lxhrk9 wrote:I am currently deciding between UIUC and Cornell for condensed matter. I have seen several posts on this but my question is a bit different.
1) I just visited Cornell and loved it. I have visited UIUC before and disliked the town and am loath to even visit again.
2) My experience is in CMT and this is where I have been planning to stay but now I am seriously considering expt in spintronics related work. On the other hand, I have not tried experimental work and have no idea whether I would enjoy it.
3) There is only one person in CMT I want to work for at Cornell (but 2 in Expt)
So, my questions are these:
Would it be foolish to go to the place I'm seriously excited about when the research possibilities are more uncertain?
I'm considering not even visiting UIUC, would this be a huge mistake?
First off, my advice would be to definitely visit UIUC. There's no rush to make this decision.
As for your question, I personally don't think it would be foolish but others may disagree. The reason is because I think there is a lot more to how much you enjoy your research and how successful you are at it than how interesting the research seems from the website or even from talking to the professor. I've talked to many students who did rotations and it's common for me to hear that the professor they were most excited about working with (based on how they looked on paper and talking with the prof) ended up not being a good fit for them when they actually tried out the lab. A lot of people will advise you to pick an adviser that you get along with rather than the research that sounds the coolest. I don't think this is the best advice for everyone.
Some people really know exactly what they want to do and need little external input to be productive in that area. However I think for a lot of us, we could be happy doing a lot of different things. There are interesting problems to solve in every area of physics.
I think your question gets a little tougher when you're considering schools of greatly different reputation, but remember that your particular dilemma is a privilege. If you find yourself stressing over this, remember that you can't really go wrong.
So if you're the type of person that is passionate about doing physics and little else, I'd go where the best research match is. From your post it sounds like that's not the case, and if you loved and are excited about Cornell I don't think you have a good reason to doubt that. However, you loose nothing by giving UIUC a chance to show you what they can offer.