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FAQ for Prospective MEMP students

What is the MEMP doctoral program?

What makes MEMP unique?

How do I decide if I should apply to MEMP through MIT or Harvard?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Q: What is the MEMP doctoral program?

A: The Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (MEMP) PhD program trains students to advance human health. The MEMP program is a unique combination of curriculum, practice and community that integrates:
  • A thorough graduate education in a classical discipline of engineering or physical science
  • In depth training in the biomedical sciences and the practice of medicine through preclinical coursework alongside medical students and clinical experiences in hospital wards
  • Access to research opportunities in labs at Harvard, MIT and Harvard teaching hospitals
  • A community of peers with career paths in medicine, science, engineering, business, and government
  • Original research in the form of a doctoral thesis

Q: What makes MEMP unique?

A: The MEMP program differs significantly from many biomedical engineering (BME) doctoral programs because of its breadth and its depth in multiple dimensions. It not only emphasizes grounding in a classical discipline but it also provides much more exposure to the medical sciences than most BME programs. This exposure comes in many forms, including biomedical sciences coursework in which MD students are peers as well as through multiple clinical experiences. The MEMP program also provides an open environment that allows students to follow their interests even when they cross the conventional barriers between disciplines, professions and institutions.

Alumni have told us that the HST Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM), which is the capstone experience differentiating MEMP from traditional BME programs, is transformative and has a major impact on their careers.

  • The clinical experience is priceless.  Provides months of real-world exposure to the challenges - and rewards - of medicine, from diagnosis to treatment
  • Doing ICM also made my coursework relevant - I saw myriad applications for engineering expertise and abundant problems needing to be tackled. ICM brought these to life in a way lectures or textbooks never would have.
  • The types of students who are drawn to MEMP because of Intro to Clinical Medicine (ICM) are those who want to understand problems from many different angles, not just their engineering discipline, and builds the interdisciplinary culture that HST strives for right from the beginning.
  • From direct observation from my peers and colleagues, HST alumni, that have entered both academia and industry, the ICM experience has prepared them in ways that may have otherwise taken years to learn in order to interact with physicians and advance translation of ideas and products... Medicine is a culture and knowledge base that needs to be experienced in the clinic, learning with patients, and cannot be appreciated solely in the classroom.

Q: How do I decide if I should apply to MEMP through MIT or Harvard?

A: HST expects that the majority of MEMP candidates will apply through MIT, using the MIT online Application for Graduate Admission. Note that MEMP students enrolled through MIT can work in the labs of any Harvard or MIT faculty member, including those at Harvard-affiliated hospitals.
 
You should apply through Harvard if: 
Candidates applying to MEMP in conjunction with either of these Harvard programs should follow these instructions.
 
Candidates applying to MEMP through Harvard must be accepted by both their Harvard program and HST. Therefore, because admissions are extremely competitive and class sizes are small, we encourage you to also submit a MEMP application through MIT. This will increase your chance of admission to MEMP. If you are accepted to MEMP through both MIT and Harvard, you can choose which offer to accept.
 

Q: How do I apply to MEMP through both MIT and Harvard?

A: Candidates applying to MEMP through both MIT and Harvard need to submit two independent applications following both sets of MEMP admissions instructions.
 

Q: How do MEMP students select their research advisors and thesis project?

A: MEMP PhD students admitted through MIT work in a wide variety of research areas and can work in the labs of any MIT or Harvard faculty member, including those based at the Harvard-affiliated hospitals. Faculty formally affiliated with the HST program are listed at http://hst.mit.edu/people/faculty, but MEMP students are not restricted to working with these individuals.
 
As part of the admissions process, promising applicants are invited to visit Cambridge for interviews and tours in late February/early March. At that time, applicants have many opportunities to interact with faculty and current students.  Due to the large number of applications, we do not encourage candidates to contact potential research mentors prior to being invited to interview.
 

Q: When can I begin an application?

A: Our application website opens on August 1.
 

Q: What is the deadline to apply?

A: Deadlines for admission are typically in early December preceding the fall term in which you intend to enroll.
 
We appreciate receiving all recommendations by the application deadline, as that will expedite the processing of your application. We do accept recommendations received shortly after the deadline. Applications will be considered incomplete and may not receive full consideration if the required three letters are not received by December 20 at the latest.
 

Q: What supporting documents are required?

A: Transcripts: All applicants will submit scanned transcripts from each college or university where a degree has or will be earned as part of their online application.  Candidates who are invited to interview will be asked to arrange for an official transcript to be sent directly from each school where a degree has been or will be awarded. Please do not send official of transcripts until you are prompted to do so.
 
We do accept electronic transcripts. Electronic transcripts and instructions for validating the electronic signature should be sent to hst-adms-team@mit.edu.
 
Transcripts from foreign universities must be issued in the original language and be accompanied by an official English translation.
 
Letters of recommendation: three letters are required, of which at least two should come from people who are well-acquainted with your academic work and research abilities. Beyond the three required letters, candidates may submit up to two additional letters if desired. Please ask recommenders to use institutional letterhead when uploading a copy of their letter to your application.
 
