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Austin vs. Minnesota - Chemistry, PhD


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I have been accepted to both UT Austin and U of Minnesota, Twin Cities Chemistry program. They both give me TA/RA (5 yrs) and Departmental Fellowship for my first year. It's difficult for me to decide between these two.


Weather: I grew up in Florida and went to Dallas for my undergrad. I am used to warm and hot temperature in Texas (although I hate it). In Austin I'll have 3-4 months above 90. In Minnesota, I'll have 6-7 months of snow. I've never been to any snowstorm so I may not be prepared for it.


Austin is higher in ranking for Chemistry, 12 to 21 for Minnesota. However, the field I like is more involved in a specific field in Engineering, and for that field, Minnesota is higher than Austin. Both schools have 2-3 professors working in the field I like. I contacted professors/grad students in both schools and read their publications in the last 3 years (abstract/results for all and whole paper if I found it interesting). The more I read, the more difficult for me to decide which school to go to. However, I a little favor Minnesota because I did an internship at MN with Prof A and I want to come back to his lab.


I think the only thing that stands between me and Minnesota is the cold weather.

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Have you looked outside them Chem department at UT for profs in your field?  You are not restricted to just chemistry profs if you can get a non-chem prof to take you on.  We have great ChemE and BME programs here at UT and you might find a good fit there. 


For example I'm a molecular biologist but both of my advisers are Chem because our research interests match. 

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I can't say anything about either school (having not attended either of them, though I will be interviewing at UMN soon), but I did attend school in upstate NY, which is another part of the country that is cold and snowy. If you're not used to cold weather, your first winter will inevitably be a bit of a culture shock. But honestly, it's something that you'll probably adjust to quickly... even my friends from Hawaii and California got used to it pretty fast. You just need to buy warm clothes and wear lots of layers. Shoveling snow can be a pain, but huge blizzards aren't as common as smaller snow showers that are much more manageable in that regard. I don't drive, but driving in the snow is something that a lot of people aren't comfortable with... that's something to consider. Though cities like Minneapolis have good public transportation so you can always just take a bus when it's too snowy to drive.


The good thing cities with snowy climates is that they are often well prepared for snowstorms, meaning that the streets are plowed and sidewalks are salted pretty quickly. It's not like, say, North Carolina (where I lived for a few years), which effectively shuts down anytime there are flurries!


If cold weather is the only thing holding you back from Minnesota, I'd say go for Minnesota. Of course, the best way to know for sure is to visit the school during the winter and see how you feel about it. Have you visited yet (outside of the internship, which I'm assuming was in the summer)? If not, try going within the next few weeks... it should still be cold enough there for you to get a good sense of it. You can also ask current students in the program how they feel about the weather; there are almost certainly people already attending who came from warmer areas. You can ask them how quickly they adjusted to the climate, and whether or not they regret going to school someplace so far north. I hope this helps!

Edited by zabius
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Well, I've been admitted to the MSU and UMN in PhD Chemistry too, and I'm just confused about not only two since MSU has a professor whose work is related to my senior year project. I have so far been more inclined towards the UMN but I am still waiting.


I belong to a relatively tropical climate, and so far I am thinking of UMN. I think UMN is a pretty good option but I guess both UT - Austin and UMN are pretty good. I'd rate the climatic preferences as one of the factors, but not so much. Rankings are good, but your career prospects are more dependent on your own hard work and the supervisor you choose far more than the rankings.


I'd rate them both great places, but the climate would make me yearn for one more than the other. On the other hand, I think you should decide about it by considering your professors and the career fields too. PhD in Chemistry would involve lots of hours in the labs, meaning for the most part you won't have to worry about the weather per se.



Happy decision making to the both of us. And looking forward to probably seeing you if you and I both attend UMN! :)

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