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UMass Amherst vs U of Edinburgh for Machine Learning PhD


SaulGoodman
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I have admits from these two universities and having a tough time deciding what to do. Please help me. I will be working in machine learning and have good research background in this field. I was a Math major in undergrad with very limited CS coursework. After graduation I will be looking to join one of the big industry research labs. Would also be exploring the possibility of a start-up in this field alongside my PhD. I will be an international student at either place.

 

University of Edinburgh

This is the course: http://datascience.inf.ed.ac.uk/

Pros:

1) Good overlap of research interests, freedom in choosing advisor

2) Some really good courses in areas of interest

3) Lots of faculty in all areas of ML (see http://datascience.inf.ed.ac.uk/people/)

4) Can finish PhD in about 4 years

5) Top 3 European university

 

Cons:

1) Europe! Not sure about future prospects. Have heard international students find it very difficult to get jobs in Europe or US.

2) Degree not as well regarded? Have heard that post-doc (preferably in US) is almost necessary. If someone could comment on this?

3) Stipend just barely sufficient to cover basic living costs (from what I have gathered)

4) Extreme weather!

 

UMass Amherst

Pros:

1) US! Job opportunities after graduation are relatively more abundant. Research internships at good places easier to get.

2) Chance to do basic coursework in CS (databases, systems etc)

3) Better stipend (than Edinburgh for the cost of living)

 

Cons:

1) Not a very good fit with research interests. A couple of people are doing work which I will enjoy, but it is not guaranteed that I get to work with them.

2) Small number of faculty in ML - mostly in NLP and IR.

3) Not sure if there is enough freedom in choosing advisor

4) 5+ years to graduation (have heard it generally takes even longer)

 

Overall both universities are similarly ranked.

 

Will be very thankful for your opinions/comments/advice.

Edited by SaulGoodman
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Since you have very little CS background, you are probably better off with Amherst. The coursework will prepare you better for industry. That is, if other factors do not sway you to Edinburgh. Bear in mind that most European students have MScs before they go into PhD and, therefore, better employment prospects in industry. Your prospects in academia largely depend on how well you do in your PhD. Edinburgh is a great school, so that should be no impediment. I don't know any European academics that did postdocs in the US, so I am not sure where you got that from.

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Thanks Marst. Actually I do have an MSc (though in Math). Also my research experience in ML is quite strong, which may compensate for the difference of not having CS MSc.

Also, the first year of the Edinburgh program is actually MSc by Reseach (with 6 taught courses)  :)

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Alright, that makes sense. I was already surprised that Edinburgh would accept CS PhD students straight out of undergrad. So the Edinburgh program is a 1 + 3 or something? I think those MScs in maths and CS diminish the advantage of the coursework in the US PhD.

 

Do you have to TA or RA in Amherst or Edinburgh, or can you focus on your own research?

 

Other that all that, you might want to consider where you would like to work after graduation. Working in Europe will be easier with a European degree, like wokring in the States will be easier with a US degree. Also, you will have to live there for 4 to 7 years during your PhD, so have you visited both places to see whether you would like living there?

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Both are excellent schools in ML. Echoing what others have said, it will come down to whether you want a job in US or Europe after graduation.

 

Faculty-wise UMass has Andrew McCallum while UoE has Ian Murray. Look at their publication records and see which seems more in line with your interests.

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Thanks cicada2014. I don't have any particular opinion of where I want to work right now, but I do have preference for the type of work. Isn't it the case that most good positions in this field are based in US?

Also aren't the visa issues for international students a major hurdle in Europe (after graduation)?

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