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Caltech vs. UCSB for Materials Science Ph.D.


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Hey everyone,

I only stumbled onto this board recently - I wish I had found it when I was still applying! Anyhow, I'm struggling to decide between Caltech and UCSB for a Materials Science Ph.D. My research interests are in nanomaterials, electronic materials, and photovoltaics, but I have an open mind (including some computational work, if it could be combined with experimental work as well). I am intrigued by the rigorous academics of the first year and a half at Caltech (for which I believe I am well prepared), but that will also prevent me from getting research done. I've also been able to identify several labs at UCSB in which I am interested. Since the department is so small at Caltech, I've contacted the main lab that I'm interested in, but I was unable to get a guaranteed spot for next year, which worries me.

Any suggestions?

Best regards,


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Hi Chris,

I am graduating from UCSB Materials this year and going to Caltech for a postdoc, so... my perspective:

Either place you go, you probably won't get much done in regards to research the first two years or so (I tired but did not get much done). Do not worry about that. The classes are possibly less rigorous at UCSB, but still time-consuming. The most important thing is to join a research group that you like (Advisor, the work, and your labmates). Bummer you didn't hear positively from the group you were interested in at Caltech, the same thing happened to me when deciding (I went to the 'other' school). My advice on that is, be persistent. I actually have the same interests as you so I know the groups that you are probably thinking about joining (at least at SB). I can tell you that you will have all the tools you need at UCSB, and that physically having access to them is very easy. We have had people leave our group and go to other great schools and complain about access to equipment.

If you have questions you think I can answer, just message me on here. Good luck with your decision.

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