Is Berkeley's physics program still stagnant/going down?

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Is Berkeley's physics program still stagnant/going down?

Post by BobD » Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:13 pm

I was very excited to be admitted to the Ph.D. program at Berkeley, as it has been one my top choices. Then, I found this article from 2003: ... -physics14

Some scary claims in the article:

UC Berkeley's "facilities were inadequate, and they were getting worse," said J.C. Seamus Davis, a 42-year-old specialist in low-temperature physics.

Then Cornell came calling, offering him new quarters and equipment worth up to $4 million. So last year, Davis left Berkeley, where he had taught and completed all of his graduate studies -- the place he had considered "one of the best physics institutions in the world."

Once the envy of academia, UC Berkeley's physics department is suffering from what an outside review panel recently called "genteel decline." Though still a powerhouse, the department over the last four years has lost six of about 50 tenured professors -- all rising or established stars. They have headed to mostly top-notch private universities, including Harvard, Cornell and Caltech.

"We're bringing them in at the beginning of their careers, but then five years later they're disappearing," said Christopher F. McKee, Berkeley's physics chairman.

I guess I am wondering about the current state of Berkeley's program and department. Are things just as bad, still? I am planning to visit, but any feedback at this point would be most appreciated. I don't want to attend a school with less-than-adequate space and facilities and "brain drain" because of these problems.

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Re: Is Berkeley's physics program still stagnant/going down?

Post by vesperlynd » Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:33 pm

Very interesting. The article was written 8 years ago. Things that have happened since then: the recession (which has hit everyone, but California really hard), and more Berkeley faculty with Nobel Prizes (George Smoot) which adds more prestige, among other things.

Has the physics department done any renovations on their facilities since 2003? I know Stanford's did back in 2005.

In any event, Berkeley produces a good chunk of grad students that go on to obtain faculty jobs at top schools. I don't think the issues described will really matter in the long run for a PhD if we're all only going to be there for five or six years anyway.

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