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nypp93

Biostat: UW vs Upenn?

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Hi all, 

I have recently been accepted to uw and upenn's biostat Phd program. I've already been in Seattle in a few years, so I think it's not bad to change a place to live. But  I know uw has one of the top biostat programs. So I just can't make up my mind so far. I would really appreciate if anybody could come up with some advantages of one over the other. Or maybe just anything you know about these two programs. Thanks a lot!

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I can't give you much insight into the programs as far as the specifics, but I will reference a post (albeit it is quite old), about halfway down the page cyberwulf discusses the differences between the tier of departments and its effects on career prospects in academia. 

Additionally, I lived in Philadelphia for about two years and attended classes a few classes at Penn. It may be a personal preference, but I absolutely hated the city.

 

Hope this helps a bit!

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1 hour ago, Cioran said:

 

Additionally, I lived in Philadelphia for about two years and attended classes a few classes at Penn. It may be a personal preference, but I absolutely hated the city.

 

 

I can't comment on the programs, but I grew up in Philly. I think the city is great personally. Great mix of old and new. Many good restaurants. Great art museum. Access to outdoors with Fairmount park/east river drive. If you are willing to live within 15 min of campus, there's a diversity of neighborhoods to choose from that (I think) should be pretty affordable. I'd imagine most Penn grad students live in West Philly, which isn't the nicest area for sure, but that's really not a must if you're wiling to take a bus. 

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By the way, I also want to ask about the difference between attending a statistics program and a biostatistics program. Is it really the case that a stat phd will have more choices for job-searching. Thanks!

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Wow, I still pop in here from time to time to help out with advice. I saw this referencing an old post of mine and can't believe it's been over 4 years since I made this post. I've been on this forum long enough to go from researching prospective schools and asking questions, to going through graduate school, and now nearing graduation. Time sure does fly! Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

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If you are concerned about being limited in career options, UW biostat and stat students take many of the same core theory courses. Biostat students can get an advisor who is in the stat dept as well. Woohoo!

One nice benefit of going to UPenn is you can brag at dinner parties that you went to an Ivy League school!

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If you look at a lot of the Ivy League faculty in biostatistics (particularly Yale, Brown, etc.), many of them came from Ivy League PhD programs, despite that UW is a more "highly ranked" program. Just something to consider.

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41 minutes ago, footballman2399 said:

If you look at a lot of the Ivy League faculty in biostatistics (particularly Yale, Brown, etc.), many of them came from Ivy League PhD programs, despite that UW is a more "highly ranked" program. Just something to consider.

Eh, I wouldn't really draw conclusions from those few data points (yale and brown biostats are fairly small programs). Also if you look at Penn biostats academic placements specifically, they're not amazing, only have one recent placement at CMU (from a guy who worked with Dylan Small). UW has placements pretty much everywhere.

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4 hours ago, marmle said:

Eh, I wouldn't really draw conclusions from those few data points (yale and brown biostats are fairly small programs). Also if you look at Penn biostats academic placements specifically, they're not amazing, only have one recent placement at CMU (from a guy who worked with Dylan Small). UW has placements pretty much everywhere.

What about the placements for the industry? I am not sure if I will eventually choose to be a faculty. Which one would be better if I want to be a data scientist in NYC after graduation?

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17 hours ago, nypp93 said:

What about the placements for the industry? I am not sure if I will eventually choose to be a faculty. Which one would be better if I want to be a data scientist in NYC after graduation?

It's hard to say for certain. To the extent that some firms recruit exclusively or almost exclusively from Ivy League schools (for some firms, brand name > program rank) then there could be an advantage of UPenn. On the other hand, there's a lot of data science recruiting in Seattle (although it might be more regional--pertaining to jobs on the west coast). You probably couldn't make a bad decision either way if you want to go to industry. I suppose I would choose UW for data science just because I know that UW is committed to solving big data problems in their stats and CS departments. 

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21 hours ago, marmle said:

Eh, I wouldn't really draw conclusions from those few data points (yale and brown biostats are fairly small programs). Also if you look at Penn biostats academic placements specifically, they're not amazing, only have one recent placement at CMU (from a guy who worked with Dylan Small). UW has placements pretty much everywhere.

I'm not saying that those placements are necessarily "good" or at highly ranked institutions. I'm merely pointing out there appears to be an Ivy League hiring bias among Ivy League schools. And yeah, UW has great placements there's no doubt about it. But even they aren't really the "best" for academic placements. It's hard to argue anyone other than Michigan for that, and they are number 4 in biostats. 

