As we start looking more carefully at different schools that we've been accepted to, how should we judge the actual quality of faculty at a particular institution? I'm in a slightly odd situation where I don't have personal access to faculty at my home institution who are knowledgeable in my field of interest (AMO) and could give me advice as to who all of the all-star and rising-star researches are.
At this point, I feel like the only ways I have to guess this are rankings systems, which seem unreliable, and doing a search to see how highly cited a given researcher is, which also seems like a terrible metric.
On a more personal level, of course talking to graduate student in a given resesarcher's group would be useful, but I'm thinking of more of the objective 'quality of research' level.
Any advice on how to judge these qualities in a researcher/school?