Stanford vs UCSB for CME (2D materials)

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cat_mama
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Stanford vs UCSB for CME (2D materials)

Post by cat_mama » Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:03 pm

I'm in a similar boat of Stanford vs UCSB for pretty much the same research (CME -> 2d materials etc.) as question here https://physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=168074. I'll be attending both Open Houses, but I'd like opinions not necessarily just from students/faculty at these schools as well.

I really really like Andrea Young at UCSB, but my family are telling me that it's crazy to abandon Stanford for UCSB. If I went to Stanford, I'm looking at Goldhaber-Gordon. Obviously I'm not limited to those two, since I'm also looking at Martinis at UCSB and Kapitulnik at Stanford. I heard great things about Shen lab at Stanford, but I honestly don't know what ARPES thing they do is :lol: .

The breakdown of my considerations:

Connections:
- Stanford: G-G is really famous, so obviously well-connected.
- UCSB: Y seems well-connected all the same, since his PhD advisor was Philip Kim now at Harvard, his postdoc advisor was Raymond Ashoori at MIT

Collaboration Potential:
- Stanford: Proximity to Berkeley might mean more collaboration opportunities. Also, Stanford has the additional prestige factor going for them in finding similarly awesome collaborators. Additionally, Stanford's other departments are also topping their field rankings, so more possibility of awesome interdepartmental collaborations (which CME is inherently interdisciplinary)
- UCSB: SB is in a rather isolated location with relatively "lower" prestige. However, UCSB hosts Microsoft Station Q and Google Quantum, so industry collaboration potential is very high even compared to Stanford sitting smack in the middle of silicon valley.

Research Productivity:
- Stanford: From my preliminary playing with publication/citation numbers to get productivity numbers, G-G regularly publishes influential work instead of being just a paper factory.
- UCSB: However, despite his much younger age, Y also has very high productivity numbers, and his grad students regularly publishes in high impact journals like Nature, Nature Physics, PRL
Note: While both do awesome research, among their most cited papers (with similar citation numbers), Y has a much more recent (by ~decade) high-impact pubs over G-G.

Research Potential:
Notes: I honestly don't know how much impact younger vs older faculty has on how awesome my PhD project would be. My rough understanding is that professors start their most ground breaking work in the first decade of getting tenure-track, having looked at CVs of who I figure to be the most influential researchers in the 2d field. Y seems brilliant to my untrained eyes from my brief convo with him and having asked other (not his) grad students in the dept, but I heard G-G is also brilliant.
- Stanford: G-G is really famous. He is on the older side (I think G-G is at ~20 yr mark), but he consistently publish in the top tier journals as mentioned in Research Productivity section.
- UCSB: Y is actually right around that 5 year mark, which I think is the Goldilocks zone since he's not entirely inexperienced mentoring but still an ambitious young faculty. He also has guaranteed funding for next 6 years through $25M (shared) grant, so no worries about him taking off somewhere else, I think.

Lab Size:
- Stanford: Bigger side at ~10 grad students. I have only been in small labs before and I generally find professors intimidating, at least in the beginning, so I don't know how much I'll thrive in a big lab. At the same time, the limited access to advisors might make me a more independent researcher, which is good.
- UCSB: Smaller side at ~5 grad students. I like personal attentions from advisors (though never had any other type of advisors, so I wouldn't know how I'll do otherwise), which I would likely get at UCSB.

How valued I am (???):
- Stanford: No contact from the school other than my acceptance letter.
- UCSB: Y reached out to me first to tell me about the kind of research I can do in his lab as well as possibility of starting research immediately in the summer (or even early as tomorrow lol).
Notes: Of course, professors are busy, but I feel that maybe I'll get more attention on growing as a researcher at UCSB which seems to care about me individually instead of just another admit? This is the same reason I turned down offers from Boeing and Raytheon to join my current small company. I felt like I was a faceless university recruit at these big companies while my current company specifically wanted *me*, and I'm very happy with my decision.

Ranking/Prestige:
- Stanford: Obviously Stanford comes out top here. No words needed.
- UCSB: I consider UCSB bottom half of top 10. I don't know if I'm just splitting hairs or if there is really that much prestige difference between #1~5 vs #6~10. My family didn't even know UCSB was a great school while they all know Stanford, but then again, none of them are in anything remotely STEM or academia. Not exactly helpful since half of fam wants me to go to the famous Stanford and the other half just tells me to do what makes me happy :lol: :lol:
Note: My friends tell me that advisor matters more than school, but that might be just lip-service because all of them chose the highest ranking school they got in. Also, I've been told the ranking of your PhD is as high of an ranking you'll get for a faculty position (not that I'm set on faculty route, but I want to keep that option open. Besides, I heard industry research has similar hiring standards as TT faculty hiring).

My Priority:
Potential faculty position is important, but my priority is doing spectacular research, the kind that will make a lasting impact, the kind that gets advisors on the Nobel short list :lol: . This might be a naive pipe dream that may be stomped on and shredded to pieces once I actually start PhD.

