UCSD for PhD or Stanford for MS?

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UCSD for PhD or Stanford for MS?

Postby phoenixblitzer » Sat Feb 27, 2010 7:25 pm

Hi all, I've been browsing these forums a bit but haven't really posted until now. It seems like you guys hand out some decently well informed advice so I'd like to seek your opinions regarding my situation.

I'm a 1st year PhD student in Physics at UCSD doing experimental condensed matter. My research is on synthesizing and characterizing thin-film magnetic multilayers for potential spintronics applications. I am advised by a professor that has over 200 publications and 40 patents in this area of study, and is definitely one of the big-names in the field of magnetic materials. I went to UCSD for my BS in Physics also.

I applied to Stanford EE for admission to their PhD program for Fall 2010 and recently received a rejection. They did mention that I am accepted to their MS-only program though. There is potential for petitioning into the PhD program in the Spring if I meet a few requirements: take a full course-load, maintain a 3.5 GPA, and a letter of support from a full-time EE faculty member. None of my UCSD course credits will transfer.

I am interested in staying in academia after my PhD and would like to obtain a faculty position at a decent university afterwards.

Obviously the decision should be what I personally feel is right for me, but I'm having a hard time justifying very well either side of the coin. And to top it off, I have no idea what the frequency of success is for a MS->PhD petition at Stanford.

What do you guys think is a better option here? Stay at UCSD and finish off this PHd or take a shot at Stanford?

Do you need more info?
Last edited by phoenixblitzer on Sun Feb 28, 2010 2:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: UCSD for PHd or Stanford for MS?

Postby mobytish » Sat Feb 27, 2010 7:58 pm

Well, I'm no expert, but my opinion would be to stay where you are. Here's my reasoning:

- It'll take an extra year to complete
- You'll have to re-establish yourself in research
- You may not actually be successful at Stanford
- For the most part, you're happy with UCSD (I'm guessing)

Basically, the idea is if you're happy where you are (ignoring the relative job prospects from each because I don't know enough about them to know if Stanford would be 100x better than UCSD or not) then I wouldn't risk the change just to go to a bigger name school. Of course, if you're not necessarily satisfied with UCSD, that might change things considerably.

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Re: UCSD for PHd or Stanford for MS?

Postby psfcnut » Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:47 pm

I'm not going to say I'm an expert either, but I would tend to agree with mobytish's input. I'm considering a similar situation right now where I'm deciding whether to stay at my undergraduate university or not. My thesis adviser wants me to stay and my academic adviser is discouraging it. Both, however, have told me that it's frowned upon in their minds and the minds of their colleagues for people to stay at the the same place they did their PhD program. I should point out that their fields are NOT condensed matter and the university is different from Stanford so I would not explicitly suggest either way for your situation, but it is still an opinion worth consideration. Sorry if this actually added another layer of complexity. :?

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Re: UCSD for PHd or Stanford for MS?

Postby phoenixblitzer » Sun Feb 28, 2010 10:12 pm

Interesting. Is there anybody out there that has a dissenting opinion or any insight that hasn't been brought up yet?

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Re: UCSD for PhD or Stanford for MS?

Postby noojens » Sun Feb 28, 2010 10:59 pm

Eh, I think everyone who frowns on "academic inbreeding" read Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman a few too many times. It seems like everyone in science has a hard on for Dick.

From a student's perspective, I think there can be some compelling reasons to stay at your undergrad (or MS) institution for your PhD. Top among these would be the fact that you know your advisor and already know you get along well as people and as researchers. Moving to a new school is always a gamble, and I'm sure we've all heard horror stories from colleagues who moved away for a PhD at their dream school, all full of dewey-eyed excitement, only to find out their advisor was kind of a prick.

So if you already know, like, and work well with your advisor, I'd think hard before moving.

That said, here's some food for thought on the "dissenting opinion" side:

- If you don't end up in academia (and make no mistake, 80-90% of us won't), a degree from Stanford will have better name recognition than one from UCSD.
- EE also presents more non-academic jobs than physics.
- Engineers in general, and (I suspect -- feel free to challenge this with statistics) EEs in particular have an easier time finding academic positions than physicists, mainly due to the larger pool of non-academic employers hiring engineering PhDs for high salaries in industry.

Anyway, good luck to ya. It's an enviable dilemma to have :)

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Re: UCSD for PhD or Stanford for MS?

Postby grae313 » Mon Mar 01, 2010 1:28 pm

I think you should speak on the phone with someone at Stanford who can tell you the likelihood of admission into the PhD program assuming you meet the requirements you listed. If academia is your end goal, I think a degree from Stanford will do more to help you achieve this. Is the financial cost of an unfunded year as a master's student an issue?

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Re: UCSD for PhD or Stanford for MS?

Postby phoenixblitzer » Fri Mar 05, 2010 2:36 pm

According to the department: the petition is a common process and are usually approved if students can meet the 3.5 minimum GPA requirement and most importantly find a faculty member who is willing to supervise and provide funding for the student's PhD research.

So most likely, if I worked my butt off...it would happen. And I'm one that has no trouble putting my knuckles up against the grindstone.

I'm starting to lean towards staying here. Nice weather.

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