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Introduction, and where to apply?

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Hi all!

Just thought I'd start out with an introduction, as this is my first post here. I'm currently working on my master's at UIUC in Materials Science and Engineering, and I am planning to apply to PhD programs for Fall 2012 admission. The master's is part of a 5 year, BS/MS program. I have a good GPA (3.9), as well as some industry (2 internships) and research experience. I did undergrad research for one summer, and I am currently working on my master's thesis, which will mean a year and a half of research experience. I haven't taken the GRE yet, but I plan to in the next month (before the switch to the revised exam). My career plans are to work in industry, not to teach. This could change, but not likely.

That being said, I'm trying to decide to which PhD programs I should apply. I'll definitely be applying to UIUC, but I think I'd like to spend my PhD somewhere else and not stay in one place for my entire academic career. The "reach" schools are pretty obvious: MIT, Stanford, Northwestern, Berkeley, and UCSB are top 5 for Materials (as well as UIUC). I've also looked at some schools that offer materials science as a track or concentration for another degree (ex. Harvard Applied Physics and Princeton ChemE). Not all schools offer a materials track, but are there specific non-materials programs that are more likely to do so?

Looking at my list of schools, I've found that it's really easy to get caught dreaming, but applying to only top 10 programs doesn't seem like a responsible decision. I know fit is extremely important, but I'm sure I missed some great schools. I know that the idea of "safety" schools doesn't really apply to grad applications, but what are some schools that I'm overlooking due to rankings or name?

Looking forward to being a a productive member of the forum.


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