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2 hours ago, footballman2399 said:

I'm not saying that those placements are necessarily "good" or at highly ranked institutions. I'm merely pointing out there appears to be an Ivy League hiring bias among Ivy League schools. And yeah, UW has great placements there's no doubt about it. But even they aren't really the "best" for academic placements. It's hard to argue anyone other than Michigan for that, and they are number 4 in biostats. 

Michigan is top dog in academic placement? 

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42 minutes ago, statbiostat2017 said:

Michigan is top dog in academic placement? 

Yeah idk about this. There's a reason why Harvard/UW are considered in their own tier in biostats followed by JHU/UM/UNC

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5 hours ago, statbiostat2017 said:

Michigan is top dog in academic placement? 

Here's a post from @biostat_prof in this thread (emphasis mine). This also comes from my own research, where I've looked at where faculty did their PhDs. A very good chunk of them come from Michigan, oftentimes more than places like UW, Harvard, and JHU:

Repeat after me: "There is no 'top 3.' Your ability to find a good job in academia depends on your publications and your adviser's recommendations, not the name of the school you attended." Sorry that I keep saying that over and over again, but I don't know where this idea that UW/Harvard/Hopkins are somehow orders of magnitude better than any other biostat departments got started on this board, because it's simply false. As I have noted elsewhere, as near as I can tell Michigan is placing more students in the best jobs than any of these three schools right now.

 

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1 hour ago, footballman2399 said:

... as near as I can tell...

 

What does this even mean?  Are you basing this on any data?

Edited by Innominate

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1 hour ago, footballman2399 said:

Here's a post from @biostat_prof in this thread (emphasis mine). This also comes from my own research, where I've looked at where faculty did their PhDs. A very good chunk of them come from Michigan, oftentimes more than places like UW, Harvard, and JHU:

Repeat after me: "There is no 'top 3.' Your ability to find a good job in academia depends on your publications and your adviser's recommendations, not the name of the school you attended." Sorry that I keep saying that over and over again, but I don't know where this idea that UW/Harvard/Hopkins are somehow orders of magnitude better than any other biostat departments got started on this board, because it's simply false. As I have noted elsewhere, as near as I can tell Michigan is placing more students in the best jobs than any of these three schools right now.

 

Thanks for that link. Yeah it was a sincere question. Ive browsed a lot of department pages and looked at where assistant professors are coming from but I wasn't really paying attention for Michigan so i may have missed it. It's encouraging to hear the "There is no 'top 3'". Where I'm at in my life I feel like I can accomplish what I want to accomplish but always have the fear in the back of my mind that where I go to school will be too large of a factor. 

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2 hours ago, footballman2399 said:

Here's a post from @biostat_prof in this thread (emphasis mine). This also comes from my own research, where I've looked at where faculty did their PhDs. A very good chunk of them come from Michigan, oftentimes more than places like UW, Harvard, and JHU:

Repeat after me: "There is no 'top 3.' Your ability to find a good job in academia depends on your publications and your adviser's recommendations, not the name of the school you attended." Sorry that I keep saying that over and over again, but I don't know where this idea that UW/Harvard/Hopkins are somehow orders of magnitude better than any other biostat departments got started on this board, because it's simply false. As I have noted elsewhere, as near as I can tell Michigan is placing more students in the best jobs than any of these three schools right now.

 

While I agree that all of the schools in question are great and you can have good placements going to any of them (and the gap between programs probably isn't as big as it seems), you have to acknowledge that biostat_prof's statements are gonna be somewhat biased considering it seems as though they're faculty at UNC (also that thread is 4 years old!).

Also what @Innominate was saying, where's the data. And also you need to think about criterion for what saying one school is better than the rest at academic placement means (e.g. how recent are the hires, are the placements at some of the top programs or some of the lower programs (or even unknown programs), do postdocs count?, how do you compare biostat department placements to stats department placements or placements in other related departments, etc.)

 

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13 minutes ago, marmle said:

While I agree that all of the schools in question are great and you can have good placements going to any of them (and the gap between programs probably isn't as big as it seems), you have to acknowledge that biostat_prof's statements are gonna be somewhat biased considering it seems as though they're faculty at UNC (also that thread is 4 years old!).

Also what @Innominate was saying, where's the data. And also you need to think about criterion for what saying one school is better than the rest at academic placement means (e.g. how recent are the hires, are the placements at some of the top programs or some of the lower programs (or even unknown programs), do postdocs count?, how do you compare biostat department placements to stats department placements or placements in other related departments, etc.)

 

He's definitely not UNC, because he says this in the same post:

"And I don't know where you get the information that UW/Harvard/Hopkins have the strongest students, because as one who is involved with admissions at one of the schools in question, I'll just say that I have very strong reason to doubt that statement."

Also even if he were from UNC why would he boast about a program he is not involved in?

