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Immunology PhD: Ohio State vs. Utah vs. MD Anderson


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Hey everyone,

I applied this cycle for biomedical science programs with an interest in immunology and narrowed down my choices to these three schools: Ohio State vs. University of Utah vs. MD Anderson/UT Houston. I had the chance to visit Ohio and Utah, but not MD Anderson. Right now, I'm torn among these choices because I like and dislike different aspects about them. For context, I'm generally interested in cancer immunology and autoimmunity.

Ohio State pros:

  • Large umbrella program (BSGP), with a good amount of faculty doing research I'm interested in.
  • Opportunity to branch out to other topics like cancer biology/neuroscience/etc.
  • Potential for more translational research. 
  • Columbus seems like a decent city to live in.
  • Drivable from where I live.

Ohio State cons:

  • The students that hosted us didn't really seem to know each other well.
  • They also mentioned other students that have dropped or mastered out.
  • Parking is an absolute nightmare, from what I've heard.
  • The city is apparently pretty bad at managing snowfall.

University of Utah pros:

  • Students and faculty got along very well.
  • Several faculty members doing work I'm interested in.
  • Much more casual atmosphere overall, students talked about having good work-life balance. 
  • Salt Lake City is very scenic and close to nice nature outings.
  • Parking and traffic seems to be very manageable both on campus and in the city.
  • Google Fiber is in the city.

University of Utah cons:

  • I applied directly to the Microbiology and Immunology program, so my opportunities might be more restricted.
  • More basic research, seems to be less opportunities to do translational stuff.
  • Farthest school away from me: 5 hour flight/4-5 day drive.

MD Anderson/UT Houston pros:

  • Also an umbrella program (GSBS), with some faculty doing very interesting research.
  • Lots of translational research opportunities.
  • Probably the most renowned institution out of the three.
  • Finding an apartment around Houston seems to be the easiest out of all three cities.

MD Anderson/UT Houston cons:

  • Resources and facilities are split between North and South campus, might be inconvenient.
  • Parking is also pretty bad.
  • Houston is not a walkable city. 
  • Pretty much always hot and humid. 
  • Also far from home: 4 hour flight/2-3 day drive.


Right now, my gut feeling is leaning towards Utah, but I also like the other two as well. Any thoughts and advice are greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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I work currently work in the field of immuno-oncology and I can chime in that MD Anderson is very well known in the field. Investigators there consistently present at top conferences. It seems you care about how translational the research is, and both MD Anderson and Ohio State are pretty strong in that aspect. It helps if the institution you attend has the same research goals as you do. If you were looking strictly at the research funding/reputation, those two definitely edge out Utah. 

University of Utah is certainly has less name recognition, but if your gut is telling you to go there, you might want to explore if it matches all your priorities the best. At the end of the day, thats what really matters. 

Best of luck! You will do great things and wonderful research wherever you go, 


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Well, first, Ohio State would be a hard no. If it doesn't feel right to you, then you probably shouldn't do it.  With regards to Utah, I'm, thinking you went up there, fell in love with the scenery and the very nice people that reside there and that's why your gut is moving toward that direction. But if you know the research you want to do, I would suggest going to the University that will give you the best chance to do the research you are most interested in, and to me, that seems like MD Anderson. Just my 2 cents. 

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