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Hi!

I'm an Indian student interested in biochemistry/bio organic chemistry. I have received 3 Ph.D Chem offers and am really confused! Any input would be really appreciated. 

The universities are U of British Columbia Vancouver campus (Canada) , Ohio State and University of Florida (US). UBC is ranked top 50 in the world for my program and is much more reputed than Ohio State. However, I'm having a tough time deciding between a few things -

1. US versus Canada. As an international student, Canada offers a better deal in terms of VISA conditions both during and after my PH.D. But US has better job prospects (both industrial research and academic) due to the sheer number of universities and pharmaceutical companies etc. Would it be tough to enter the States after my PH.D from Canada? Or would a better university be the better option?

2. The stipend. UBC offers a very low stipend ($21000 + $2000 one time fellowship) on which I'd have to keep a tight budget. I need to pay for my medical insurance and student fees too from this (around $1000-2000 per year). Canada is more expensive too for living costs. On the other hand, Florida is offering me $24000 with full health  insurance, while Ohio State is giving me $27500 (+2000 one time fellowship) with 85% health insurance. 

3. As for professors, Ohio State and UBC both have 3-4 professors whose research I like. Having had limited research experience, I don't really have a particular research topic in mind, just a broad idea. However, Ohio state has loads of grad students in the department. Will this be a drawback? 

4. Lab rotations. In Ohio state, the first term would be spent interacting with professors to decide which lab would be the best fit. UBC doesn't really have such a policy - most students know which lab to join, and a few do "look about" for the first term (as told by a current UBC student) and some do so before joining. The latter won't be an option for me because I'd have to arrive quite a bit in advance and spend my own money during that time.

Everyone I've spoken to tells me that I'd be foolish to let UBC go for state universities that aren't top 20 or even top 30 programs in USA. I'd really like advice from someone in the field/someone who knows about the future prospects as that would be more accurate than rankings!

Thanks a ton and sorry for the long post!

 

Edited by delhigirl

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From reading your post, it looks like we are in the exact same boat! I am choosing between Penn State (lots of $$$, state university, lower ranked) vs McGill University in Canada (low stipend, higher ranked). I am also an international student. I also have the issue of lab rotation vs. none in Canada. 

I spoke to one of my undergraduate advisors about this (she is a professor at CU-Boulder) and she admitted that a Canadian PhD is perhaps more complicated than a US PhD if you want to return to the US for post-doc or other positions. Unfortunately, I do think that she has a point.

But that doesn't mean that you can't enter the US after completing a successful Canadian PhD. Your success is what you make out of it, if that makes sense. Also, in the end, it is all about the quality of papers that you publish and your success in science... So ask yourself, which program would give you more opportunities to publish papers? Where would you become more valuable?

Have you had a chance to visit any of the campuses? What are your advisors like at UBCs vs the US schools? 

In all honesty, I am sure you would do well in any of the three universities! Go with your gut feeling :)

One thing that has helped me decide is looking at alumni that the the programs/advisors have produced. Maybe take a look at that and see where all the grad students are ending up after completing these programs. Did any of them become postdocs?

I am leaning towards Canada, but I agree, I am worried too about my chances of returning to a good postdoc or job in the US. 

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Hi people! I'm from Canada and although I'm not at McGill or UBC, I'm very familiar with the schools.

1. If you're concerned about going to the US afterwards, I can tell you that many, many people cross the border to work, and even come back later on, and there aren't any issues with that. However, I don't know if being an international student makes this more difficult though.

However, you shouldn't just take my word for it: you should look up where the professors you're working with come from (I'm sure many of them did some work in the US, either postdocs, grad programs, or undergrad) and where their students go afterwards.

Sometimes people want to stay in Canada for various reasons (family reasons, or they like the country better, etc), so even if not everyone is going to the US, it might not be because they can't, it may be because they don't want to.

 

2. The stipend issue definitely makes things challenging, however there are definitely ways to make 21k work in Vancouver. I know it is extremely expensive, but I live in Toronto currently on about 12k (though I do have some support from family). Grad students in Toronto sometimes only get 15k, and they make it work. In some ways Vancouver is more expensive, however it depends if you require a one-bedroom condo all to yourself in the heart of the city, or if you're open to having roommates, getting a place a little farther away, or other options like that. You can PM me with some specific questions about living in Canada, and I can send you some links to websites we frequently use to find places.

 

3. It's great that there is more than one professor you're interested in. I don't think lots of grad students in total are an issue, I think it depends on how many faculty there are and whether you want to be in a big or a small lab.

 

4. You are always able to switch your supervisor, so for that reason I don't think lab rotations are necessary. They know you are just figuring things out in the first year, so you shouldn't need to go there beforehand and see what's happening. However, I would definitely talk to current students and read up on their papers a bunch.

 

In sum, people go from Canada to the US all the time for work (and even back again!) such that it's not a big deal. Some people might not have heard of most Canadian schools, but the ones you guys are referring to here are top three for most programs, so they are recognizable. The only one arguably better (and I would argue for it because I go here) would be University of Toronto.

You have just the same opportunity to publish in good journals in Canada as in the US, if you're talking about comparably ranked programs. If the one in Canada is better, it's possible that you have a higher opportunity to publish in good journals. Canadian students go to the same conferences as US students, with maybe some additional Canadian ones, so if you're able to be productive and happy in a Canadian school, you'll be able to make it to the US. Personally, I'm going to apply to both Canadian and US jobs when I graduate, because frankly, there isn't a barrier or anything to me.

