Which of these 3 schools would you attend, if any?

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

Which school would you attend?

Carnegie Mellon
7
32%
Stony Brook
9
41%
Rutgers
6
27%
 
Total votes: 22

jobias
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Feb 17, 2007 10:50 pm

Which of these 3 schools would you attend, if any?

Postby jobias » Sat Feb 17, 2007 10:52 pm

I'm mostly interested in quantum field theory or theoretical high energy physics more generally (maybe biophysics, though not sure):

Carnegie Mellon
Stony Brook
Rutgers

I'm sure they are fine institutions but I don't know if any of them are worth 6 years of my life. If it were MIT/Harvard/whatever like everyone else here got into it'd be a no-brainer... but eh. Are any of these schools respected enough to be worth attending? Or any other comments you have would also be appreciated. :)

tnoviell
Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Nov 05, 2006 10:31 am

Postby tnoviell » Sun Feb 18, 2007 10:24 am

Don't focus on school name too much, focus on the quality of the research they're conducting, and more importantly, who is conducting it. The point is to get a job when you're finished, and if you're working for someone who's not too well known, even at an MIT, good luck getting a job. Not only that, but dropout rates are rather high at those types of schools.

braindrain
Posts: 158
Joined: Sat Dec 30, 2006 12:23 am

Postby braindrain » Sun Feb 18, 2007 4:38 pm

Stony Brook has strong affiliation with Brookhaven National Laboratory - it
may even run it. Brookhaven had LOTS of high energy physicists. You
may want to look into what thesis opportunities you can drum up at
BNL if you attended Stony Brook.

braindrain
Posts: 158
Joined: Sat Dec 30, 2006 12:23 am

Postby braindrain » Sun Feb 18, 2007 5:04 pm

Another suggestion is look at the places you might ultimately want to work long term and see if they have phd's from those places there on staff.

jobias
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Feb 17, 2007 10:50 pm

Postby jobias » Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:13 pm

@tnoviell

Thanks for the advice but the problem is that most quality faculty are at institutions like MIT or Princeton. I mean, how often does a good physicist come out of a school like Carnegie Mellon or Stony Brook or Rutgers... (honest question)? If I'm going to go to a school I want one I can be proud of, at least.

Bufalay
Posts: 51
Joined: Sun Jul 04, 2004 5:05 am

Postby Bufalay » Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:53 pm

Stony Brook is a huge department as far as I know. I think that offers a lot of flexibility and most likely a greater variety of courses.

jobias
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Feb 17, 2007 10:50 pm

Postby jobias » Tue Feb 20, 2007 1:09 am

Would it be possible to retake the GRE this summer and reapply to schools next year? Is that looked down upon? What about attending a university for a year or two and transferring?

It kind of sucks since I thought I killed the GRE (800+) when I left it and ended up doing quite poorly. I almost feel like I had a misbubble somewhere. The rest of my record is good (in my opinion anyway), it's just this...

Otherwise, I might just end up in law school next year *shudder*

artist
Posts: 68
Joined: Mon Nov 27, 2006 3:20 am

Postby artist » Tue Feb 20, 2007 1:29 am

Perhaps you could pick your favorite of these universities, take the GRE again in the fall, and transfer your second year.

That being said, I think any of those schools are good enough to be "worth attending." Maybe they don't have any Nobel laureates on the faculty, but your odds of finding a great adviser who is perfect for you are probably about the same there as anywhere else.

CPT
Posts: 77
Joined: Mon Jan 15, 2007 2:05 am

Postby CPT » Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:01 am

I'd say Rutgers for theory. It has definitely got way more young faculkty than both the other two places who are much more likely to be active and taking new students ...

tnoviell
Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Nov 05, 2006 10:31 am

Postby tnoviell » Tue Feb 20, 2007 8:23 am

jobias...plenty of times. How often? I don't know, but I can tell you I've worked with research scientists from schools like those and they're very intelligent. The head of the electrostatics and surface physics at Kennedy Space Center got his PhD from Ohio, and he has three books and that guy is rolling in dough...

soluyanov
Posts: 51
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2006 1:06 pm

Postby soluyanov » Tue Feb 20, 2007 9:16 am

I think transferring or reapplying would be the worst idea. I talked to different professors, and heard the same opinion. If your aim is to get a prestigious sounding PhD, then transfer, but if you want to get into science - transferring is a bad idea. Almost all of that transferred students were not successful in the end, having wasted up to 10 years for a PhD. If you are really good and active Rutgers and Stony Brook are more than enough to have a great career.

The thesis "high quality professors are only in MIT and Princeton" is complete nonsense. Are you going to say that C N Yang institute of theoretical physics sucks???? You can find a professor from there or Brookhaven. Rutgers is also a very good place for the field, especially in theory.

Besides, UIUC is ranked higher, but do you really think that a bunch of great minds would care much about USNews and decide to move from NY to the middle of nowhere???

