Considerations in Choosing The Ohio State University Biophysics Graduate Program
1) The Value of Graduate Student Support at Ohio State:
Our University Fellows receive an annual stipend for living expenses of $23,600 per year, which comes from combined finances from our University and our Biophysics Program. Graduate Teaching Assistants also receive $23,600 per year which comes from our Biophysics program only. Fellowship awards have some advantages as there are certain tax benefits that do not apply to teaching assistant or research assistant positions and there is no teaching obligation the first year. In addition, all university tuition and fees are paid, which is a value in excess of $21,000 a year for out of state students. Although you may find that a few other programs across the U.S. support students at slightly higher levels, one thing you should be aware of is that the cost of living in many U.S. cities can be as much as 2 times as high as that in Columbus. This is true in cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C, etc. Most students find that with this level of stipend, you can live a relatively comfortable lifestyle while going to school in Columbus. All of our students in good standing continue to be supported throughout their years of graduate school. In the second year, students are expected to transition to graduate research assistantships where they work with a specific investigator on their thesis research. These positions are generally supported by the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation and sometimes by teaching assistantships in home departments of the mentor. Much of the time outside of formal class work is spent rotating in laboratories of investigators during the first year. This is done to find a mentor who can provide support for remaining years. There are over 60 faculty to choose from in this process and it is also possible to work with faculty who have not yet joined the biophysics program who are doing biophysical research.
2) About Columbus:
Columbus is a mid-sized city with a metropolitan population of around 1.6 million people, but it still has the feel of a small town. It is the capital of Ohio and therefore has many state offices. Because it is the home of one of the largest Universities in the world, it has a very diverse and educated population. There is basically a critical mass of people from most countries of the world that form communities and organizations. The town is very clean and safe for a city its size. It has very little industry; most inhabitants are employed by occupations in banking or insurance and then of course in the Ohio State government, the Universities and many colleges in the area. You might wish to visit the website for the chamber of commerce for Columbus (http://www.columbus.org/) or (http://www.columbus.org/community/columbus.html) Another feature is that it is centrally located, only a few hours from major cities such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Louisville and St. Louis and only 7-8 hours to Washington D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia and many beautiful areas of the Appalachian Mountains. There are many things to do in Columbus. We have a wonderful art museum, a very good symphony, opera and dance companies. There are professional theaters and also amateur theaters associated with Ohio State and surrounding campuses. There is an excellent local popular music culture, with jazz, blues and rock music and because of the large student population there are many opportunities to hear well-known bands on tour at local clubs in the area. The area around Columbus is relatively flat and excellent for bicycling. We have a beautiful nature/bike trail that weaves through campus along the Olentangy river, which extends nearly the full length of the city, from North to South (about 20 miles). We have some beautiful metropolitan parks for hiking and there are many State and National parks located nearby. You might visit the Ohio State Parks and recreation website http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/parks/default.htm. And the metro parks website http://metroparks.co.franklin.oh.us/
3) General Comments about Ohio State:
The Ohio State University is one of the largest Universities in the United States and the world. All of the colleges are on the same campus, i.e. the Medical School, Dental School, Engineering School, Pharmacy School, Veterinary School and the main undergraduate campus are all very close and within walking distance of each other. This is a big advantage for students in Biophysics because they can work and take classes so easily with so many different faculty, working in different colleges. Because of the size of the University (over 90 graduate programs), students have the opportunity to take a wide variety of courses in innumerable subjects and can work with a great variety of faculty in different programs and colleges. The area around the University is generally very safe and there is a large amount of student housing available, both on and off campus that is reasonably priced. The International Student Office and our Biophysics Office will work very closely with you to find suitable housing when you arrive. Opportunities to participate in sports of every kind are available on campus, from cricket to volleyball badminton, rugby, water polo, etc. We have a large recreation facility on campus that you can enjoy a wide variety of athletic activities, if you so choose.
