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Haeddre

Best small schools for Physics PhD?

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Hello all, this is my first time on the forum.

I went to an unnamed Ivy League school for undergrad and I regret it. While it had many resources and has forced me to become a better self-advocate, the intellectual environment has been boring, intellectually conservative, closed off, defensive, and selfish. It has not been a place that fosters creativity, collaboration, or kindness, nor has it offered good mentorship. It has been, in the words of one of my friends, emotionally vacuous. The physics department makes gestures towards intellectual rigor, but no one seems to have the time or energy to do pedagogy well. 

I want to be able to be a good mentor some day and I need to learn those skills from someone. Additionally, I do really think that better science can be done when people aren't miserable.

As a result, I am looking for alternatives to the major research universities for PhD programs as I want to avoid a repeat of the above. Are there places that have a reputation similar to that of small liberal arts colleges, but for their physics PhD programs? I know that a lot of good mentorship is on a professor by professor( or lab by lab) basis, but a lot of it is also connected to the overall culture of a department. For example, I have heard some good things about the University of Washington. Alternatively, which of the major research institutions have physics departments with particularly good reputations for mentorship?

I'm specifically interested in particle physics, gravitation, or optics.

Thank you for any advice.

 

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I'm sorry to hear that.  I went to a liberal arts college for undergrad, and it was the best decision I could've made.  I saved the research university/Ivy for grad school.  My Ivy definitely wasn't "friendly" on the whole, but I was able to find a few pockets that were very supportive (reminiscent of my LAC experience).

I'm mainly writing to wish you well.

I don't know that much about physics, but I do know Yale's chemistry department has some really supportive profs (maybe take a look at their physics community).  I've also heard good things about Princeton, UMich, Rice, UW-Madison, Vanderbilt, Berkeley and Duke.  Again, these are mainly for chem (and related, non-physics fields), but maybe this speaks to the general tenor of the science departments.  These places may be worth a look.

 

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Have you considered non-US departments? Without intending to insult any Americans here (some of my best friends are American), the US tends to be more individualistic and competitive than almost every other country out there. There are some strong physics universities outside the US (especially in the UK, Europe, Australia and Canada) where the culture might be more mellow. 

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