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doyouevenchop

Program Specific Thread: Caltech

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You know what to do...

  1. Are you planning on visiting? 
  2. What do you see as pros and cons of the program? 
  3. Which PI's are you interested to meet?

I'm personally going to be visiting on the Feb 26-28 weekend, looking forward to it.

Edited by doyouevenchop

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Hi chop!

 

Yes I'm definitely visiting!! However, I will be visiting on the march 19-21 weekend and i am super looking forward to it!!

 

I see mainly pros in this program actually! At least for my case, I think they have very excellent organic catalysis/methodology/synthesis PIs (Fu, Reisman, Stoltz for example), and I hear they are also very strong in Biochemistry (Frances Arnold and Hsieh-Wilson for example). They also have a ton of great choices for Inorganic chem (Grubbs, Peters, Agapie, to name a few), and are just a really well rounded department overall in terms of great, young/active, productive professors to work for with funding too! I also hear that most of the PIs in this department are pretty laid back/lenient compared to at other schools, so that's always nice...in the case of Caltech, it's the students who are really self-motivated too so they don't necessarily need strict professors either haha!

 

For most people, they will love the weather and cool west coast culture and surroundings that Caltech is in, and that there are a lot of things to do in the area,...however for me, this was the main con, because i LOOOOVE the east coast and i want to live and work in NJ someday!! Honestly, if it wasn't for this, I think I would strongly strongly consider going to Caltech because i think their department is very excellent and well regarded too.

 

The PIs I am interested to meet are mainly Fu, Reisman, Stoltz because my research interest lies in organic synthesis and methodology.

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I will definitely be visiting Caltech.  They have a truly phenomenal program and it is certainly one of my top choices.

 

I am also fortunate enough to have a friend from my UG institution who is now a first year grad student there.  He says he really likes it and says that the atmosphere is very collegial and even light-hearted.  He also says that the chemistry grad students are very normal and down to earth, which was a nice thing to hear.  In terms of funding, he says that the first year grad student housing is very affordable and 'your most limited resource will be time, not money.' Only five courses are required for graduate students, and there are department scholarships available so that you may not even have to teach your first year (only 900 undergrads)! 

 

Some pros:

-Outstanding reputation (on par with MIT in my opinion)...some may argue the best in the country.

-Small department (a pro in my opinion)

-From what my friend has told me, Pasadena is a very nice (and affordable) area to live in.  The weather is also very nice.  

-Graduate students know each other very well and work together.  My impression is that it is not as cut throat as some other programs.

 

Some cons:

-As the name implies, most of the students there are scientists or engineers.  2/3rd of the students are male.  Not a whole lot of diversity in my opinion (no graduate mingling with MBA, med, or law students).

-Intense. Although I think the atmosphere is welcoming, it is intimidating to be surrounded by so many smart people.  Also, some professors are very demanding.  Tragically, there was a student suicide a few weeks ago in the Peters group.

-Division III school.  I know many don't care about sports, but to me going to a football game on a Saturday afternoon is a great way to unwind.  I think this also ties into school spirit.

 

 

Groups I am most interested in are Agapie, Peters, and Lewis.  I think those are the three powerhouse inorganic groups.  Grubbs, Gray, and Bercaw are getting old and I do not think they are taking anymore students.

 

This is everything that comes off the top of my head.  I'll probably edit or post again if I think of anything else.

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I'll also be visiting Caltech for the March 19 - 21 weekend. I'm super excited about it! (Though this reminds me that I still need to reserve a shuttle to/from LAX).

 

There's a lot of things I like about the program - the school has a ton of resources and great researchers, I like its size and location a lot, and as a physical chemist, having JPL so close seems fantastic. There's a ton of reasons that I want to go there. I'd say I'm leaning towards it right now, but I think that the visits are going to be a deciding factor for me.

 

One of the things that I'll definitely be looking at closely during the visit is the department's atmosphere - is it a in-the-lab-every-night-and-weekend sort of deal? High pressure environment? (I realize grad school is this in general, but how will it compare to other schools?) Do the grad students seem to enjoy being there and in their labs? My visits to other very-highly-ranked schools in the past did not make them seem like particularly healthy environments, so I'm curious to see how Caltech compares.

