Huge School or Small University?

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TychoBrahe
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Huge School or Small University?

Postby TychoBrahe » Mon Mar 23, 2009 2:55 am

I am having a tough time deciding between one of the largest schools in the nation (Ohio State) and a smaller university (Rochester). I come from a small liberal arts school, so a large school is intimidating, and I don't want to be lost in the crowd. However, the great resources and funding of large schools is quite nice. Does anyone have advice to offer when choosing between grad schools of very different size?

My area of interest is astrophysics. The programs at OSU and UR both seem great. Rochester gave me a somewhat better offer. Anyone have any helpful information or advice on choosing between these two schools?

nathan12343
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Re: Huge School or Small University?

Postby nathan12343 » Mon Mar 23, 2009 4:31 am

I don't know much about the programs at either school, although I've heard very good things about OSU on this forum and from others I met on prospective visits. Have you visited yet? What were your thoughts?

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grae313
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Re: Huge School or Small University?

Postby grae313 » Mon Mar 23, 2009 9:33 am

TychoBrahe wrote:I am having a tough time deciding between one of the largest schools in the nation (Ohio State) and a smaller university (Rochester). I come from a small liberal arts school, so a large school is intimidating, and I don't want to be lost in the crowd. However, the great resources and funding of large schools is quite nice. Does anyone have advice to offer when choosing between grad schools of very different size?

My area of interest is astrophysics. The programs at OSU and UR both seem great. Rochester gave me a somewhat better offer. Anyone have any helpful information or advice on choosing between these two schools?


My experience is that the size of the department is much more important than the size of the school--maybe this is what you are referring to? If not, let me just say that you'll be spending pretty much all of your time in one or two buildings, and most of your interactions will be with other first or second years and the department faculty and staff. I would call Cornell (where I am) a big school (~20k) and a big department (~200 physics grad students total), but the staff and the faculty I have met all know me by name, as of course do all the other first years.

Anyways, I wouldn't let the school size be the determining factor. View this as your chance to grow and try something new, and I think you'll be perfectly find wherever you go.

astrofan
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Re: Huge School or Small University?

Postby astrofan » Mon Mar 23, 2009 11:18 am

Well, first question is have you visited Rochester (I don't know when their open house is)? If you haven't, then you should wait until you visit; you might be able to decide after doing so.

If you have visited, and you are pretty certain that you want to do astrophysics, OSU is probably the better bet. From my count, Rochester has 7 people doing work in astrophysics (I am not counting the Emeritus profs; though I guess it is 8 if you want to count Tarduno who is more like a geophysicist). There are 3 doing theory, 3 doing observation, and 1 doing both. They cover a good range of astrophysics (although I see no one working on cosmology), but nothing like OSU. If you are very interested in a professor's work at Rochester, than go for it. However, if you are not certain, than OSU has a much more complete program.

Additionally, OSU is known for training their students in astronomy very well, as well as placing them in good post doc positions. Moreover, the quals will not be nearly as annoying in an astronomy department as compared to a combined program at Rochester. Not that I think OSU is the best place in country, but I would go to OSU over Rochester for astronomy.

nonick
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Re: Huge School or Small University?

Postby nonick » Mon Mar 23, 2009 4:01 pm

Rochester is great for optics/AMO, however, it's pretty average for everything else. At least my impression is that OSU is the better place of the two. That being said, it all comes down to who you want to work with and if there are enough people you are interested to work with at both places.

milkyway
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Re: Huge School or Small University?

Postby milkyway » Tue Mar 24, 2009 10:13 pm

While Ohio State is large overall, you will really only be involved in your department, so I am not sure how much impact the size of university has on graduate school anyway. In general, grad students are fairly separate from other departments and undergraduates, so the department(s) you work in are really your only exposure to the university (unless you actively pursue other stuff).

In astrophysics, I think that Ohio State is much better than Rochester. Ohio State has a very strong reputation in astronomy/astrophysics, while Rochester does not have that reputation (except in optics). I am a fairly senior graduate student who is starting to postdocs, and I can say that Ohio State grad students do well on the job market, while I almost never see someone from Rochester who gets the prestigious job offers. The students at Ohio State publish many papers, and usually on a few different subjects too. Additionally, as someone else noted above, there are not many people who do astrophysics at Rochester compared to Ohio State. As a consequence, I think you would be exposed to more research, ideas, and classes, that will broaden your astrophysics knowledge there than you would at Rochester.

