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Professor vs. University Reputation (PhD)


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Hi, I have been agonizing over this problem for weeks, so it will be very helpful if you guys would share your thoughts on this issue.

I have two options at hand--a distinguished professor in UCI vs. a relatively less distinguished professor in Duke. I really take to the professor at UCI personally and recognize her as one of the best professors in my field, yet I am not sure what difference the name of the university would make when I apply to jobs in university after graduation (as a researcher or professor). I am inclined towards professor over university now, but I am not sure. Please share your opinions! Thank you very much!

Edited by treyoung1990
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Both of these schools have great name recognition so I don't think you need to worry about job opportunities either way. I think that a top professor in the field can open a lot of opportunities... for example, you will be more likely to be chosen to give big talks at conferences, will have an easier time getting papers published, network with other top PIs. I would go with the top professor.


With that being said, I would also strongly consider the stength/fit of the other professors at the school. My field may work differently than yours but I think there is always a chance that the professor will choose a different student over you for the lab or that you will join the lab but the prof will leave the university or maybe she turns out to be a poor mentor fit for you. This stuff happens all the time. If that happens, what other profs are at both universities? Are there other strong profs at either school? This should be a HUGE factor in your decision in my opinion.

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I've been told to choose a department over an individual faculty member. You never know how long that professor will teach in the department... if she leaves in the middle of your graduate career, will you have other folks in the department to support you?

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I agree that I'd take into consideration the strength/reputation of the overall department, plus your fit with other faculty. Even if your professor does not leave during your time at the institution (if a star professor is in a lesser dept you have good reason to wonder whether they will get a better offer in the next few years) and is committed to working closely with you, you want to make sure that you can take classes and seek advice from other people in the dept. And when it comes to hiring, employers may be familiar with the best departments but not the best prof within each subfield.


You may also want to take into consideration other resources in the vicinity of the schools (i.e. could you cross-enroll at nearby campuses to take classes with other top people? are there good facilities for your field in the area where you can get hands on experience?) 


Another big factor is funding... Duke certainly has more money than the UCs, and UC funding gets cut all the time. 


Ultimately of course, you should go with what feels right to you! 

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