Introducing: Your EpiTranscript

Becky Adams, 11/25/2020

Why are we here?

As the faculty of the Biology department at Belmont, we think it is our duty to not only teach concepts within the classroom, but also to provide guidance for how to prepare to apply for post-undergraduate education, as many of our students will do. This website is focused on providing that information for students interested in applying for Masters and PhD programs in the biomedical sciences. We anticipate that this blog will include information like: what kinds of experiences are needed to make a competitive application for graduate school, how to get research experience and how early to do so, interviews with admissions committee members, and stories/contact info for alumni who have gone from Belmont to anywhere (specifically, graduate school).

What’s with the weird name?

Being a dork, I had to make it science-y. Hopefully you know that a transcript is a piece of RNA (a molecule that has been transcribed). Well, once transcription is done, that is not all that is done to the RNA. RNAs can also be “decorated” or modified by the addition of chemical groups to the nucleotide, like methyl groups that can be added to the sugar or base. Since this is an addition to the standard nucleotide structure, it is an addition on top of the transcript. The prefix “epi” means above or upon, so epitranscriptional modifications are addition of chemical groups to a transcript, and the epitranscriptome is the collection of the modifications for all RNAs in a cell, tissue, or organism.

In addition to the very important definition of transcript being an RNA molecule, a collection of nucleotide letters, it also means the collection of letter grades from classes that you take as a student. As you know, you provide your transcript when you apply to graduate school, but you might not consider as strongly the additions on top of your transcript when you submit your application–your epi-transcript (a term I’m coining today)! This includes research opportunities, honors and awards, extracurricular activities, and leadership opportunities. In many ways your epitranscript is more important than your actual GPA. For example, a student with excellent grades might not be admitted to graduate school if she doesn’t also have robust research experience. And in some cases, extensive research experience can boost the application of a student with a less than stellar GPA. Therefore, students should start preparing their epitranscript concurrently with their actual transcript.

What to look out for

We plan to add to this blog approximately every month with lots of information to help guide your journey: to stretch the analogy, from your start as a student (transcription) to your graduation from Belmont and release into the greater scientific community (nuclear export). You’ll use all of the skills you’ve acquired to impact the scientific community beyond Belmont (translation…? maybe? this analogy is wearing thin). To help you in this journey, check out this website regularly: keep up with the REU opportunities that are posted, read the blog, and subscribe to stay apprised. Also, be sure to reach out with questions–my information is in the Contact section.

In the meantime, happy studying!

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