On this forum there was a post ("advise for future" or something like that) from a guy who had transferred from stony brook to ucla, you should read it - quite a common situation.

tnoviell
Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Nov 05, 2006 10:31 am

Postby tnoviell » Tue Feb 20, 2007 9:33 am

It seems to be common thought here that all the smart physicists in the world flock to ivy league schools...that's simply not the case. I read something like "your career depends on the name of the school," that couldn't be further from the truth.

Listen, there are so many schools out there, and there are bound to be professors with many connections at them. There are schools that no one here applied to (I bet), and some of them have professors considered for the Nobel Prize - how about that?

In graduate schools it's about the work you do and the people you work for. Name isn't going to matter, and not only that, like I've stated before, schools like Caltech have a 50% drop rate. I'd rather go to SUNY Stony Brooke than deal with that.

somebody
Posts: 68
Joined: Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:25 pm

Postby somebody » Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:39 pm

i definitley think that you should'nt go to a school that you will be miserable at whether its location or you think you should be at a better school or whatever. and you probably shouldn't be using a school that a commitment to the phd program of as a vehicle to get to a better department by getting good grades etc... not to mention they probably wouldn't be too happy to hear if you were spending time studying to raise your gre score 200 points and neglecting your TA or RA duties just so you can leave their department.

the only way i can really see somebody making a successful transfer is if you're research interests change and you can find a specific department elsewhere that you know serves you're research interests better than i would say you might be able to convince a department to be on board with you transferring. and you will probably need to convince you're department to let you transfer because the department you are transferring too will probably contact the one you are transferring from and ask them about you (whether you asked one of their faculty for a rec or not) so you'll probably need their blessing.

of course all of this is merely speculation i dont really know anything.

jobias
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Feb 17, 2007 10:50 pm

Postby jobias » Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:52 pm

Thanks for the responses so far everyone. Though now I'm more undecided than I was before, as I actually was leaning to Carnegie Mellon (which I find that I like a lot for some reason) or Stony Brook over Rutgers but Rutgers is actually winning (and CMU only has one vote). :lol:

Does anyone know where I can get some more information about these schools (kind of like gradschoolshopper)? It's just hard to find any good information from people who know about these schools (and even visiting can't tell you everything). Hence the reason for this thread in the first place :D

soluyanov
Posts: 51
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2006 1:06 pm

Postby soluyanov » Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:08 pm

btw, has stony brook already sent you admission?

Asianbob
Posts: 25
Joined: Sat Dec 02, 2006 10:30 pm

Postby Asianbob » Tue Feb 20, 2007 7:41 pm

Look at the faculty (where they have been) and what they have done.

It's not what your school can do for you, but what you can do for your school!

Yes that was corny, but it's what you make of it that counts towards a contribution.

jobias
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Feb 17, 2007 10:50 pm

Postby jobias » Thu Feb 22, 2007 1:47 am

The place I always wanted to work since I was young was NASA... cliche, I know, but I can't help it. Would it be realistic to think I could get a job there with a degree from one of these schools?

schmit.paul
Posts: 161
Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 7:48 pm

Postby schmit.paul » Thu Feb 22, 2007 3:10 am

seems like you're sending mixed signals...primary interests in QFT/high energy theoretical physics, but you want to work for NASA. NASA's probably not going to need too many high energy theorists to (attempt to) carry out Bush's Mars initiative...that is, unless they need someone to calculate cross sections for cosmic radiation incident upon organic material (:cue cymbals: da da, dsssssh!)

Those schools are nothing to scoff at...i'm sure they would like to think that your paranoia is entirely unjustified. You need to contact the relevant faculty at these institutions, inquire on what opportunities currently exist for people with your set of interests, and ask where their Ph.D. graduates typically get placed after grad school. None of us on this board (with the exception of maybe a few stragglers) have come close to finishing our Ph.D. work and searched for jobs, and the vast majority of the active posters aren't even officially grad students yet. Asking us if you could get a job with NASA by going to one of those grad schools is asking too much of individuals who simply aren't privy to that kind of information or, even worse, will lead you on with their speculative opinions behind a facade of expertise...and this kind of misinformation could lead you to make an uninformed decision (no offense to anyone on this message board, but I'm sure most of you will agree with me).

You need to put in the footwork and start making phone calls, sending emails, and visiting these schools (assuming you've been admitted to them, which you give the impression that you have). Good luck, and don't freak out too much, those are all great institutions...now you just need to find out if they are doing research in a field that holds you interest.

braindrain
Posts: 158
Joined: Sat Dec 30, 2006 12:23 am

Postby braindrain » Thu Feb 22, 2007 11:22 am

I wouldn't base my decisions on Bush's Mars initiative. When Bush is gone in 2 years (after people stop celebrating :) ), who knows if that will change or not? Right now the moon base and Mars have radiation problems not to mention financial problems that are not yet solved. NASA should always need high energy researchers and they do need theorists for basic science. How else will the mission people know what questions are important to ask without some good basic science? Unfortunately, NASA doesn't believe they need strong basic science and the push now is more for exploration. This belief knocks out the university funding also because NASA funds the university projects. People were guessing this whole initiative was all politics. Which NASA's are in the states of Bush's friends and relatives, Oh, Florida and Texas and that translates to Cape Canaveral and NASA Johnson which translates to exploration. When Bush is gone, the whole political landscape could change. Two years is about long enough for us to get through the basic physics classes and pass qualifiers. You can always reevaluate at that point.