TychoBrahe
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Re: Huge School or Small University?

Postby TychoBrahe » Fri Mar 27, 2009 4:17 am

Thanks for the responses. I appreciate hearing what you all have to say and it sounds like good advice.

I have visited both schools and my thoughts were these:

OSU was big, but much less intimidating than I had imagined. Lots of resources, brand new building, great cooperative programs for physics and astronomy, and cool experimental astrophysics stuff. Offer: $16,750

Rochester was small, with really nice people. Theoretical astrophysics work with plasma was cool. Not as much choice when it comes to astrophysics (I'm not interested much in observation or instrumentation). Offer: $19,640 + (this summer up to $5880)

Also of note, I was accepted to OSU's physics dept., which I am told is somewhat less reputable than the astronomy dept.. Is this true? However, there seems to be a good deal of collaboration between the departments and the head of the physics dept. holds a joint appointment with the astronomy dept.

valloein
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Re: Huge School or Small University?

Postby valloein » Tue Mar 31, 2009 12:13 am

TychoBrahe wrote:Rochester was small, with really nice people. Theoretical astrophysics work with plasma was cool. Not as much choice when it comes to astrophysics (I'm not interested much in observation or instrumentation). Offer: $19,640 + (this summer up to $5880)


Any further stuff on Rochester (univ+place) ? Me might go there for AMO.

doom
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Re: Huge School or Small University?

Postby doom » Tue Mar 31, 2009 12:23 am

I just wanted to add that I went from a small school to one of the biggest in the country. I've found the adjustment to be pretty easy. The key is the department.

ComboOrgan
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Re: Huge School or Small University?

Postby ComboOrgan » Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:15 pm

TychoBrahe wrote:Thanks for the responses. I appreciate hearing what you all have to say and it sounds like good advice.

I have visited both schools and my thoughts were these:

OSU was big, but much less intimidating than I had imagined. Lots of resources, brand new building, great cooperative programs for physics and astronomy, and cool experimental astrophysics stuff. Offer: $16,750

Rochester was small, with really nice people. Theoretical astrophysics work with plasma was cool. Not as much choice when it comes to astrophysics (I'm not interested much in observation or instrumentation). Offer: $19,640 + (this summer up to $5880)

Also of note, I was accepted to OSU's physics dept., which I am told is somewhat less reputable than the astronomy dept.. Is this true? However, there seems to be a good deal of collaboration between the departments and the head of the physics dept. holds a joint appointment with the astronomy dept.



I don't know what the cost of living is in Columbus, but it's relatively low in Rochester. 25k/year is enough to live comfortably in Rochester. Not lavishly, but comfortably.

If you have any questions about Rochester, I'd be happy to help. I lived there for 25 years

valloein
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Re: Huge School or Small University?

Postby valloein » Tue Mar 31, 2009 6:45 pm

ComboOrgan wrote:If you have any questions about Rochester, I'd be happy to help. I lived there for 25 years


Can I spend 5 odd years there without losing what little sanity I have left ?

astrofan
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Re: Huge School or Small University?

Postby astrofan » Tue Mar 31, 2009 6:52 pm

TychoBrahe wrote:Thanks for the responses. I appreciate hearing what you all have to say and it sounds like good advice.

I have visited both schools and my thoughts were these:

OSU was big, but much less intimidating than I had imagined. Lots of resources, brand new building, great cooperative programs for physics and astronomy, and cool experimental astrophysics stuff. Offer: $16,750

Rochester was small, with really nice people. Theoretical astrophysics work with plasma was cool. Not as much choice when it comes to astrophysics (I'm not interested much in observation or instrumentation). Offer: $19,640 + (this summer up to $5880)

Also of note, I was accepted to OSU's physics dept., which I am told is somewhat less reputable than the astronomy dept.. Is this true? However, there seems to be a good deal of collaboration between the departments and the head of the physics dept. holds a joint appointment with the astronomy dept.


$25,000 is a great salary for upstate New York. The money is much better at UR, regardless of what OSU offers for summer stipend.

Also, are you interested in theory or observation? The OSU physics department only has theory people, and I am pretty sure that the astro department takes enough students that the professors there would not have time for you (think about it, it doesn't make sense any other way). So, if you want to do observation, OSU sounds like a terrible fit.




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