Best of luck on your decisions!

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On 3/30/2016 at 8:27 PM, Fossey said:

From reading your post, it looks like we are in the exact same boat! I am choosing between Penn State (lots of $$$, state university, lower ranked) vs McGill University in Canada (low stipend, higher ranked). I am also an international student. I also have the issue of lab rotation vs. none in Canada. 

I spoke to one of my undergraduate advisors about this (she is a professor at CU-Boulder) and she admitted that a Canadian PhD is perhaps more complicated than a US PhD if you want to return to the US for post-doc or other positions. Unfortunately, I do think that she has a point.

But that doesn't mean that you can't enter the US after completing a successful Canadian PhD. Your success is what you make out of it, if that makes sense. Also, in the end, it is all about the quality of papers that you publish and your success in science... So ask yourself, which program would give you more opportunities to publish papers? Where would you become more valuable?

Have you had a chance to visit any of the campuses? What are your advisors like at UBCs vs the US schools? 

In all honesty, I am sure you would do well in any of the three universities! Go with your gut feeling :)

One thing that has helped me decide is looking at alumni that the the programs/advisors have produced. Maybe take a look at that and see where all the grad students are ending up after completing these programs. Did any of them become postdocs?

I am leaning towards Canada, but I agree, I am worried too about my chances of returning to a good postdoc or job in the US. 

Finally someone in the same spot!! Firstly, congratulations on your admits, both are awesome schools. Unfortunately I haven't been able to visit either of the universities because I'm currently finishing my master's in India. I haven't ever studied in the States or Canada before. Therefore, none of my professors have much to say on the US vs Canada debate. I spoke to a few people in the States regarding postdoc/job opportunities in the US after a Canadian PhD and they said that it wouldn't really make much of a difference and that lots of students do get such chances.

 As for advisors, I guess both are equally matched. Alumni, I'm not too sure about since UBC takes ages to reply to my mails and most of their research pages don't have much info about their alumni apart from names. 

Still very lost!!

 

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On 3/30/2016 at 9:29 PM, eternallyephemeral said:

Hi people! I'm from Canada and although I'm not at McGill or UBC, I'm very familiar with the schools.

1. If you're concerned about going to the US afterwards, I can tell you that many, many people cross the border to work, and even come back later on, and there aren't any issues with that. However, I don't know if being an international student makes this more difficult though.

However, you shouldn't just take my word for it: you should look up where the professors you're working with come from (I'm sure many of them did some work in the US, either postdocs, grad programs, or undergrad) and where their students go afterwards.

Sometimes people want to stay in Canada for various reasons (family reasons, or they like the country better, etc), so even if not everyone is going to the US, it might not be because they can't, it may be because they don't want to.

 

2. The stipend issue definitely makes things challenging, however there are definitely ways to make 21k work in Vancouver. I know it is extremely expensive, but I live in Toronto currently on about 12k (though I do have some support from family). Grad students in Toronto sometimes only get 15k, and they make it work. In some ways Vancouver is more expensive, however it depends if you require a one-bedroom condo all to yourself in the heart of the city, or if you're open to having roommates, getting a place a little farther away, or other options like that. You can PM me with some specific questions about living in Canada, and I can send you some links to websites we frequently use to find places.

 

3. It's great that there is more than one professor you're interested in. I don't think lots of grad students in total are an issue, I think it depends on how many faculty there are and whether you want to be in a big or a small lab.

 

4. You are always able to switch your supervisor, so for that reason I don't think lab rotations are necessary. They know you are just figuring things out in the first year, so you shouldn't need to go there beforehand and see what's happening. However, I would definitely talk to current students and read up on their papers a bunch.

 

In sum, people go from Canada to the US all the time for work (and even back again!) such that it's not a big deal. Some people might not have heard of most Canadian schools, but the ones you guys are referring to here are top three for most programs, so they are recognizable. The only one arguably better (and I would argue for it because I go here) would be University of Toronto.

You have just the same opportunity to publish in good journals in Canada as in the US, if you're talking about comparably ranked programs. If the one in Canada is better, it's possible that you have a higher opportunity to publish in good journals. Canadian students go to the same conferences as US students, with maybe some additional Canadian ones, so if you're able to be productive and happy in a Canadian school, you'll be able to make it to the US. Personally, I'm going to apply to both Canadian and US jobs when I graduate, because frankly, there isn't a barrier or anything to me.

Best of luck on your decisions!

Thank you so much for all the help! 

1) Canadians do go to the US often to work or get postdocs but there's a special North American Treaty that allows citizens of the US, Canada and Mexico to work in any of the 3. Since I'm not a citizen, I don't know whether I'd be looked over for others who do fall under the treaty.

2) it would be great it I could PM you with more queries about living in Canada

 

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Just now, delhigirl said:

Thank you so much for all the help! 

1) Canadians do go to the US often to work or get postdocs but there's a special North American Treaty that allows citizens of the US, Canada and Mexico to work in any of the 3. Since I'm not a citizen, I don't know whether I'd be looked over for others who do fall under the treaty.

2) it would be great it I could PM you with more queries about living in Canada

 

No problem at all!

1) Is it possible for you to become a permanent resident of Canada? Would that help? Are you interested in doing that at all? I would definitely talk to someone about the visa requirements.

2) Sure, PM away!

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