Choosing Purdue over a higher-ranked program

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Mizar
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2019 8:54 pm

Choosing Purdue over a higher-ranked program

Post by Mizar » Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:35 pm

Hey everyone,

I've been admitted to several PhD programs and am having an impossibly difficult time choosing among my options. A big part of the problem is that my undergrad research experience did little to inform my field of choice, so I've had to more or less make an educated guess at what sort of research I'd enjoy doing in grad school and beyond. I've been learning as I go how best to choose a grad program (Don't choose the school, choose the advisor, I know, I know...). This forum has been tremendously helpful in teaching me what I wish I'd known 6 months ago before I'd even started building my school list, so thanks for all your wisdoms.

So here's the thing. I've identified at least one potential advisor at each of my candidate schools, and my favorite by far is at Purdue. Not only is he fantastic with his students, but he's very well connected, he's on the rise in terms of publications and citations, and his last 3 PhD students got post docs at top institutions. The trouble is that Purdue was one of my "safety" schools, and I almost didn't even bother applying because I really didn't think I wanted to go there.

I know Purdue is a strong program and is nothing to turn my nose up at. I'm just afraid I'd be making a mistake if I chose Purdue over, say, UW-Madison or UW-Seattle.

What do you think? Am I splitting hairs about the relative strengths of Purdue versus the other schools? I know US News rankings have their weaknesses, but they do seem to track fairly well with professional outcomes, at least in the aggregate.

jabennett2194
Posts: 111
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:54 pm

Re: Choosing Purdue over a higher-ranked program

Post by jabennett2194 » Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:36 pm

What are the other schools?
What do you think you might be interested in pursuing?

Mizar
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2019 8:54 pm

Re: Choosing Purdue over a higher-ranked program

Post by Mizar » Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:56 pm

The other two front-runners are UW-Seattle and UW-Madison.

I'm interested in dark matter direct detection but also quantum info. I am much more confident in dark matter detection because it more closely parallels my research background, so I have a much better grasp of the science. QI is super exciting to me, but I have very little experience in AMO and none whatsoever in CM. So I have much less confidence in pursuing that research path, but definitely want to try it out my first year or so of grad school to see how well I take to it.

jabennett2194
Posts: 111
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:54 pm

Re: Choosing Purdue over a higher-ranked program

Post by jabennett2194 » Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:56 am

My suggestions:
a) identify profs at all three schools in those areas,
b) email them expressing interest to meet during the open house (or skype if they cant make it),
c) email the PhDs working under those advisors and ask them about their work, the department, etc.
d) go to all 3 open houses

After you've done all that, use this method to make a decision. Pretend that you've chosen Purdue, seriously believe that you have. Go to sleep and see if you're ok with that choice or if you regret it in the morning.



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