So far I've gotten into the schools in the title and I am having a hard time deciding. Although, if I end up hearing that I have gotten into Berkeley I will definitely be going there.
A bit of background -- I am currently working in the big quantum computing group at University of Maryland. I work in the ion-photon entanglement lab and I really like this kind of research. Back in high school, I came across the subject of entanglement in a pop-sci physics book I was reading and I thought it was so weird and interesting -- I cite this topic as one of the main factors that compelled me to pursue physics. Anyway, I really like trapped ions stuff.
So far, I have gotten offers from a PI at both University of Michigan and University of Washington for trapped ion research. I feel like Michigan is a better school and will look better if I try to stay in academia -- but their trapped ion group is really small. There is only one grad student and two undergraduates in their group right now (as listed on the website), and I really do not think I would thrive in such a small group, especially if I end up being the only grad student in the group in the future.
The offer from University of Washington is much more enticing -- the group is a good size and has a few other women in it (this is something I look for, I don't want to be the only woman in a group especially if it is a bigger group). I know for a fact that the PI is a pretty nice guy (graduate student in my current lab used to work for him as an undergrad and they still keep in touch, she has good things to say about him). I have other reasons to think this guy is a pretty good guy to work for.
UCLA has a trapped ion group I am reasonably certain I could get an RA with (but no women, and not sure if I'd like living there) and University of Wisconsin has a neutral atom group and I would love living in Madison (seriously beautiful campus and awesome college town) but I am not sure about the advisor.
ANYWAY! The point is, I don't really know how to compare the rankings of these schools. I feel like University of Washington is considered the least competitive of all my options but it's the school I am the most interested in. If University of Michigan is really that much better than University of Washington in AMO then I think I would probably go the University of Michigan and try to find a different AMO group (not trapped ions) to work in. Anyone have any thoughts on how these schools compare?