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ECE PhD, EPFL vs UCSD, UT Austin and other U.S. Schools


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Hello everyone,

I am a senior EE undergrad and I am going to study for PhD beginning from Fall 2016. I currently have offers from 4 schools and I am full of questions on which one would be the best for me. My offers are:

- EPFL, EDIC PhD: 1 year fellowship
- UC San Diego, ECE PhD: 3 years fellowship
- UT Austin, ECE PhD: Funding decisions will be made in the following week as the Graduate Coordinator said.
- Stanford, EE, Master’s: No funding, I do not think I will accept this offer.

The schools that I did not get any response yet, are University of Michigan, USC and CMU. My research interests are statistical signal and image processing and there are professors and labs that I would love to work with, in all of the schools that I have offers from.

Before getting any news from the schools, EPFL was my first choice due to its location. From what I have learnt from the internet, EPFL has a PhD system similar to U.S. in terms of quality, and it is close to my home country, which, I think, is the ideal case for me. However, I talked to some professors in my university and some of them suggested to me to choose a school in the U.S. if I want to be a professor in the future. Their main point was that the schools in the U.S. are known better worldwide, and the name-brand of the university matters in academia.

The question that I am very curious about is whether EPFL is comparable to institutions such as UC San Diego, UT Austin or other “near-to-top” universities in the U.S or not. Would attending EPFL for my PhD hurt me when it comes to finding academic jobs in US or Europe?

Another question I have is that, the department I have offer from at EPFL is "Computer and Communication Sciences", not EE. However, the topics that I am going to work on are the same as what I will work on if I go to an EE department at another university. Do you know whether the name of the PhD program not being EE would cause problems for me while looking for academic jobs in EE departments, after my graduation?

I am unable find further information on these topics and any help and information you provide will be very important for me. Thank you all in advance.

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Well, in terms of branding, I believe it is not true that all universities from US are well known comparing to their peers in Europe. Choosing an offer also depends where you are going to build your career. However, I have seen young professors with PhD from EPFL and Zurich here in Canada. They are both excellent universities with global names. At the end of the day, it is your performance in PhD that matters most for perusing academia not the name of the university (take a look at faculties' profiles in any university that you want and see where they graduated from: you may get surprised).

If I was in your shoes, I definitely choose EPFL rather than UCSD and UTA.

Edited by stormtrooper
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Thank you very much for your answer, @stormtrooper. Right now, I feel like I would want to stay in Europe after PhD, but I do not know what I will think when I finish my graduate studies. I do not want to reduce my chances of finding a position in the U.S. by attending EPFL instead of the other universities I mentioned above. However, I am very happy to hear, from your personal experience, that EPFL is known outside of Europe as well.

Edited by a.boy
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