly affected or had, has lost anyone from COVID.
So, um, I can just take a moment of silence for that. Um, but I also just wanna mention that. I think, I think COVID has definitely brought into focus. The fact that we're all kind of in this together. Mm-hmm, , we're all. affected by someone else's struggles and difficulties. And I hope that it will allow us to move forward as a society, to a place where we can become more interdependent and trust science.
Mm-hmm more. Yes. Cause that's something that I Def definitely think was brought to light as well. Just like the mistrust in science and how yes. You know, it, it really affects everyone. Yeah. Yeah. I talked about on the first episode, mm-hmm when, um, crystal asked me like how I feel about like my career choices mm-hmm and what I'm most afraid of.
And right. I said, I was like, I'm most afraid of the fact that I go to PhD school for six years and no one trusts me, no one trusts the research that I've done, my opinions, um, and that mistrust, you know, I feel like it's comes out of fear, you know? Oh, for her, for sure. You, you don't want to put your trust in someone and then have it ripped away, you know, like false, um, false accusations, you know, like false, um, narratives, things like that.
Um, and this isn't the first time, you know, the world has gone through a pandemic, like right. We we've gone through it before we've come out the other. we're okay. But I feel like that, you know, that mistrust in science, it co it comes in waves. Definitely. You know, but one of the benefits of. Um, the COVID pandemic is the science community realized that we aren't communicating well with the public mm-hmm
Um, I think there was a lot of confusion about like what to do, what not to do. Mm-hmm um, there were reports written about like, um, certain treatments that like ended up being wrong and you know, that fear really roots in that mistrust. And I think science communication does need to be improved. Like I feel that TikTok has really helped.
Mm-hmm , you know, you see a lot of scientists moving towards a platform that will help explain science to the general public. Right. You need to be able to explain and portray your research to all ages. Yeah. And all educational backgrounds like you don't yes. You could be talking to someone, you know, who's 70 years old who only went to high school, you know, doesn't have a higher education degree.
So I. , this is the transition that scientists are like forced into now. Yeah. Is that we need to be able to communicate. We need to be able to communicate well. Mm-hmm do you feel that way, Lauren? Yeah, I definitely agree. I feel like COVID hit when I was, it kind of pulled me away from science in the lab because I was working from home and then I graduated.
Right. And I was in between, um, graduation. Applying to graduate school. So I wasn't in any labs, like getting any like insight on anything, but I was sitting at home and watching it unravel and keeping up with the updates and seeing the fear first hand from people mm-hmm . And I think that it really hit home, that we need to be able to communicate to a very broad audience.
And like, that should just be the norm, like for all science, not just like viral research, but like it's something that's very important. Yeah, right. Like in as, uh, doctors, right? You need to be able to portray your diagnoses. That's understandable to your patients. Oh, a hundred percent. Mm-hmm yeah.
Transparency is very important. Um, communication, I, which I think is why like they admissions committees look at you as a holistic person. Mm-hmm um, and you know, going back to the mistrust, I think it comes from a. valid place. Oftentimes, I mean, you know, we can't dismiss them, uh, people who mistrust medicine.
Um, and I think it's important that as scientists, especially our generation. Yeah. Because we're living through COVID, um, that we really listen to people and their concerns. Mm-hmm I think that's like one of the. Most important steps into addressing their fears. You know, there's just been so much research already done.
Yes. Yeah. Like, uh, Moderna one of the, uh, major, uh, companies that produces the vaccine. They're only 12 years old. Like they're such a young company they're founded in 2010 and their main goal was to like find an mRNA vaccine, but they weren't focused on COVID. Right. No one really knew about COVID right before this pandemic, they were more focused on.
Um, the flu vaccine, you know, something that we get vaccinated for every year mm-hmm. So the fact that. There are companies that are starting up and coming out with, uh, new products. And we're not focused on those, you know, the big companies that we've all heard of in our household name, like household names before COVID.
But you know, now we know of another company Moderna and like AstraZeneca, like these are other companies that, um, our making their mark in public health and research mm-hmm . And I really think it's important for people to recognize that like it's not in our vested interest as scientists, as doctors to harm anyone.
It's actually an, that we take is to do as well, as much as we can to help heal people, um, and help prevent disease. So I think that's just something that I always hold onto. Um, when I'm facing people who are mistrusting or doubtful, Yeah. I'm not afraid to say like when the vaccine was first rolled out, I was a little hesitant.
Absolutely. Absolutely. It's normal. Like I'm a virologist, like, you know, I should be able to support companies that come out with vaccines that have been shown to work, but like, I, I had to do my research, like my own personal research. Yes. Um, and see if this was like the best move for me. And then I had to advise my family because, you know, they looked up to me.
They had, they have no medical background. They mm-hmm , they don't have any awareness of. What your body's doing, how viruses work, how, you know, your immune system works. So like I had to do my own research and right. I mean, I did find out that, you know, the COVID vaccine did, you know, 95% effective against, um, against COVID transmission and, uh, also reducing symptoms.
So science communication, you know, between the public and yourself. Very important. Yeah. Mm-hmm and, um, you know, you reminded me yesterday, Brittany. Upstate actually was home of the first trial, the Pfizer trial. Yeah. So that's right, Natalie. So, um, I actually can talk about that because our department chair is one of the researchers who, uh, helped run the trial.
So Pfizer, um, went to over 150 different sites, academic and asked for a clinical trial for the, um, for the vaccine and upstate was one of those locations. Yeah. And they had over 40,000 participants. Wow. Joined in this clinical trial to see if this vaccine was effective against COVID and, um, we were able to publish that information and it's just so interesting that like Upstate
you know, you see it as a hospital, you see it as a place to go when you get hurt. Mm-hmm but we actually have this hub of research. Mm-hmm incredible. Yeah. Yeah. That we can publish the world and like show. I just think that's so cool that yeah, like we were one of those places that contributed to overall knowledge and, uh, impact on public health.
Yeah. It almost makes me wanna get a PhD you know, and that's another thing I, I wanna mention. That's another thing I did wanna mention also is that there is a MD PhD program here at Upstate. Yeah. Mm-hmm um, and maybe we can have one of those students come and talk to us. Yeah, totally. Someday. Yeah, because it is a, it is demanding, right.
You for sure. You start out with MD, go to PhD, go back. We should definitely do an episode on that. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Cause their cohort is extremely small. It's so small. It's really interesting. And another, another good thing to know about that program is actually it's all free. Um, if you get in mm-hmm so, you know, it's definitely a
an incentive. Yes. Yeah. They kind of merge the medical school and the PhD stipend. So yeah, you're able to go to school for free and as. Make some money um, I guess we can wrap up by just, well, thanking you Lauren for being here and sharing your story. Oh my gosh. Absolutely. Thank you for having me. Yeah. It was such a pleasure.
Um, and just remember that, um, you know, we are in this amazing field where we can do so much. It's such a pivotal time. Anyone who wants to apply should definitely apply. If you have any interest or inkling. Yes. Do personal research into what it is that you can contribute to this amazing growing medical science field.
Mm-hmm I think that wraps up right. What we wanted to talk about, like COVID and application process. Um, uh, thank you so much, Lauren, for coming and talking with us. Thank you. I was gonna say, didn't have that much experience application process during COVID and Natalie, we always value your input about medical school.
Thank you. Same to you, Brittany. Definitely. So thank you oh, thank you. Uh, so thank you everyone for joining us on this episode and, uh, we'll talk soon. Yeah, we'll talk to you next time.