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MICaB Graduate Program
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MICaB Ph.D. Program

What are our alumni doing now, and what do they say about the training they received?

  • Table 1 includes MICaB graduates still in training (e.g. postdoctoral fellows). It excludes students who left the program without a MS or PhD and students whose whereabouts are unknown to us.

Table 1

  • Table 2 includes MICaB graduates with MS degrees and those who have completed postdoctoral training.

Table 2

Earlier this year I polled MICaB alumni and wrote, “What I'd like to do is find out what features you believe, with your wisdom gained with age and experience, a top notch graduate program should have.” My goal was to improve the program by implementing their suggestions, which is what we are currently doing. I intentionally did not ask what they thought of the MICaB Graduate Program. Many of them, though, shared their thoughts on their training. Here are some replies:

  • One strength of the program, which I didn't fully appreciate at the time, is that many of the labs at UMN are "graduate student driven".  By this I mean that compared to XX or YY etc, there are fewer post-docs per lab, so the success of the PI is more dependent on grooming and developing great graduate students. This means the PIs may be more involved in working with students to develop great projects, students get the "best" projects, and the "sink or swim" atmosphere of big high profile labs is rare at UMN.  I think this is partly reflected in the average graduation time. At least when I was there, the avg graduation time was ~5 years and most people went on to the post-doc position of their choice.  I've known many people from the XX and YY grad programs, and it is not uncommon for excellent students to take 7-8 years to graduate because they get little input from their advisor and/or their advisor is only interested in publishing in high profile journals.

  • I think a really good core group of faculty in each of the tracks helps, since these are the people who'll give you input along the way and write your letters of reference later. I bet that most applicants don't fully appreciate that the MICAB faculty is so competitive. Maybe it's worthwhile to show some stats on job placement for former MICAB students (btw, Lee accepted a position at Duke a little while ago!)? I also think that having a really close group of students helps a ton in making a good, strong program. I was lucky enough to have it with the guys in my class and also the classes before me. I learned a lot from these guys during grad school (lot of beer & science after lab) and it's great to still have them around now to ask for advice, reagents, etc.

  • Let me quickly say that I firmly believe that MICaB is a top-notch program now and the training that I received while I was a student in this program has allowed me to succeed in situations far outside of the MICaB umbrella—which is a true test of the training!

  • I think that the best part of the program is that the labs are primarily composed of graduate students and not post-docs.  When I recruited MD/PhD students, I always sold them on the fact that one could get great 1:1 graduate school training in MN and then post-doc at one of the big labs on the coasts in the future.  The grad students at XX, where I am now, tend to get pushed aside by the post-docs.

  • I can’t tell you how many grad students from XX I wouldn’t have selected over former classmates of mine at Minnesota.  Many don’t make it through even the most trivial rough patches of research, give up on projects and jump to something else, and you may be surprised to know that many XX grads didn’t do much work OR even publish a manuscript to obtain their PhD.  I have one XX PhD grad who has worked for me for 3 years now and he still doesn’t have a 1st author paper and can’t write.  Although I do like him a great deal and he’s got great experience and skills, I don’t know how he got his degree.

  • I can honestly say that I was given all the necessary tools as a graduate student, which have helped me get settled at my postdoc.  First of all, my mentor was supportive in every way that a mentor can be; I owe much of my success to him.  Furthermore, my committee guided me on a path that allowed me to graduate in under 5 years, all while having 2 babies and serving in the National Guard.




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Microbiology, Immunology & Cancer Biology Ph.D. Graduate Program

University of Minnesota
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Minneapolis, MN 55455