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Quant & Comp Bio @ Princeton or Umbrella BBS @ Yale


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Really struggling with this, and I would appreciate any perspective you guys have to offer. I'm torn between a small program at Princeton and a much larger one at Yale. I come from a large top 50 state school (~30,000 undergrad + grad) and I'm super excited to continue doing research and get my PhD.



The program at Princeton is Quantitative and Computational Biology that specializes in almost exactly what I'm interested in: the interface of computational and molecular biology. This program has around 30 students and about as many faculty associated with it. It's five years old so it's not very easy to find placement information, but the molecular biology department has a good history of placing students in post-docs they're interested in. The building the department is housed in is beautiful and the campus is fairly cute. My biggest concern is that the program and set of faculty and the community may be too small for me. I'm used to the resources of a large research university and the diversity in the student population and community it brings with it. I also remember really disliking my recruitment weekend at Princeton, not clicking with the students, and feeling a little turned off by some of the people I met (too interested in math, not enough biology). When I went back to visit again, I have a slightly more favorable impression, but I only met with a handful of people. Although the faculty and research at Princeton are more well known in this field, I'm concerned about getting bored with the small town and community.


This brings me to Yale, which has about twice as many graduate students as Princeton's program in my track alone. Yale boasts 350 faculty I could work with across 12 different PhD programs I could choose from (my track MCGD would only affect me for my first year after which I could choose from a dozen PhD programs). The research at Yale seems just as interesting as it was at Princeton if not more so because there was a lot more molecular biology being done. I really enjoyed the graduate students I met and had a lot of fun going to restaurants and bars with them during my recruitment weekend. Although I'm a little turned off by the crime in New Haven, I feel like the size of the small city would be a better fit for me in terms of meeting people, having things to do on the weekend, and overall enjoying being a 20-year-old.


I'd love any input from you guys about how I should be thinking about this. How much should I value the size of the school? Is it possible that the physical distance between buildings at Yale will be stifling and be prohibitive to interdisciplinary research? Any advice is welcome!


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I guess I should also point out that Yale does have an interdisciplinary Computational Biology and Bioinformatics program, but the students in it tend not to do any wet-work. Talking to students, it seems like I could arrange a co-advising situation at Yale to do this type of research, but it would mean a lot more effort on my part as the faculty could be on opposite sides of campus/in different departments.

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It sounds like a no brainer to me.. Yale! You seem way more excited about Yale than Princeton.

You're really not going to go wrong with either program so I think you should go wherever you feel that you will be the happiest. Try to play the mind game where you pretend to have accepted each offer and see how you feel about that decision. That helped me confirm my decision.

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