As you can see, I'm leaning towards UCSB, but the "ranking"/prestige is grabbing my ankle. Will I end up regretting choosing UCSB over Stanford?

geekusprimus
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Re: Stanford vs UCSB for CME (2D materials)

Post by geekusprimus » Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:52 pm

Some things to consider:
  • You're really applying to work with a person. So long as you're not going to Bum State Middle-of-Nowhere, most people in your field care a lot more about who you worked with rather than where you did it. Obviously Stanford carries a prestige factor that UCSB does not, but UCSB has a pretty outstanding reputation in physics.
  • Find out what your prospective mentors are like as people. When you go to graduate school, you're not trying to look over the shoulder of a great scientist, you're trying to learn how to be a great scientist. Great scientists are not always the best mentors. My advanced lab professor got his PhD under Wolfgang Ketterle at MIT, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on BECs. He hates Ketterle with a passion because the man was an absolutely horrible mentor. On the other hand, there are plenty of good scientists who might not publish as frequently because they really emphasize the education of their students, and their students tend to be massively more successful.
  • Look at the course options and the degree requirements. If one school has regularly offered courses specifically tailored to your interest that the other doesn't, it's definitely something to consider.
To reiterate the second point, don't mistake "prestige" for "mentoring." Unfortunately, PhD advisors mistreating their graduate students is not an uncommon occurrence, and it often happens because students want to work with the best guy in the field, and the best guy in the field happens to be a world-class tool.

cat_mama
Posts: 11
Joined: Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:07 pm

Re: Stanford vs UCSB for CME (2D materials)

Post by cat_mama » Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:46 pm

I had a very positive impression of Y from the half hour convo we had and heard great things at least from PhD students in the dept (not in his lab). I haven't had the chance to talk to his PhD students, but I plan to at the Open House. I've never interacted with G-G, so I only know him by his research reputation, but my general impression is that he's a pretty nice guy too. The Open Houses are scheduled for early March, so I probably will have a better idea by then, but I was wondering, under the (perhaps big) assumption that both are at least decent advisors, would I be taking a hit on my future career trajectory by choosing UCSB over Stanford? My thoughts definitely could change though once I visit the schools and talk to people.

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Nishikata
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Re: Stanford vs UCSB for CME (2D materials)

Post by Nishikata » Sat Feb 15, 2020 12:41 am

I think you are currently leaning to UCSB because they have proactively contacted you. Stanford doesn't need to do this because of its higher ranking and prestige, but I am saying that this is normal. Before deciding, you should also hear what Stanford has to offer first, especially on whether G-G accepts students this year.

You may also consider if you can benefit from both opportunities. If you are a Stanford student but have strong affinity towards Young's group, see if you can be co-advised / collaborate with them from Stanford. I see that this may be possible if you are in Stanford, but not so much the other way around. (If you still want to after you get in, lol)

Also, there have been many cases, that some professors being very good salesmen. Some could make very interesting propositions and research prospects in emails, websites, even in few-hours presentation. However, once you're inside the ship, then usually one realizes that it is not as great as marketed. The good thing in Stanford (and other big-name universities) is that you can switch to another equally good supervisor if this case happens.
In smaller schools, you will be probably screwed up.

Consider carefully, take your time until April 15 and don't look back.

luci
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Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2017 11:28 am

Re: Stanford vs UCSB for CME (2D materials)

Post by luci » Wed Feb 19, 2020 11:17 am

cat_mama wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:03 pm
How valued I am (???):
- Stanford: No contact from the school other than my acceptance letter.
- UCSB: Y reached out to me first to tell me about the kind of research I can do in his lab as well as possibility of starting research immediately in the summer (or even early as tomorrow lol).
Notes: Of course, professors are busy, but I feel that maybe I'll get more attention on growing as a researcher at UCSB which seems to care about me individually instead of just another admit? This is the same reason I turned down offers from Boeing and Raytheon to join my current small company. I felt like I was a faceless university recruit at these big companies while my current company specifically wanted *me*, and I'm very happy with my decision.
Regarding the UCSB professor contacting you, did you also post about this in thegradcafe? if not, this might be more common than you think, as some people there also reported getting directly contacted by UCSB professors after their admission.

cat_mama
Posts: 11
Joined: Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:07 pm

Re: Stanford vs UCSB for CME (2D materials)

Post by cat_mama » Mon Feb 24, 2020 12:30 pm

luci wrote:
Wed Feb 19, 2020 11:17 am
Regarding the UCSB professor contacting you, did you also post about this in thegradcafe? if not, this might be more common than you think, as some people there also reported getting directly contacted by UCSB professors after their admission.
Yes I posted about this on gradcafe! I was contacted by the professor in early Jan before my official admission letter, not as part of any interview, but rather as a recruiting conversation (we talked about me starting in the summer with research assistantship and about my potential research projects). Also, other professors also reaching out to students makes me think that UCSB has a culture of giving individual attention to graduate students, not just one-off professor doing it.



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