Student Perspective: Talitha Forcier

Entering Class of 2012

Undergraduate: Cornell University

NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Predoctoral Trainee

One of the things that drew me to the school was their approach to courses. The heavy course load covers topics you would expect to see in any well-rounded biology PhD program, however the instructors are not teachers who also do research but rather researchers who have come to discuss their own work with you. The short but intense courses are taught by some of the most prominent researchers in the field, both school faculty and visiting lecturers from outside the scientific research community like science journalism, editing, and patent law. The school does a great job ensuring each topic is taught by an expert in their field, and questions and discussion are welcome and encouraged. The relaxed atmosphere of the courses leads to discussion and advice outside of the classroom that I have found to be invaluable in expanding my approach to scientific techniques and thought. Small class sizes and careful individual attention mean some researchers and instructors know you by name and interests before you’ve met, which can be disconcerting coming from a big school where it’s easy to remain anonymous, but means you won’t fall through the cracks and flounder.

After the first semester of intensive coursework is over, three short rotations allow you to explore potential labs for thesis research or new fields entirely. While each six-week rotation felt very short, in the end I realized I had a good feel for what research in each lab would be like and was able to make a more informed choice of research lab for my thesis work. At the same time, being required to attend seminars, meetings, and courses has made me feel more like a participating member of the scientific community already, and I’ve found myself integrating ideas and techniques from a number of new sources in ways that have added depth and complexity to my approach to scientific problems.