Choosing Biomedical Engineering PhD Program: Rutgers and UC Berkeley - Decisions, Decisions - The GradCafe Forums
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Choosing Biomedical Engineering PhD Program: Rutgers and UC Berkeley


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Hi everyone,

Thanks in advance for spending time to help me out.

I'm planning to start my PhD in the coming semester and have to make my decision soon. Here's the breakdown:

My field: Biomedical Engineering

School 1:

  • Overall department ranking: 25
  • Did my undergrad here, already associated with a lab, know all the people very well (and like them a lot), and I'm ankle-deep in the research already.
  • I'd be working with one of the most famous people in the world in the field of BME (500 papers, etc), and he likes me a lot. A good recommendation from this prof goes a long way, and he's very good at securing jobs for graduates.
  • The prof is around enough for me to meet with him weekly, but not enough to really mentor me. In my day-to-day life I'll be getting mentorship from one of the assistant professors who work under him.
  • During my undergrad, I've become very good friends with the asst prof, so it'd be a blast to work with him all day (and he's not shy about wanting me to stay). And he's a really good advisor.
  • The rest of the program has a lot of good research as well, so is an abundance of collaborative opportunities.
  • The lab has funded a startup based around our research. If I stay at here, I'll be part of the startup, and if we can get good results and establish a joint-venture with a big biotech company...

    School 2:
    • Overall department ranking: 5
    • Awesome program, department is great, lot's of good research that fit my interests, etc.
    • School name and prestige.
    • I'll have to find a lab and an advisor. This one is the biggie, IMO. This school has a ton of great labs and researchers, but only a couple people in all of BME have the authority of the prof from school #1. I also highly doubt I'd be able to recreate the above scenario, i.e. being in a big-name professor's lab, but still getting the day-to-day mentorship from an associate prof who's also a good friend, starting an entrepreneurship with him, etc. If that happens twice in one lifetime I should just buy lottery tickets or go into stock trading.
    • Not my undergrad school. From what I hear, it seems going to a different grad school makes you more attractive when you come out of your program. Is this true, and if so, how important is this compared to your actual body of work?

Living costs, TA/RA stipend, etc are all pretty much negligible. Both schools are fine with me doing spring enrollment.

So there it is. I know that I'm lucky to have this choice at all (and I feel pretty damn grateful every time I think about it). But I do have to make a decision nonetheless. Five years from now, will the name of the #5 program matter more, or will the other factors make a bigger difference?

Thanks again for the advice.

Edited by Alvin Chen
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Truth be told, I would stay at Berkeley. From what I've heard, although 'name' of the institution helps more in industry, in academia it's who you did your doctorate under. You already have what most people spend their entire first years in PhD programs trying to find (and lots of people end up less than happy), an academic support network, and a lab you actually seem to enjoy. The fact that Berkeley is "only" 25 is pretty much irrelevant if you did your doctorate under the preeminent researcher in your field.

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