HST strongly prefers letters be submitted online. If your recommender encounters problems, hard copies may be sent to HST:
HST PhD Admissions 
MIT E25-518
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
 
Paper copies of letters must be signed originals, on institution letterhead, accompanied by the "MIT Evaluation for Graduate Admission" cover form, sent in a sealed envelope by the recommender, and signed over the seal.
 
HST does not accept emailed or faxed letters of recommendation.
 
Test score reports: The GRE general test is required. Please have your GRE scores sent to HST at MIT using institution code 3514 and department code 0699-Health and Medical Sciences-Other. Although, scores with the wrong or missing department code will eventually be matched to your HST submitted application, there could be a delay. We advise using the HST department code directly in your request to the testing agency.
 
If your first language is not English, you need to take either the TOEFL or the IELTS. This requirement is waived if the language of instruction in your high school/secondary school was English. If you take the TOEFL, you must achieve a minimum score of 100 on the internet-based test (iBT). On the IELTS you must score a minimum of 7. Official TOEFL test scores should be sent to HST at MIT using institution code 3514 and department code is 99. IELTS does not use a coding system, designated Health Sciences and Technology (HST) as the MIT department to receive official scores.
 
Applicants applying through MIT will be asked to upload a PDF copy of their test scores as part of the application.  These will be place holders until official test scores can be inserted into the application. All official test scores sent to MIT (institutional code 3514), regardless of department code, will be matched to any submitted MIT graduate applications. We consider the best scores from each section if the test has been taken multiple times.
 

Q: Do I need to complete the Subjects Taken section of the MIT application if the courses are also listed on my transcript?

A: Yes, the Subjects Taken section is meant to be a summary of the most relevant courses along with information about the textbooks used. This allows our committee to see the courses, grouped by topic, that you feel are most relevant to your application. Knowing which textbooks were used allows our faculty to see the level of instruction and evaluate your preparation for our program.

List only relevant courses grouped by subject. If you do not have all of your textbooks used please provide as much information as you have available.  Also it is not necessary to list courses completed at MIT that appear on your MIT transcript.

 

Q: If I am applying only through Harvard, how do I supply supporting documents to HST?

A: Letters of recommendation: Once we receive the completed Harvard application, we will make arrangements directly with staff at Harvard to obtain copies of submitted letters of recommendation.

Transcripts: Applications must include transcripts from each college or university where a degree has or will be earned. All applicants will submit a scanned transcript as part of their online application.  Candidates who are invited to interview will be asked to arrange for an official transcript to be sent directly from each school where a degree is expected or has been awarded. Please do not send hard copies of transcripts until you are prompted to do so. We accept electronic transcripts. Upon request from HST, electronic transcripts and instructions for validating the electronic signature should be sent to hst-adms-team@mit.edu.
 
Transcripts from foreign universities must be issued in the original language and be accompanied by an official English translation.
 
Test score reports: all GRE or language test results should be official copies sent directly to HST from the testing service, in addition to the official copies sent to Harvard.
 

Q: May I send additional supporting materials?

A: HST does not accept additional supporting materials, and if received, such materials will not be reviewed.
 

Q: Is the GRE required?

A: GRE general test scores are required of all MEMP applicants. The quantitative and analytical GRE scores of successful candidates are generally above the 90th percentile, and verbal scores are generally above the 75th percentile. However, scores are given less weight than grades, research experience, and recommendations.
 
To send GRE scores to HST, use ETS codes 3514 (institutional code) and 0699-Health and Medical Sciences-Other (departmental code). All official test scores sent to MIT (institutional code 3514), regardless of department code, will be matched to any submitted MIT graduate applications. In addition, we consider the best scores from each section if the test has been taken multiple times.
 

Q: Are TOEFL or IELTS scores required for international students who attended US colleges?

A: Yes. HST places a high premium on both written and spoken communication skills, and requires any candidate whose native language is not English to submit proof of language proficiency, even if the candidate received an undergraduate or masters degree from a U.S. institution. 
 
Applicants whose secondary (high school) education was conducted in English are eligible for a waiver of this requirement. Applicants should identify English as the language of instruction for their secondary education on the MIT application.
 
HST also accepts TOEFL or IELTS scores as proof of English language proficiency. Applicants are required to have a TOEFL score of at least 100 on the internet-based test (iBT). or an IELTS score of at least 7. In addition, recommenders whose native language is English may provide input regarding the applicant's English proficiency in their letter of recommendation.
 
When submitting TOEFL scores, use codes 3514 (institutional code) and 99 (departmental code). For IELTS score reports, no code system is used; only the name of the department (Health Sciences and Technology) is required. All official test scores sent to MIT (institutional code 3514), regardless of department code, will be matched to any submitted MIT graduate applications.
 

Q: Where do I send supporting documents?

A: Candidates who are invited to interview will be asked to arrange for an official transcript to be sent directly from each school where they earned or will receive a degree. Please do not send hard copies of transcripts until you are prompted to do so. The mailing address for any material to be sent by postal mail is:
 
HST PhD Admissions
MIT E25-518
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
 
Please do not send copies of journal articles, certificates of graduation, completion of programs, or photographs; this material will not be used in application reviews.

