Mounika Ponakala is currently in the Rutgers graduate school of biomedical sciences masters program where she plans to go on to medical school to become a neurologist. When she’s not studying the microscopic structures of tissue, or the chemical and physio-chemical processes that occur in living organisms, she enjoys watching Eleanor Shellstrop figure out her impossible circumstance on The Good Place.
Why did you decide to join this masters program? I decided to attend the program because I graduated undergrad in three years, and instead of doing nothing with my time while I was applying to medical school, I decided it would be a good idea to continue learning. I also thought it would be good to have the degree.
What classes are you currently taking, and what are they like? I am currently taking histology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and immunology. I was able to choose all of them except biochem- everyone has to take that. We don’t have any labs, classes are all lecture based. Also attendance is not really considered, lots of people just listen to the lectures on 1.5x or 2x the speed. There’s also really no participation or homework, you’re entire grade is based on the midterm and final.
How would you say masters is compared to undergrad? Masters is easily harder than undergrad, but it’s also not as bad as I expected. What makes it hard is that there is just so much information, the questions are pretty straightforward multiple choice questions. You also have a lot more free time, and theoretically you should spend a lot of time studying. The classes have 100 students, so professors will not know you personally. You can’t really expect the kind of support you had in college or high school.
What is your favorite thing about the program so far? I love that I’m learning medicine. I’m not learning ecology or evolution, which don’t get me wrong is interesting, but about the human body and how the human body reacts to medicine. We’re learning about the eye cells and skin cells and how they are different which is really cool. Things that are truly related to medicine which is pertinent to what I want to do when I am older. as opposed to general biology.
What is your least favorite thing about the program? The amount of stress. I know if I do well, it will really help me out in medical school applications, and even medical school because I’m taking a lot of the same classes that first year medical students take. I really appreciate having a “trial run” before actually going to medical school, with higher stakes, but I still have pressure.
If your program was a television show, it would be: a mix between Survivor and Master of None. Survivor because some people are really competitive and cut throat, and it can sometimes feel like there is this “it’s you or me” attitude. Master of None because I feel like most people are there because they are trying to figure things out. They are going one day at a time. It’s like, tomorrow I’m going to finish this chapter, then I’m going to do well on the midterm, and then get this gpa, and then finish this year. It’s not just like four years from now, I want to be a doctor, or a dentist, or nurse. You have to take it step by step, and I think Master of None does a really good job of showing that process, and how all you can do is take it one day at a time.
Any advice for someone who wants to apply? Know why you are applying to the program. Don’t just do it to get another degree, but to further your career. As for the actual application, do well on the mcat, have a good relationship with your teachers, have a good gpa, and science gpa- the usual stuff for any grad program program.
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