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I see mainly pros in this program actually! At least for my case, I think they have very excellent organic catalysis/methodology/synthesis PIs (Fu, Reisman, Stoltz for example), and I hear they are also very strong in Biochemistry (Frances Arnold and Hsieh-Wilson for example). They also have a ton of great choices for Inorganic chem (Grubbs, Peters, Agapie, to name a few), and are just a really well rounded department overall in terms of great, young/active, productive professors to work for with funding too! I also hear that most of the PIs in this department are pretty laid back/lenient compared to at other schools, so that's always nice...in the case of Caltech, it's the students who are really self-motivated too so they don't necessarily need strict professors either haha!

 

For most people, they will love the weather and cool west coast culture and surroundings that Caltech is in, and that there are a lot of things to do in the area,...however for me, this was the main con, because i LOOOOVE the east coast and i want to live and work in NJ someday!! Honestly, if it wasn't for this, I think I would strongly strongly consider going to Caltech because i think their department is very excellent and well regarded too.

 

It does seem like a pretty great program overall - but I honestly don't know much about it. I actually talked with Hsieh-Wilson on the phone and will be meeting with her (and hopefully Arnold)! I've lived on the east coast for my entire life, and I think I'm ready for a change. I've visited out west before and absolutely fell in love with the scenery and culture out there... cost of living, not so much.

 

I will definitely be visiting Caltech.  They have a truly phenomenal program and it is certainly one of my top choices.

 

I am also fortunate enough to have a friend from my UG institution who is now a first year grad student there.  He says he really likes it and says that the atmosphere is very collegial and even light-hearted.  He also says that the chemistry grad students are very normal and down to earth, which was a nice thing to hear.  In terms of funding, he says that the first year grad student housing is very affordable and 'your most limited resource will be time, not money.' Only five courses are required for graduate students, and there are department scholarships available so that you may not even have to teach your first year (only 900 undergrads)! 

 

Some pros:

-Outstanding reputation (on par with MIT in my opinion)...some may argue the best in the country.

-Small department (a pro in my opinion)

-From what my friend has told me, Pasadena is a very nice (and affordable) area to live in.  The weather is also very nice.  

-Graduate students know each other very well and work together.  My impression is that it is not as cut throat as some other programs.

 

Some cons:

-As the name implies, most of the students there are scientists or engineers.  2/3rd of the students are male.  Not a whole lot of diversity in my opinion (no graduate mingling with MBA, med, or law students).

-Intense. Although I think the atmosphere is welcoming, it is intimidating to be surrounded by so many smart people.  Also, some professors are very demanding.  Tragically, there was a student suicide a few weeks ago in the Peters group.

-Division III school.  I know many don't care about sports, but to me going to a football game on a Saturday afternoon is a great way to unwind.  I think this also ties into school spirit.

 

Nice to know that the students are "normal" (relative to chemists I assume  B)). Your pro's and cons are pretty similar to mine... I would miss having football every weekend as well! Beach might make up for it though. I also looked up the housing and it doesn't seem *too* astronomical for CA housing (given, where I am, rent is 300-400 for nice places). 

 

I'll also be visiting Caltech for the March 19 - 21 weekend. I'm super excited about it! (Though this reminds me that I still need to reserve a shuttle to/from LAX).

I still need to get my shuttle too! Thanks for reminder.

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One of the things that I'll definitely be looking at closely during the visit is the department's atmosphere - is it a in-the-lab-every-night-and-weekend sort of deal? High pressure environment? (I realize grad school is this in general, but how will it compare to other schools?) Do the grad students seem to enjoy being there and in their labs? My visits to other very-highly-ranked schools in the past did not make them seem like particularly healthy environments, so I'm curious to see how Caltech compares.

What aspects of the departments at top schools were those that seemed unhealthy, if you don't mind explaining in more detail? It would be helpful to know these things to keep in mind during visits.

Edited by ghostar

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What aspects of the departments at top schools were those that seemed unhealthy, if you don't mind explaining in more detail? It would be helpful to know these things to keep in mind during visits.

 

After reading my post again, I see that I used plurals to refer to my experience, when I'm really thinking of a particular visit. (Just thought I'd clarify that; sorry about any confusion.) But it was the first experience I had with a potential grad program and meeting grad students in my field, so it stands out to me.

