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Chemistry PhD: Stanford vs. Yale

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I am really stuck between attending one of these schools to pursue a PhD in organic chemistry and am desperate for some advice! 

I’m most likely choosing between Stanford and Yale. I came out to Berkeley and am familiar with both the Bay Area and the NYC area. After visiting both schools, I feel more comfortable at Stanford, being that I liked the campus/weather/area more and really connected with the graduate students. Yale was comparable (if not quite as nice) in terms of facilities, although I didn’t resonate with the campus and graduate students as much. I am also not a fan of the cold winters. The problem is I feel the research in my field is stronger at Yale. I feel much more inspired by the work they’re conducting. There are also more PI’s whose labs I’m really interested in joining, and know they are consistently putting out strong, interesting research that I could get in on the ground floor. d

Im afraid of being stuck in Stanford. However, the grad students there seemed obviously bright and capable and very happy. 

After being on my visits, I also don’t know anyone committing to Yale, but know a few at Stanford, and am afraid of not getting a strong incoming cohort at Yale. 

Any thoughts from people who had to make a similar decision? Research strength vs lifestyle?

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To preface, I don't know the field of chemistry at all and it sounds like you have a tough decision between two great programs. Congratulations! I will, however, say that you should consider editing some of the more self-identifying information out of your post, especially since you say some not-so-flattering things about a potential advisor by name. I don't mean to sound condescending and I wish I could offer you more help on the decision itself, but I do think this is good practice on the internet in general.

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On 09/04/2018 at 6:01 PM, thatchemgirl said:

I am really stuck between attending one of these schools to pursue a PhD in organic chemistry and am desperate for some advice! 

About me: Graduating from UC Berkeley, interested in total synthesis/Natural products. I’m most likely choosing between Noah Burns at Stanford and Tim Newhouse at Yale. I came out to Berkeley after living in NY for 5 years and am familiar with both the Bay Area and the NYC area. After visiting both schools, I feel more comfortable at Stanford, being that I liked the campus/weather/area more and really connected with the graduate students. Yale was comparable (if not quite as nice) in terms of facilities, although I didn’t resonate with the campus and graduate students as much. I am also not a fan of the cold winters. The problem is I feel the research in my field is stronger at Yale. I feel much more inspired by the work they’re conducting. There are also more PI’s whose labs I’m really interested in joining, and know they are consistently putting out strong, interesting research that I could get in on the ground floor. Yes, of course the researchers at Stanford are renowned as well, and often ranked higher for chemistry, but after visiting the department and talking with people in my department at Berkeley it’s clear that Yale is the department that’s going places in the next 5 years.  

Im afraid of being stuck in Stanford with a PI who can’t get tenure, who only publishes occasionally and is mediocre in terms of creating inspiring projects and molding their students to be extremely strong, capable scientists. However, the grad students there seemed obviously bright and capable and very happy. 

After being on my visits, I also don’t know anyone committing to Yale, but know a few at Stanford, and am afraid of not getting a strong incoming cohort at Yale. 

Any thoughts from people who had to make a similar decision? Research strength vs lifestyle?

I was faced with a similar problem (I'm also in organic chemistry). 

I think you need to figure out what is important to you. For me I decided the 'vibe' of the department was important, as I'm quite a social person and I wanted to have like minded students there that I resonated with. Personally I would not pick a prof if I didn't jive well with their graduate students since that is who you will spend most of your time with. However this may not be the top of your list.

It sounds like you need to figure out the negatives of the Yale prof(s) since you've only listed negatives for the Stanford prof (all groups have negatives). I ended up going against Stanford for the exact reasons you list, but mostly because of lack of faculty I was interested in.  You never know what will happen down the line. It does seem however that the department and graduate students as a whole are very confident Noah Burns will get tenure, and I thought he seemed like a great PI.

Might be worth talking to other people you met who chose between Yale and Stanford! Feel free to PM me. I did not visit Yale but I did visit Stanford.

Edited by ketchup

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In general, I would be wary about people making predictions on which department will be where 5 years down the road. It is not only a prediction about how researchers will develop but also a prediction on how the field will develop.

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