When I was 23, I quit my computer science undergraduate studies at USC with only one semester worth of units left and a low (less than 3.0) GPA due to personal reasons. I just turned 30 and have rekindled a desire to pursue research in computational neuroscience. Is there any realistic hope of eventually getting into a PhD program and pursuing a career in academia, or is it too much of a long shot given my personal circumstances and the job market?
Basically, what I want to know is, if I were to finish my BS, kick ass in a master's program (applied mathematics), and have great GRE scores, would that overcome my abysmal undergraduate record and gap in years away from school?
The biggest obstacle in my view is getting into a terminal master's program with my undergraduate record. If I were to get into a 1-year terminal master's program in mathematics at a sub-par university and do great, would I have a chance at a higher ranked university for my PhD?