 

Anyways, in the experience that I'm thinking of, all the students I talked to just seemed unhappy with everything - didn't like grad school, didn't like the facilities, didn't like their PI, didn't like the department, didn't like their research, tried to dissuade me from applying to grad school. It felt to me like the whole experience had burnt them out pretty badly. What exact factors in the program led to that I'm not sure, but I hope the things I mentioned above would bring that out in a program. (Also, disclaimer: I'm sure this depends in a large part on the student and PI.)

Edited by Hijojo

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I will be attending the March 19th-21st visiting weekend! I am definitely excited as CalTech has a wonderful program with a lot of potential professors I would be thrilled to work with. I am mostly focused on organometallic chemistry and synthetic methodology with a organometallic focus. If anyone would like to get in contact before the visiting weekend let me now! I would love to know some names before getting there :)

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For those who went during the Feb. 26-28 weekend, can you give a brief overview of what you felt during your visit? Did you feel comfortable during the visit? Satisfied by the responses given by graduate students and/or faculty? Pleased by the environment of the school? 

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I will definitely be visiting Caltech.  They have a truly phenomenal program and it is certainly one of my top choices.

 

I am also fortunate enough to have a friend from my UG institution who is now a first year grad student there.  He says he really likes it and says that the atmosphere is very collegial and even light-hearted.  He also says that the chemistry grad students are very normal and down to earth, which was a nice thing to hear.  In terms of funding, he says that the first year grad student housing is very affordable and 'your most limited resource will be time, not money.' Only five courses are required for graduate students, and there are department scholarships available so that you may not even have to teach your first year (only 900 undergrads)! 

 

Some pros:

-Outstanding reputation (on par with MIT in my opinion)...some may argue the best in the country.

-Small department (a pro in my opinion)

-From what my friend has told me, Pasadena is a very nice (and affordable) area to live in.  The weather is also very nice.  

-Graduate students know each other very well and work together.  My impression is that it is not as cut throat as some other programs.

 

Some cons:

-As the name implies, most of the students there are scientists or engineers.  2/3rd of the students are male.  Not a whole lot of diversity in my opinion (no graduate mingling with MBA, med, or law students).

-Intense. Although I think the atmosphere is welcoming, it is intimidating to be surrounded by so many smart people.  Also, some professors are very demanding.  Tragically, there was a student suicide a few weeks ago in the Peters group.

-Division III school.  I know many don't care about sports, but to me going to a football game on a Saturday afternoon is a great way to unwind.  I think this also ties into school spirit.

 

 

Groups I am most interested in are Agapie, Peters, and Lewis.  I think those are the three powerhouse inorganic groups.  Grubbs, Gray, and Bercaw are getting old and I do not think they are taking anymore students.

 

This is everything that comes off the top of my head.  I'll probably edit or post again if I think of anything else.

The suicide was in Greg Fu's group, not Jona Peters's

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The suicide was in Greg Fu's group, not Jona Peters's

I don't think so.  He is in the group photo of the Peters Group on the Peters website.  His death is also recognized on the Fu group page, which is where I think you may have gotten confused.  Anyways, the specific group that he was in is not really important. The only reason I brought it up is because it might be something to keep in mind when considering Caltech.

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I don't think so.  He is in the group photo of the Peters Group on the Peters website.  His death is also recognized on the Fu group page, which is where I think you may have gotten confused.  Anyways, the specific group that he was in is not really important. The only reason I brought it up is because it might be something to keep in mind when considering Caltech.

I've confirmed it again, the suicide was in the Fu group

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Not that it matters really which group he was in (I mean this merely with respect to the sadness of the loss), but the fact is that he was a joint Fu/Peters student

Edited by charlie12

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He was a joint student. He was a person, and a member of our community in the Caltech Chem department.

 

For anyone reading this: it's natural to be curious about situations like suicides that occur in departments you are considering. But, please remember that the community is still healing from this tragic loss of a life. I encourage you all to exercise discretion and good judgment in future discussions of the matter, whether it be on a forum or here at Caltech.

 

Also, don't get the bulk of your info from 1st-years, because they don't know a damn thing. Most first years are just now transitioning into something of a full-time lab schedule. So take what they say with a grain of salt.

 

I'll be around most of the recruitment shit this weekend, so if you happen to talk to me I'll give you straight answers ;)

 

But seriously, please be considerate regarding Gregory's passing.

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