Today’s Visitors, Tomorrow’s Students

By Mika Ono

Weekends at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have been busier than usual recently, as prospective graduate students from around the country have come to visit the campus, meet with faculty and students, and learn about TSRI’s graduate program.

“This year, we’re expecting some 120 prospective students to visit the campus over four weekends,” says Marylyn Rinaldi, graduate program administrator. "We set up interviews for each candidate to meet with the scientists that he or she has expressed an interest in doing their thesis research with. That way, candidates get the most out of their time here."

Each year a total of over 350 individuals apply to TSRI’s two graduate programs, Chemistry, and Macromolecular and Cellular Structure and Chemistry (MCSC), by the January 1 deadline. Members of the selection committees—Jeffery Kelly, Erik Sorensen, Chi-Huey Wong, and Philip Dawson for Chemistry; Kelly, Stephen Mayfield, and James Williamson for MCSC—then review the applications to decide who will be invited to visit. Travel and lodging arrangements are made by the Office of Graduate Studies.

Once the prospective students arrive in San Diego, they are escorted through a dizzying three-day schedule of activities. As they attend interviews, meetings, dinners, receptions, tours, and parties, business is mixed with pleasure. "They get a lot of attention," says Rinaldi.

Throughout, both the candidates and TSRI evaluate each other as potential partners in an important union. What is at stake? For the candidates, choosing a graduate program is one of the most important decisions in their career. For TSRI, attracting talented students is key to both the quality of its research and its future reputation.

"We have to be pretty serious about a candidate to pick up the expense of flying him or her out here," comments Rinaldi, "but at the same time we don’t accept everyone we interview. Candidates have to demonstrate self-motivation and the ability to ask the right questions when they are here. We recognize that graduate studies can be a tough course and we want all our students to succeed."

After the candidates have left, the selection committee again meets, this time to determine who will receive an offer letter. Those who accept this offer are often drawn to TSRI’s stellar rankings (listed in the top 10 nationwide in a "U.S. News & World Report" review), outstanding faculty, and La Jolla location.

In a few short months, about 45 students—among these weekend visitors—will return as the newest members of TSRI’s graduate program.



A reception offered prospective students a chance to mingle with TSRI faculty, staff, and graduate fellows.