I think asking if you can get a job at NASA is a perfectly reasonable question. Yes, I believe NASA hires people from all universities and the ones you mention or others on a par with them. That doesn't mean NASA will have job openings at the time. You could always do a really long postdoc at NASA, say 5 years or so. People have done that.

tnoviell
Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Nov 05, 2006 10:31 am

Postby tnoviell » Thu Feb 22, 2007 11:45 am

jobias...if you read my posts I answered that question for you. I worked at NASA for a couple years, and none of the PhD people went to ivy league schools. Most went to my school (Florida Institute of Tech), University of Floirda, Mellon, Ohio State, Florida State University, Clemson...etc etc. You're fretting too much over school name - it's about your ability.

schmit.paul
Posts: 161
Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 7:48 pm

Postby schmit.paul » Thu Feb 22, 2007 1:25 pm

braindrain: i'd really like to see some stats with regards to how many high energy theorists are currently employed by NASA. I get your point though. However, I highly doubt NASA will need a theorist fully versed in QFT to determine amounts of radiation exposure one will encounter in space and what effect it will have on a human body...in fact, questions like that are characteristically too difficult for a high energy field theorist to answer :-) This kind of work would more likely be done by a nuclear engineer specialized in interactions of radiation with matter, using semi-empirical models instead of full-blown QFT.

Anyways, that's besides the point. At least for this thread.

braindrain
Posts: 158
Joined: Sat Dec 30, 2006 12:23 am

Postby braindrain » Thu Feb 22, 2007 4:14 pm

@schmit.paul: none, because they only employ high energy *astrophysicists* - without the astro part I don't think they would employ a high energy speciality by itself. I'm treating it as a trick question. But, seriously, how many high energy theorist is I believe just a few. Not many. But even if they want to become more applied as an agency that effects the university funding for theory as well. You are probably right about giving such problems to engineers instead of theorists or physicists. I'm not sure I buy into the idea of a theoretical engineer yet - it sounds like an oxymoron, so I don't think they would give the radiation problem to them either. It may be sad, but true, that as physicists if we go outside of academia, we may end up working for engineers as if we were the technicians/support staff and not them. It's more like solve the real-world problem now and worry about the generalizations later. One MIT prof. I heard give a lecture was in the field of parallel computing and he said theory follows experiment. Even nanoscience looks that way now. Build it first and worry about theory later, or worse, they use theory just to get the experimental design or parameters and it is not the same as developing the theory stand alone. So, I guess its different if you are a user of a theory or a developer of theory.

jobias
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Feb 17, 2007 10:50 pm

Postby jobias » Thu Feb 22, 2007 5:04 pm

Well I realize high energy probably wouldn't be that useful for NASA so if I wanted that route I'd likely do astro (which I know I didn't mention).

@tnoviell

Thanks, I must have missed that part of your post when I read it before

And thanks to everyone else. I realize I was kind of making a big deal about it but I just wanted to get as many as opinions as possible since this is a pretty big decision to make. I guess it's going to come down to which school I like the most when I visit (though I'm leaning to SB right now) :D

JackSkellington
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2006 10:26 pm

Postby JackSkellington » Thu Feb 22, 2007 5:32 pm

jobias:

I completely understand where you're coming from. I got rejected by Yale, and am as sure as anyone can be that Harvard and Cal rejections are to follow. But, it doesn't really matter (altho Ill still be a disspointed). First, I think that there are better places to look for information on Carnegie Mellon Stony Brook and Rutgers than this forum (professors there for example). Since probably most of us don't know much about high energy at these places, all the poll will give you is name recognition of the schools- which is probably one of the least important factors to consider. While MIT and Harvard next to your PhD might help you in getting a postdoc somewhat, there are a number of reasons not to despair:

1.) From what I understand, these are all solid physics programs youve listed. Im sure everyone will respect good work coming out of there.

2.) I think the right grad school for anyone is not necessarily MIT, Harvard etc. To be perfectly honest, I would probably go to one of these schools if accepted. But the dropout rates at these schools are (from what I understand), pretty bad. Its better to go somewhere you'd be happy at than somewhere with a big name.

3.) Most importantly, I think that if you have talent and are dedicated, you will make a meaningful contribution to science wherever you are. Not having a degree from MIT or Harvard can't stop you from being the person you want to be.

So, don't worry too much. Good luck deciding. Meanwhile, Ill try to heed my own advice....




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