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DiscoTech

Electrical Engineering: Michigan v. Wisconsin

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Background: 
- Older graduate student (30+) with family
- Have plenty of savings from industry experience
- Desired postgraduate employment - national lab/academia/industry lab 

Here are the different criteria I need to consider:

Quality of Project:
Michigan: A little outside my area of interest, but a hot topic at the moment. 
Wisconsin: Has two projects with two different PIs that are great matches for me.

Mentorship:
Michigan: Younger professor, but has put out some highly cited papers in last couple of years.
Wisconsin: One is a younger professor and the other is a member of the national academies. The senior professor has great contacts in industry and government labs.

Funding:
Michigan: RA for the duration of the project - 3 years
Wisconsin: First year fellowship and RA thereafter
*** - After factoring in fees and insurance, Michigan offers is $5k/year more.

Time to Degree:
Michigan: 4 years likely
Wisconsin: 3-3.5 year likely 
*** - This is important because my spouse's career is going to take a beating in the Midwest. 
 

Spouse's Career:
Michigan: Can likely get a Visiting Assistant Professor or Visiting Fellow gig.
Wisconsin: Nothing as prestigious available since spouse's field of specialization is not offered here.


Quality of Life:
We like both cities equally, but family is half as far away from Wisconsin compared to Michigan.
 

Edited by DiscoTech

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QoP: Seems like Wisconsin wins here if you truly aren't interested in the 'hot topic'.

Ment: Wisconsin seems to win but don't discount younger professors, they usually are very energetic in getting new and impactful projects done. Connections are nice, but it is possible someone putting out highly cited work is also forming those connections.

Rest: Michigan seems to have a clear edge here (other than no first year fellowship and proximity to Detroit, but RA is good experience). I think taking your spouses QoL and career into account is important (I only applied to places where mine could get good work so no small college towns for me) and visiting AP/Fellow won't dampen their career goals as much as not being able to find anything close to what they want to do.

You probably can't go wrong with the research experience and education you are going to get from both universities, so if you make your final decision on what is best for both of you, you might be happier with the result.

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13 minutes ago, .letmeinplz// said:

QoP: Seems like Wisconsin wins here if you truly aren't interested in the 'hot topic'.

Ment: Wisconsin seems to win but don't discount younger professors, they usually are very energetic in getting new and impactful projects done. Connections are nice, but it is possible someone putting out highly cited work is also forming those connections.

Rest: Michigan seems to have a clear edge here (other than no first year fellowship and proximity to Detroit, but RA is good experience). I think taking your spouses QoL and career into account is important (I only applied to places where mine could get good work so no small college towns for me) and visiting AP/Fellow won't dampen their career goals as much as not being able to find anything close to what they want to do.

You probably can't go wrong with the research experience and education you are going to get from both universities, so if you make your final decision on what is best for both of you, you might be happier with the result.

Yeah. I mean, this is exactly where we are. Michigan is better overall for both our careers, but the kids' grandparents are much closer in Wisconsin. After a year long process, it all comes down career v. children. LOL. 

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I think it's important to check out the alumni from each group you're considering. Does the group consistently put graduating students into academia/national/industry labs every year? Perhaps the groups with younger professors won't have much alumni yet..

I think the hotness of a topic is crucial. If you make a big contribution to a hot field, esp. from a brand-name school like UMichigan, then you have great chances at academia (and guaranteed offers from national/industry labs). I think the brand UMichigan by itself will guarantee you national/industry opportunities.

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6 hours ago, abcde12345 said:

I think it's important to check out the alumni from each group you're considering. Does the group consistently put graduating students into academia/national/industry labs every year? Perhaps the groups with younger professors won't have much alumni yet..

I think the hotness of a topic is crucial. If you make a big contribution to a hot field, esp. from a brand-name school like UMichigan, then you have great chances at academia (and guaranteed offers from national/industry labs). I think the brand UMichigan by itself will guarantee you national/industry opportunities.

I have looked at alumni. The Wisconsin PIs send people to top labs and industry. The UMich PI is a wildcard since he has only graduated one student (who will do a postdoc). But Umich PI is putting out some well cited papers.

As far as brand name, I can tell you it means almost nothing for national labs. I worked for one before. If brand name matters it is only because a lot of PIs doing cutting edge work are in well ranked schools. The Wisconsin PIs are up there with anyone. However, industry is another matter. No idea how the research arms of Intel and IBM choose people.

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