Deciding between U British Columbia & UCSD for physics

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Deciding between U British Columbia & UCSD for physics

Postby charndt » Mon Mar 05, 2012 3:07 pm

I've been accepted to the University of British Columbia and UC San Diego for graduate studies in physics, and I'm having trouble deciding between the two.

I don't know how UBC compares to UCSD academic/prestige wise (I know that UCSD is a great school, but I am not very familiar with UBCs reputation). I am interested in experimental condensed matter and possibly experimental AMO. Both UCSD and UBC seem to have good experimental condensed matter departments, but only UBC has experimental AMO. I might be interested in experimental biophysics, which UCSD is strong in, but I haven't looked into this much.

Does anyone know how the culture of the departments compare? I know that in general west coast US schools are a little more laid back, but that's the extent of my knowledge in this regard.

Regarding the cities themselves, I've heard that San Diego is somewhat sterile, at least for a young adult. Vancouver seems more diverse from what I've read, but I haven't visited either place yet.

The financial offers haven't been finalized yet either, so I can't take this into account (it would be a secondary factor anyway).

I plan on talking to some professors at my university and I am going to visit both schools in the next month, but I just wanted to see if anyone here had an opinion either way.
Last edited by charndt on Mon Mar 05, 2012 6:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Deciding between U British Columbia & UCSD for physics

Postby TakeruK » Mon Mar 05, 2012 5:51 pm

I think UBC (in general) ranks in the top 40 worldwide, but I don't know how Physics specifically ranks.

Visiting will probably give you a good feel of how the graduate students interact. The University is far removed from the city though, so you might not get to really see much of Vancouver in your visit. Vancouver isn't really very "multi-cultural", it's mostly Canadian-Asian communities, mostly from China, Korea, and India. I love it though, because I feel I fit in very well with the young people there, who are mostly born in Canada but have immigrant parents. I also love the food selection -- very good Asian food! Unfortunately, I don't think Mexican food in Canada can compare with California!

I grew up in a suburb outside of Vancouver and attended UBC Physics for undergrad, so send me a PM if you want more specific questions about living there :)

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Re: Deciding between U British Columbia & UCSD for physics

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:41 am

For physics, UBC is a top 35 school, with excellent groups in astrophysics, optics, and biophysics, while UCSD is a top 15 school with excellent groups in plasma physics, cosmology, and particle physics. They also have a traditionally strong biophysics program, but a lot of their department was recently hired away by Rice, and I don't know anything about their replacements. For CME-like research, UBC has the traditional condensed matter plus optics, while UCSD has condensed matter plus plasma/fusion research. They also have a genuine, fully capable machining building, which can do nano-fabrication, etc, and is open for use by grad students.

The schools are close enough that I'd make the choice based on feel when visiting and individual fit with potential advisors. You can also check the writeup I made for UCSD in the graduate school profiles after I visited last year:

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Re: Deciding between U British Columbia & UCSD for physics

Postby charndt » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:38 pm

Immense thanks to both of you! That kind of information is very helpful.

bfollinprm, I had read your writeup before, so double thanks to you.

Anyone else?

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