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MS Robotics: Northwestern vs Oregon State


roboticist
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Hi,

 

I was wondering of anyone could shed some light on the pros and cons of the Masters in Robotics programs at each of these universities.

 

Though Northwestern is miles ahead in terms of engineering subject rankings, the MS program is short (1 year) and more expensive with seemingly little scope for RA/TA/institutional funding. Is the short course duration a big disadvantage? I realize a PhD right after my masters is virtually impossible to get since applications will have to be submitted 3 months after I begin my course, which isn't enough time to do anything significant. Will finding a job be just as tough? (I haven't decided between a PhD and a job)

 

Oregon State seems to have some good professors and a lot of ongoing research in robotics. It's also a lot cheaper, is a 2 year program giving me more time for meaningful research, and has the possibility of funding after a semester.

 

I've found professors of interest in both places, and they seem equally good in terms of research work and publications. My primary concern with Oregon is the ranking. I see all these posts claiming rankings don't matter, but I'm not entirely convinced. With Northwestern, it's about how much I can get out of one year.

 

I've been scouring through the alumni lists of these universities to see what they are up to, but being new programs, it's hard to find information. Can someone please shed some light?

 

Thanks in advance.

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Hi,

 

I've been collecting some information and have decided to join OSU. Some of these are already listed out in my original post, but here goes:

  • OSU has excellent research labs and professors. I expect the research work here to be more in-depth than that at NU (for masters, not for PhD)
  • The 2 year program at OSU gives me more time to establish good relations with a PI and get recommendations for PhD/ more time for internships and job hunting if I decide against a PhD
  • The NU MS program seems to have stuffed a lot of courses into 1 year, but research seems to take a back seat (no thesis requirements, no examples of research projects that explore topics in depth and lack of time to do any meaningful research)
  • The NU MS projects listed out by current students on their portfolios are underwhelming to be honest (ball tracking, pick and place... simple stuff that I'd expect people to know already before joining an MS program)
  • NU will easily cost about $80,000 with no scope of RA/TAships. Tuition at OSU is about $20,000 a year with chances of getting assistantships
  • The NU program seems geared to familiarise people with exisitng platforms such as ROS and interfacing different systems. I suppose I'm looking for something more

I am obviously biased against NU now that I've chosen OSU, but I hope I haven't been too harsh in criticising it. It might still be a better program if you have different priorities.

 

Hope this helps someone in the future.

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Thanks for your points, they're all helpful. Unfortunately I don't have the liberty to choose OSU (made the stupid mistake of applying to the mechE program instead of robotics, thinking it would be safer; wasn't admitted). I have to choose between Columbia and NU, so NU is the clear choice for me. Some pros about their program which helped me make the decision, from talking to their students and faculty:

  • If you're sure you do not want to pursue a PhD immediately after MS, the one year program can help you join the industry faster. Companies don't really read your thesis, they just want to know you've worked on relevant things. I think a portfolio does as great a job (if not better) as a thesis in conveying your potential to them.
  • Agreed, it might not go as in-depth as a thesis MS, but the reason you were underwhelmed by their current portfolios is that the final quarter, which will be dedicated to doing your own project under a professor, is yet to come. The ones till now are mini-projects which were part of their courses. Also, you will have a lot of freedom in the final project - you can propose your own idea, instead of working on a project your supervisor is already leading. (What the professor gains from this is preliminary work which they can expand on later and propose for grants).
  • The cohort model (15-20 students in the batch) fosters a much more personal interaction with your professors and peers, rather than being just another name in the crowd. In that sense, it is actually conducive to establishing lasting relations in a short time.
  • Finally, NU has a formidable reputation and global ranking, which I think does matter in the long-term. Their industry links are also very strong.

Again, my bias is toward NU since I chose that. But if I had the option of OSU too, it would've been a tough decision.

Edited by LiminalSpace
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"Also, you will have a lot of freedom in the final project - you can propose your own idea, instead of working on a project your supervisor is already leading."

 

I was told specifically during my interview that this would not be the case. Maybe you should confirm with the program director if this is a major factor for you.

 

Thanks for your points, they're all helpful. Unfortunately I don't have the liberty to choose OSU (made the stupid mistake of applying to the mechE program instead of robotics, thinking it would be safer; wasn't admitted). I have to choose between Columbia and NU, so NU is the clear choice for me. Some pros about their program which helped me make the decision, from talking to their students and faculty:

  • If you're sure you do not want to pursue a PhD immediately after MS, the one year program can help you join the industry faster. Companies don't really read your thesis, they just want to know you've worked on relevant things. I think a portfolio does as great a job (if not better) as a thesis in conveying your potential to them.
  • Agreed, it might not go as in-depth as a thesis MS, but the reason you were underwhelmed by their current portfolios is that the final quarter, which will be dedicated to doing your own project under a professor, is yet to come. The ones till now are mini-projects which were part of their courses. Also, you will have a lot of freedom in the final project - you can propose your own idea, instead of working on a project your supervisor is already leading. (What the professor gains from this is preliminary work which they can expand on later and propose for grants).
  • The cohort model (15-20 students in the batch) fosters a much more personal interaction with your professors and peers, rather than being just another name in the crowd. In that sense, it is actually conducive to establishing lasting relations in a short time.
  • Finally, NU has a formidable reputation and global ranking, which I think does matter in the long-term. Their industry links are also very strong.

Again, my bias is toward NU since I chose that. But if I had the option of OSU too, it would've been a tough decision.

Edited by roboticist
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