And the downside is there is no data (that I'm aware of) that consolidates academic placements. I was merely browsing the faculty page of several biostat web sites and observed that biostat_prof's conjecture seems accurate.

Finally, even if the post is from 2013, that doesn't make it irrelevant. The top 3 programs back then are the same top 3 now. Moreover, most agree on this forum that your advisor's reputation--not that of your program--correlates with placement. Faculty movements aren't that common that this claim made by biostat_prof is irrelevant in my opinion. 

I'm not trying to diss the top 3 or say they don't deserve to be there. But the rankings are based on a faculty survey about how strong the research is coming out of those programs. It is not based on placement. 

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Fortunately, Michigan does provide their information here: https://secure.rackham.umich.edu/academic_information/program_details/biostatistics/

From 2012-2016, 14% of their graduates were in tenure track faculty positions in their first year after graduation, compared with 44% in business/industry. I haven't found this information for any other programs, so I can't say whether 14% is substantially higher than others, but it certainly doesn't strike me as something to write home about.

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4 minutes ago, gc2012 said:

Fortunately, Michigan does provide their information here: https://secure.rackham.umich.edu/academic_information/program_details/biostatistics/

From 2012-2016, 14% of their graduates were in tenure track faculty positions in their first year after graduation, compared with 44% in business/industry. I haven't found this information for any other programs, so I can't say whether 14% is substantially higher than others, but it certainly doesn't strike me as something to write home about.

Yeah it's difficult to say without similar data to compare it with but still 14% in their FIRST year? So no postdocs? That doesn't seem too bad. When I visited A&M stats they had basically 4 academic placements out of like the last 4 cohorts.

Many PhD graduates will do postdocs to obtain academic jobs. What matters isn't the initial placement but rather where they end up. 

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Full stat from the link:

  Position type first year after graduation, 2012 - 2016 cohorts
Tenure-track faculty 14%
Postdoctoral / Traineeship / Fellowship 28%
Non-Tenure Track Faculty / University Researcher / University Administrator 5%
Business / Industry 44%
Other professional employment / Government / Non-Profit 9%
Not employed 0%
No data available 2%
Total Ph.D.s awarded 64
Edited by machinescholar

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15 minutes ago, footballman2399 said:

He's definitely not UNC, because he says this in the same post:

"And I don't know where you get the information that UW/Harvard/Hopkins have the strongest students, because as one who is involved with admissions at one of the schools in question, I'll just say that I have very strong reason to doubt that statement."

Also even if he were from UNC why would he boast about a program he is not involved in?

And the downside is there is no data (that I'm aware of) that consolidates academic placements. I was merely browsing the faculty page of several biostat web sites and observed that biostat_prof's conjecture seems accurate.

Finally, even if the post is from 2013, that doesn't make it irrelevant. The top 3 programs back then are the same top 3 now. Moreover, most agree on this forum that your advisor's reputation--not that of your program--correlates with placement. Faculty movements aren't that common that this claim made by biostat_prof is irrelevant in my opinion. 

I'm not trying to diss the top 3 or say they don't deserve to be there. But the rankings are based on a faculty survey about how strong the research is coming out of those programs. It is not based on placement. 

Not saying it's irrelevant but that you have to take into account placements since that time. Just as an example it seems like Hopkins has had a ton of placements since 2011-2012ish (http://www.biostat.jhsph.edu/people/alumni/alumlist.shtml). The problem is as you said there's no consolidated data and we're all pretty much just showing anecdotal evidence, and we probably notice/remember some things more than others (e.g. you see Michigan placements, I see Hopkins placements).

In reality going to any of these programs is most likely going to set you up well, and as you said, advisor matters more than the overall program! Not trying to start a fight or diss anyone either haha

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Interesting discussion. A couple of thoughts:

1) It's very hard to judge placement records on the basis of a few years of data, because the sample sizes are relatively small and 2-3 strong students can make it seem like a program is doing great over a short timespan. Complicating matters is the fact that, starting about five years ago, there was a massive shift in hiring practices such that it has become uncommon for students to land jobs at top 10-15 departments without first completing a postdoc.

2) That being said, I just don't see the evidence that Michigan has had great placements in recent years. They are almost certainly outpaced by Hopkins, and likely UW and Harvard as well. Berkeley and Minnesota have also had some notable successes.

3) biostat_prof doesn't seem to drop in on these boards much anymore, so it's a bit unfair to take shots at her/him, but they are clearly a UNC "homer". I have also been involved in admissions at a good program and it is objectively false that the incoming class at places like UNC/Michigan/Minnesota/Berkeley is on par (in terms of pedigree, preparation, etc.) with those at the "top 3". Some schools do a better job than others at maximizing the talent they get, but there is clearly a talent gradient as you move down the rankings.

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