Guide to the UVA BME Interview Weekend (from the perspective of a current graduate student)
Some insights from Gabi Martinez and Kaitlyn Wintruba, graduate students in Biomedical Engineering at UVA.
Question: What happens after I submit my application?
Answer: After the admissions committee and relevant faculty reviews your application, the next stage in the process will be for one of them to reach out as a first-faculty contact and request a phone call or Zoom meeting. During this interaction, students may be officially invited to come interview at UVA; or, the official invitation may come afterwards. Applicants will hear back sometime in January or February if they were selected to attend an interview weekend in late February/early March. If you attend one of our two interview weekends, our goal through this process is to give you as much information about what life and research is like for students in our department so you can make the best decision about if UVA BME is right for you. While we do have plenty of fun activities planned so that you can mix and mingle with lots of current students, this is also an interview process. So, whether this is your first graduate interview weekend or not, here is some advice from us as current students!
Q: What should I expect during an interview with a faculty member?
A: Be prepared for faculty to ask you about your experiences and what makes you a strong applicant for their lab or the program more generally- being able to concisely and clearly explain any past research experience or what has influenced your current interests helps to make a good impression during interviews. While this is a time for faculty to see how well you would fit into their lab, it is as much a time for you to assess if that faculty member’s lab would be a good fit for you. Therefore, it is important to ask plenty of questions to the potential advisor and their graduate students based on what you are looking to get out of your graduate experience. These could be questions around lab culture, mentorship style, conference/publishing expectations, or all the above! It is also important to note that you should look into each of the labs that you will be interviewing with beforehand so that you can ask specific questions related to their expertise. Here are some questions you can ask any faculty member if you are not sure where to start.
Potential Questions for Faculty
- How would you describe your mentorship style?
- Are you open to your graduate students pursuing industry internships?
- What are your expectations around graduate students applying for training grants/fellowships? Do you have students currently supported by grants/fellowships?
- How do you assist new graduate students in determining their project direction?
- How many papers do your students typically publish while they are here?
- Do you provide funding for conferences/travel?
- What are your expectations for work hours during the week and on the weekends?
- Potential Questions for Current Graduate Students in the Lab
- How would you describe Dr. ____’s mentorship style?
- What influenced your decision to join this lab? Did you rotate or direct match?
- How would you describe the lab culture?
- Is there something you wish you could change about your lab?
- What is your favorite part about being in this lab?
- How does Dr. ___ support you when you feel overwhelmed/stressed?
- How do you feel about the work/life balance in this lab?
- What should I expect for the rest of the weekend?
Outside of interviews, this will be your time to really get a feel for the department community as a whole and life in Charlottesville. You will be paired with a graduate student host who will reach out to you before the weekend starts and will help guide you through the weekend by taking you to your interviews, introducing you to other graduate students, and giving you more insight into their own experience at UVA. You will get to meet other recruits and their hosts through several casual social activities such as small group dinners, happy hour, and more. Potential questions for your graduate student host/other students you meet include:
- What made you decide to join UVA BME?
- How would you describe the department culture?
- What do you do for fun outside of lab?
- What kind of things are there to do around Charlottesville/do you like living in Charlottesville?
- Do you feel like your stipend is sufficient to comfortably pay rent, buy groceries, etc.?
- Have you had any teaching or scientific interactions with Dr. ___?
- General questions around required classes, TA-ships, PhD timeline, etc.
After the weekend ends
After you have had lots of good food, met lots of graduate students, and had exciting conversations about your scientific interests with faculty, you will have to decide which faculty you best connected with and what your ideal offer would look like. This will either be a rotation between a few labs (typically 2-3) or a direct match to your favorite lab (see article on Rotations versus Match). If there are any labs you feel strongly about, feel free to follow up with that faculty member to maintain contact- it always helps when faculty understand the level of interest from the prospective graduate students who they talked to.
Note that there will be very little time between the interview weekend and when you need to submit your lab preferences, so don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as needed to make an informed decision. Then, once your preferences have been submitted, faculty will review these forms and offers will be given when the student and faculty preferences align. Offers will begin to roll out in waves over the series of a few weeks. Some students will receive their decisions after 1 week and some after 4, so do not stress if you do not hear back immediately. Lastly, if you have any additional questions after the weekend is over or after you get an offer, you can reach back out to your graduate student host or the recruitment chairs, and we will make sure you get the resources you need!