I would like to attend a competitive graduate program in applied mathematics. My interest is harmonic analysis and computational linear algebra, with application to neuroimaging (e.g., MRI) and possibly image processing more generally. I tentatively applied to one applied math program last fall to test the waters. My application was not rejected until two days before the acceptance deadline, which I took for a good sign. Help me be more successful when I apply to this and similar programs in the fall.
I work as an MRI technician at a university. I have previously worked for three years as a research assistant in cognitive psychology. I have been taking math courses for three years as a non-degree-seeking student. My lowest grade is a single B+. I have taken a number of upper-division undergraduate courses (e.g., analysis), but no graduate courses yet. The courses I've taken basically add up to the requirements for a bachelor's in math.
I plan to take my first course in the target program in the fall. It has the evocative course catalog number 666.
My biggest weakness is a lack of meaningful letters of recommendation. My BA is in cognitive science, not math. I graduated with it six years ago. My former professors barely remembered me four years ago, when I turned to them for work-related references, and they certainly don't remember me now. I was an unremarkable student. During my adventures in mathematics, I have not taken more than one course with any one instructor: it's a large department with lots of faculty members. No one knows me well, except for my former lab supervisors. They have known and mentored me for years and will write glowing letters, but they are psychologists, not mathematicians.
My GRE scores are 170/166. The conversion charts provided by ETS suggest that this is equivalent to 800/800. My essay score is only a 4.5 — I imagine I could improve it with practice, but I also suspect that it's an insignificant factor during admissions. I was intimidated by the subject test in math and didn't take it. I plan to study for it over the summer and take it when it's offered again in October.
I am comfortable with MATLAB and have a few years of experience using it for scripting in the context of data analysis. I am familiar with several other languages, but am not idiomatic in them.
I have a number of co-author credits on conference posters and papers, but they are all in cognitive disciplines. My ability to do independent methodological research in neuroimaging is limited by my lack of background: really, that's the point of attending the program. I could continue collaborating with faculty on psychology and neuroscienceresearch, but I'm not sure what that would contribute to my application.
I have met a few times with faculty from the program that is my first choice. They are sympathetic and encouraging, but make a policy of avoiding specific advice beyond "just apply and see what happens." It is a competitive program that ranks well nationally (top 20). I would also like to apply to other similarly ranking programs that match my interests.
Short to-do list:
- take subject test in math
- take a graduate class in the target program and do well
- explore opportunities for collaborative research
- meet again with faculty at first-choice program
- explore similar programs to target with applications