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HELP!!! Columbia vs. University of Virginia


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I applied for PhD programs in biomedical engineering. I got offers from Columbia, UVA, Penn State, and RPI. I already rejected offer for Penn State and RPI. I made a comparison chart and it's been really difficult for me to decide which one would be better for me.

Undergrad institution: UVA (major: biomedical engineering)

Undergrad research: bone tissue engineering


Stipend, etc: $29,000/yr, full tuition, health insurance

Apt rent: ~$850-1300/mo (current Columbia grad student told me)

Advisor status: associate

Yrs to complete PhD: ~6 yrs

Advisor research: bone interface tissue engineering, biomaterials, dental tissue engineering

Advisor personality: kind of strict, well known in the field, interested more in the end result of experiments than making sure that grad students learn things, up for tenure (may move to another institution if rejected tenure), doesn't talk much, lots of publications

Funding: the professor has lots of money

Min GPA required to graduate: 3.2

Degree: MS to PhD

School reputation: Ivy league

2008 US News Ranking: 18th

Working hours: most grad students work from 9am~10pm everyday

People in the lab: 4 grad student (excluding me), 2 post doc


Stipend, etc: $25,000/yr, full tuition, health insurance

Apt rent: ~$500/mo

Advisor status: assistant

Yrs to complete PhD: ~4 to 5 yrs

Advisor research: Nano-medicine, early detection of diseases (e.g., atherosclerosis, cancer) using MRI, PET, SPECT & biomarkers, therapeutic evaluation

Advisor personality: funny, outgoing, was just recruited from Harvard med school last year, easy to talk to, has publications in high-impact journals

Funding: just got an R01 grant last yr

Min GPA required to graduate: 3.0

Degree: direct PhD

School reputation: best school in Virginia, #2 best public undergrad...

2008 US News Ranking: 15th

Working hours: kinda laid back, most ppl work from 9 to 5

People in the lab: 1 grad student (excluding me), 1 lab tech, 1 post doc

I have been doing research in bone tissue engineering for the past 2.5 yrs now, but I find the UVA professor's research really interesting (although I've never really done that kind of research yet). Plus, it seems that the UVA professor's research has more potential to grow and is more translation compared to the Columbia professor's research (bone interface tissue engineering). I'm leaning more towards UVA, but I'm conerned because people tell me that it's better to go somewhere else for grad school (in other words, it's bad to stay the same school for both undergrad and grad, but than,,,, UVA BME program is better than Columbia according to the professors I've talked to and the US News ranking).

Please help!! Can you please give me some advice? (sorry this post is really long)

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I say go with your gut. If the only reason not to go to UVA is because some people say you shouldn't go to the same place for undergrad, well you should try to find out if that's actually true. I've heard that too but I can't figure out logically why it would be such a problem. You'd obviously rather stay at UVA so just go ahead and follow your heart, I think.

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Sounds like you really want to go to UVA. It offers you good funding, an adviser you like who has funding and will likely stay the duration, better working conditions, less time to completion of degree, a field that has more potential to grow, higher ranking...the only thing Columbia seems to have going for itself is that it's not UVA :). I've also heard the common wisdom that you shouldn't go to the same institution for undergrad and grad, but if it's ranked high and allows you to do the kind of research you want to, it seems to me unwise to let that go and switch to a school that doesn't offer you that just so you can say you changed schools.

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