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UIUC vs. Yale for Organic Chemistry


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Hi guys.

I have been following this site a lot lately, but have finally decided to post, seeing as I could use some advice. In Fall 2011, I will be entering a PhD program in synthetic organic chemistry. I have heard back from several schools but am having a lot of difficulty deciding between UIUC and Yale.

Yale is technically more renowned and closer to home. However, all of the professors I am seeking to work with are new. They have recently joined the institution, have not yet obtained tenure and likely have limited experience managing a lab group.

UIUC has, in my opinion, more experienced professors working in fields closer to my interests. I have also been personally contacted by a professor I would love to work with. Despite UIUC's ranking as a top chemistry school, my parents are not convinced it is the better option over Yale.

Any input would be very much appreciated.

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My advice is this, go to whichever school you can work for the better adviser. I'm a medicinal chemist for a major pharmaceutical company and we recently just hired a few new PhD chemists. I can tell you that for industry jobs the name of the school doesn't matter at all, it's all about who you worked for. If you went to Harvard but your adviser was some no name then good luck getting a job.

If I were you I'd go to Illinois. We regularly have Scott Denmark out as a consultant, it's a really strong program and his graduates get a lot of offers. Not so sure about M Christina White. Ultimately it's your choice, but who's good to work for at Yale? I can't think of anyone I work with or know that did their PhD there. I'm sure there's some quality groups, but that's just an industry prospective. Good luck on your decision!

Also, unless your parents are synthetic organic chemists and know what it's all about don't let them make your decision for you.

Edited by drums7890
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  • 1 month later...

aahhhh i remember making those decisions. nice sounding name (like one your parents know) vs state school that is packed with power-house researchers (like uiuc).

I agree with your previous responder. Remember, a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry is much more about the research and your adviser than anything.

My advice is to go to the place that has more people you could see yourself working with (for?). Chances are, within the first ~6 months your ideas about what you want to spend the next 5-6 years researching will change. Mine did. If there are 10 people at place A and 2 at place B. Go to A, no question.

The second level of analysis I would recommend is the facilities. In other words, in a tie, at which institution will you be able to do research faster and better? This takes a lot of digging and thinking on your part, but for a graduate student, the facilities available (NMR, MS, cell culture?, high-through-put screening, computational clusters?, software, ......it all depends...... could go on forever) strongly affect the level of experiments you can do.

In response to the previous response: the compliment to Denmark at Yale would be Scott Miller. He rocks.

good luck in your decision,


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Don't work for Denmark if you go to UIUC. He's a slavedriver who makes his students sign hours contracts. And after giving up your life for 5 years, there's no guarantee you'll get a job in Pharma with the way the industry is headed.

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