Q: How will I know if my application is complete?

A: After the application deadline, we will notify you by email that your application has been received. At that time, we will also inform you if any supporting materials are missing. Please note that because of the large volume of applications received just before the deadline, it may take from several days to a few weeks before we can acknowledge receipt of your application.
 

Q: What happens after HST receives my application?

A: The stages in our process are:
  • review of applications and invitations to selected candidates for interviews;
  • interviews which take place in late February or early March;
  • admissions decisions and notifications made by mid-March.

Q: When will my application be reviewed?

A: The HST Graduate Admissions Committee reviews all MEMP applications during the month of January. Applications are reviewed by a number of members of the Committee. 
 

Q: When will I know if I have been selected for an interview? When are the interviews?

A: In early February, HST emails invitations to candidates who have been selected to interview. Candidates who are not selected to interview will receive formal notification of their status as soon as possible.
 
Candidates chosen for interviews will be expected to come to MIT during our interview period, typically held in late February or early March. In the case of applicants at a significant distance (generally those outside of North America), telephone/video conference interviews may be conducted. The final admissions decisions will be made from the pool of interviewed applicants.
 

Q: How will I know whether or not I have been accepted?

A: Applicants invited to interview will be notified by mid-March of HST's decision. All notifications are sent via email.
 
Candidates offered admission will be asked to let us know their decision as soon as possible, but no later than April 15th. 
 

Q: What are my chances of being accepted to MEMP?

A: Admission to MEMP is extremely competitive, with 15-20% of applicants invited to interview and less than 10% of applicants offered admission.
 
All candidates to MEMP should have at least a baccalaureate degree in engineering or physical science. Successful candidates will have demonstrated a sustained interest in applications of engineering and physical science principles to biology or medicine through courses, research, and/or industrial experience. In addition, successful candidates typically have a grade point average of 3.6 or higher on a 4.0 scale, strong letters of recommendation from faculty or others with whom they have worked closely, and relevant prior research experience. The quantitative reasoning GRE scores of successful candidates are generally above the 90th percentile, while verbal reasoning and analytic writing scores are generally above the 75th percentile. However, GRE scores are given less weight than grades, research experience, and recommendations.
 

Q: What types of financial support are available?

A: All incoming students are considered for internal fellowship support. Funding offers depend on individual circumstances but usually include tuition, stipend and health insurance for the first academic year. After that, students are typically funded by research assistantships, teaching assistantships and outside fellowships. HST is proud that more than 1/3 of our students are supported by external fellowship. We make every effort to help our students secure resources to meet their financial needs.

Q: I'm an international student. How does that effect my chances of being admitted and receiving first-year funding?

A: All applications are evaluated without consideration of nationality or citizenship. Similarly, funding offers to admitted candidates are typically the same for domestic and international candidates.

Q: If I'm accepted, can I defer my admission until the following year?

A: You should apply to MEMP in the December preceding the fall term in which you intend to enroll. HST does not grant deferrals for students to pursue business ventures, industrial experience, public service opportunities, travel or educational programs unrelated to medical engineering. HST will consider requests for deferrals in cases where applicants receive opportunities for international study via the Churchill Scholarship, Whitaker International Fellowship, Rhodes Scholarship and other similar programs.

Q: Can I still apply to MEMP if my undergraduate major is not in engineering or physical sciences?

A: A traditional life sciences curriculum is generally not adequate preparation for MEMP.  However, some successful applicants have an undergraduate degree in the life sciences augmented by extensive coursework in mathematics, physics, engineering, and/or computer science. This may take the form of formal minor program or a less-formal collection of courses that provide a similar level of expertise in a quantitative field.

Q: Can I still apply if...

... I'm a first year grad student at MIT in Mechanical Engineering (or another engineering or physical science discipline)? I didn't know about HST when I applied to graduate school, but now I'm really interested in MEMP.
 
A: Yes, you may. If admitted, you would transfer from Mechanical Engineering to MEMP. It's very likely that the coursework and research that you are doing in your first year of graduate school can be used to satisfy requirements towards your MEMP degree.
 

Q: Will I have to take MEMP Quals if...

...I'm a first year grad student at MIT in Chemical Engineering (or another engineering or physical science discipline), I've already passed my quals in my department, and I've been accepted to MEMP for next year?
 
A: If you've already passed doctoral qualifying exams in another department at MIT, then you can submit a petition requesting to substitute that qualifying exam for your MEMP quals. The faculty committee that oversees MEMP quals will decide on your petition by reviewing your academic performance and comparing the ChemE quals to the MEMP quals.
 

Q: Do MEMP students get a master's degree on the way to their PhD?

A: Master's degrees are not required in MEMP, and HST does not typically grant master's degrees to MEMP students. It is possible for MEMP students to earn a master's degree in a related field (for example, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering). If you are interested in this option, you must apply directly to the appropriate department for their master's program. In most cases, the coursework and research required for the master's degree can also be used to satisfy requirements towards your MEMP degree.