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PhD in Physics: ETH Zurich vs other schools in US


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Hi GradCafe users,

In need of some perspective. Applying to PhD programs in Physics at ETH Zurich, Harvard, Stanford, UC Santa Barbara.

Does anyone have any advice on what the benefits of one program over the other is? Specifically ETH-Z versus top US schools. I am an American but am in the middle of receiving an offer from ETH-Z in Physics. Does anyone know whether the research culture is better at one school versus another? Will the colleagues in department be stronger or smarter? What about post-doc opportunities in physics afterward?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am definitely not a physics person but all I know about ETH Zurich is that they are also informally known as "The MIT in Europe". So I guess you can compare it to MIT somehow? One thing for sure is that they have lots of collaboration with other schools just like these top research schools in the U.S., but I don't think that will indicate whether "the colleagues in department be stronger or smarter". I supposed your last question can be answered by the department officials over there.

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  • 1 year later...

I think nobody here can equitably answer your questions but


Switzerland is the world's most competitive country in the world


and ETH Zurich has been among Europe's very top universities with the widest appeal to international students. 


The country is also specially leading in physics and material sciences.


But Switzerland is not the USA and ETH is not MIT. 


(Somebody easily forgets how big the USA are, and how much more intense the competition is (you actually pay 20k for attending an unbelievable twitter sect university on a beautiful campus in Ohio, where urban dictionary is used as reference for papers), and as you invest actually everybody wants go to the best schools and there is an almost clear hierarchy for admissions, Rockefeller yes, MIT no. 


Some hierarchy like this can hardly be found elsewhere, not even in the UK and especially not in physics. Everybody has his strong points, some more, some less.

European universities, even ETH Zürich, are low weight compared to the MIT, that's why they join forces with for example the German Max Planck Society and they find the God particle before the MIT does. It's not stupid at all but different (a bit less selective).


As you already have the midwest charm and east coast style you can add the experience of ETH Zürich. After your PhD apply at the Max Planck Society in Dresden, Germany or at Global Foundries in Dresden Germany. As you are based in New York City this would be the IDEAL path for a truly great career at Global Foundries in New York later on.


They are going to invest more than 10 billion to New York City development centers and fabs. Ultimately, a ship in a bottle raises more questions than it answers.

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