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USC vs Yale Earth Sciences (Geobiology)


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I'm looking to start a PhD program with a concentration towards microbial geobiology and astrobiology this upcoming fall. I'm super split between attending Yale and USC (southern california).

For earth sciences in general, Yale is much better ranked and has that "ivy status" to begin with. It's a wonderful department with wonderful people and very progressive research. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have an exact concentration I am interested in. They seem to be heading in that general direction with some of their recent hires and I could probably still make a cool project/thesis happen there. My main POI does work in that field but they aren't very well known for often having students (last I think graduated 2010) and I'm not sure if this is good or not. USC, on the other hand, is not nearly as well ranked but has a concrete geobiology/astrobiology team and solid connections with CalTech and JPL labs. My POI there has a research concentration almost perfectly in line with what I want to do and there are a couple of other professors who's research I'm very interested in. It really does seem like a wonderful "fit". Yet, it seems a little crazy to go for USC when I could obtain my PhD at Yale.

Has anyone been in a fit vs rank position like this before? Particularly when the rankings are so different (#14 vs #25) and the name recognition difference quite significant? 

Edited by MicroRocks
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