SAGE KE Bulletin Board
Graduate programs in biogerontology
7 October 2003
Alex F. Bokov
Welcome, future colleague! I've recently gone through the same process you have after graduating from the University of Michigan.
I did a huge Medline search with a query something like...
(ag?ing OR calor* restrict* OR diet* restrict* OR food restrict* OR senesc* OR lifespan OR life exten*) NOT (care* OR nursing OR elderly OR fracture OR hospice OR socio* OR incontinance OR depression OR senior* OR falls OR hip fractur*)
I then printed out the huge stack of abstracts and skimmed them, putting aside the particularly interesting ones. Eventually I noticed certain names appearing over and over. So I looked up the institutions those people worked at, and noticed a clustering at UTHSCSA, Bayelor College of Medicine, Washington, Michigan, and Wisconsin. So of course those places were at the top of my list but I also applied to places where there was just one or two aging researchers. Note however that if you have your heart set on aging research, it's safer to apply to a program where there are a lot of aging researchers because that gives you more flexibility in the event that the researcher you're most interested in working with moves, retires, or turns out to have a personality incompatible with yours (it happens!).
The massive lit search approach has the side benefit in that you'll get a feel for what the aging field is doing right now. The one thing I would have done to make the job easier if I had to do it over again is that I would have restricted the search to review articles-- people who are senior researchers in the mainstream of the field are usually the ones who are asked to write reviews in their areas of expertise.
Anyway, you can't go wrong with applying to either the Department of Physiology or Department of Cell and Structural Biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. They have some excellent faculty, students who share your enthusiasm for aging, several courses that are specifically about aging, and are home to one of the Nathan Shock Centers for Excellence in the Biology of Aging. To learn more about our program, check out this site: http://www.uthscsa.edu/arec
One final word of advice-- when most students apply to graduate school, they assume the application process is the same as for college. You take the GREs, you fill out the application, you send in your transcripts, and you wait for an interview invitation. That does work of course, but there is also the opportunity to set yourself apart from the applicant pool by being pro-active. Contact the faculty members whose papers you read (their emails are often printed right in the papers) and tell them about your interest. Often the endorsement of a faculty member has a great deal of influence over the decision of the admissions committee, particularly since most of the other students who apply will have no clear idea of what they want to do in grad school.
I wish you the best of luck, and if you have any questions feel free to email me.
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