4) Opportunities for Research at Ohio State:
Research opportunities are growing very rapidly at Ohio State. Research funding at Ohio State University has nearly doubled over the last five years, reaching a level of $426 million for the 2001-2002 fiscal year. (See http://www.osu.edu/researchnews/archive/resfundng.htm.) The Medical School, where approximately half of the biophysics faculty reside, has increased their biomedical research support by approximately 50% in the past two years, reaching a total of $91,000,000. Ohio State still continues to rank high among the top American universities in receiving research support from industry, ranking fifth nationally, only Duke, Penn State, MIT, and Georgia Institute of Technology ranked higher. In 2000-2001, the university climbed to 43rd place in the National Science Foundation’s peer ranking of awards, a jump from 46th place a year ago and from 53rd place just two years earlier. A similar measure by the National Institutes of Health placed Ohio State at 53rd place in 2000-2001, a move from 57th place the previous year. The State of Ohio is investing record amounts to develop biotechnology and biomedical science on campus, with the recent construction of the Dorothy M. Davis Heart & Lung Research Institute (http://heartlung.osu.edu/hlri/index.jsp) and the new Stanley Aronoff Biological Sciences Building ( http://www.biosci.ohio-state.edu/~lsrl/lsrl.htm ). This year they will begin construction of a new research tower that will house some 400 new investigators in biomedical science recruited to our campus. The Dorothy Davis Heart & Lung Institute includes many state-of-the-art core laboratories that are available to investigators, including 1) a genomics core, with Affymetrix microarray facilities, RT-PCR, gene sequencer, PCR etc, 2) the largest and probably the most advanced collection of electron paramagnetic resonance systems in the world for both EPR spectroscopy and imaging, under the direction of Dr. Jay Zweier and Dr. Periannan Kuppusamy, both members of our faculty, 3) a full service proteomics core with 2-D gel, robotics and MALDI- mass spec available, 4) a bioinformatics core lab with a large set of computers and servers for both evaluating gene/microarray databases and some of the most advanced image processing software currently available on the market, 5) a Zeiss 510 confocal and multiphoton microsocope with a 10 W tunable IR pulsed laser (note, a number of other confocal systems are also available on campus), and 6) a very highly equipped flow cytometry and cell sorters core laboratory. Many other core facilities are available on campus including the Chemical Instrument Center http://www.ccic.ohio-state.edu/ that has a number of very high-end NMR magnets (including an 800 MHz spectrometer). A good summary of these can be found on the Biological Sciences, Biochemistry Department website http://www.biosci.ohio-state.edu/~biochem/. The Ohio Supercomputer Center (http://www.osc.edu/) is also available for students to use. There is a biomedical informatics center http://medicine.osu.edu/informatics/ and a considerable array of computer resources for computational and bioinformatics work. The Neurobiotechnology Center is equipped with state-of the art genomics and transgenic facilities (http://www.neurobiotech.ohio-state.edu/neurohome.htm ) and there is a very large group working on plant physiology and plant molecular genetics on campus. One of the most exciting developments for biophysics at Ohio State is the new Mathematical Biosciences Institute in the Math Department (http://mbi.osu.edu/) developed by Avner Friedman and colleagues (http://www.osu.edu/researchnews/archive/mbi.htm). This represents a $10 million investment by the National Science Foundation for Ohio State and it is designed to begin to fully exploit new mathematical approaches to Biological Science. This institute opened its doors in October of 2002 and it is a major new impetus for the University. Finally, the Physics department has its own biophysics initiative within it with a large amount of new resources for biophysics students. Three Physics faculty are currently members of the Biophysics Graduate Program. They also have a brand new building (see: http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/) with state of the art labs and facilities.
I have just touched on the many research facilities at Ohio State to give you a flavor of what is going on here. I hope you will take the time to visit our website http://biophysics.osu.edu/ which lists the various faculty and resources who are in our program. However, many of these faculty also have their own unique research opportunities and equipment within their home laboratories, departments and institutes and it is not fully covered in the summary on the website. Although our website is continually being updated, if for some reason you can’t find current information on a given faculty, you might try the University Website search engine http://www.osu.edu/index.php/ or trying to email them http://www.osu.edu/cgi-bin/Inquiry. In many cases you can get more updated information by searching the Pubmed Website for their work (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi). I truly believe that biophysical research at Ohio State is blossoming very rapidly into a very strong, internationally prominent program that you would be proud to be part of.
5) Unique Aspects of the OSU Biophysics Graduate Program:
Our program is very research oriented, more than most. We have very limited “required curriculum” and we try to tailor each student’s coursework to exactly the direction he or she wishes to take. For example, we have suggested curriculum for students going into each area of “Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics,” “Cellular and Integrative Biophysics,” “Magnetic Resonance and Imaging” and “Bioinformatics and Spectroscopy.” We have students from a wide range of different backgrounds, from pure physics, chemistry of biology backgrounds to math and computer science, so it necessary to tailor the classroom part of the program to the needs of the student, including sometimes some undergraduate courses in areas of need. With the size of the University, there are literally endless opportunities for course work in almost every field. About 60-70% of our students come from other countries, including China, India, Korea, Romania, Iran, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt and others. We are very proud of our diverse student body and this gives the advntage of having cross-cultural experiences for our students and faculty, which enrich our intellectual lives. Currently there are 57 students in the program at various levels with between 10-15 students coming in each year. Essentially all of our students are supported except for the occasional student who is on scholarship from another source or already supported in another way. Over the past few years, our drop out rate is very low with nearly all students completing or moving towards a Ph.D. degree. We do not recruit masters students, but sometimes award a masters degree for students who have completed their requirements and are making the decision to choose other career paths. The formal Biophysics Curriculum currently consists of two, 3 credit courses (required) taken during the first year and a seminar course (required) for the entire graduate education in biophysics. Most of the additional biophysics courses are taught as part of curriculum in departments across campus.
6) Biophysics “First summer research experience”:
A number of years ago we received a grant to bring students to Ohio State in the summer before their formal fall admittance to graduate school. The program was so successful that after the grant ran out we decided to try to do it for all of the students who could come. Our stipend level during this first summer is slightly less (based on the grant), but it is a wonderful way to get started if you can get here in early summer. Basically, there is one biophysics course, which meets once per week that is designed to prepare you to become a scientist and a successful graduate student. Though students are welcome to take some coursework, we encourage them to immerse themselves in research in a laboratory within an area you wish to work in. We work with you over the spring months to facilitate the appropriate lab for this process. It is particularly useful for students coming from other countries because it gives you one quarter to adapt to life in the U.S., find housing and become acquainted with new friends. We hope we can offer this every year and we hope that if at all possible you can participate in this program.