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UCSF vs. Rockefeller (for systems neuroscience)


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We've already heard a lot of wonderful things about UCSF but I'm wondering how it might compare to Rockefeller. I read through the previous UCSF vs Princeton post and stole the pros and cons that I agreed with/cared about. Currently I'm leaning towards UCSF because I think its a better fit for my scientific interests, but I want to be convinced to go to Rockefeller because I think I would be happier and have a better lifestyle there. Unfortunately the cons I have with Rockefeller are really fairly major drawbacks.



  • Huge choice of PIs and labs
  • Excellent research in systems neuroscience -- arguably the best in the world.
  • All the resources of the bay area and San Francisco
  • No TA requirement


  • Just a medical campus, no engineering or physics etc (although Berkeley connection). I'm not very computational anyway though.
  • Lots of coursework
  • Crazy expensive (stipend is 37K, but SF is crazy expensive). So housing and general lifestyle are gonna be rough.




  • Full access to mentors at Weill Cornell
  • Most faculty are extremely well-regarded scientists -- something like half of them are NAS members
  • Insanely good benefits - 39k stipend, healthcare. Studio housing on the upper east side of manhattan for 640/mo which is just ridiculous.
  • Very small department with heavy focus on educating and nurturing graduate students.
  • Department pays all stipend/tuition costs for 5 years, which could improve relationship/availability of PI's
  • No TA requirement and coursework is very light, mostly seminars with no exams
  • New York!


  • Small neuroscience faculty - only a handful really match my interest and I won't know until after I commit whether I really like them and their lab environments
  • Mostly large labs, though there are a decent number of small ones. Again, I might not have much choice in terms of the intersection of my interests with who wants a graduate student that year.
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I also agree that the science should guide your decision, but if you think you might be unhappy living in SF you could try emailing prospective advisors/grad students at Rockefeller and ask about their lab environments or if they are taking students.

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