Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Quick update before I go back to frantically studying thermodynamics:

I still have to hear back from UCSF and Princeton. However! I have been accepted everywhere else! Hooray for me!

My choice, it seems, is coming down to Stanford versus MIT. They are both absolutely stellar programs, they both focus on actively promoting interactions between disciplines, they both seem like great places to live and be (with great cities nearby if not next door). What I consider to be the differences:

1) At MIT, you do not start research until halfway through your first year, whereas at Stanford you dive right in to rotations. At MIT, this allows them to require a "core biology" cirriculum and inundate you with classes your first semester. At Stanford this allows you to get a sense of projects during rotations.

2) At MIT, wackiness seems to be smiled upon, while people at Stanford seem more laid back and traditionally "cool" (if you can actually say that about graduate students). I might be able to find wackiness, or bring wackiness, to Stanford. As a city, San Francisco is much, much cooler (and probably wackier) than Boston. However, MIT is much closer to Boston than Stanford is to San Francisco.

3) MIT seems very post-doc heavy, as in there are tons of amazing post doctoral opportunities there. Stanford seems more focused towards Graduate students, which would be good for graduate students.

4) Stanford has much, much better weather.

5) In neither place would I be able to assistant coach diving. In Boston there would be more high schools with potential openings for me to do that. In San Francisco, there would be circus arts for me to do, but that would be a 30 minute commute.

6) Stanford is about 3.5-4 hours drive from Kevin, but to get home to DC would take the whole day and to get to Chicago would take most of the day. Boston is more generally accessible, but I would probably want to get on an airplane to see any member of my family (or my college friends).

7) Mango might go to MIT, but he might not. He won't go to Stanford. PCBio people are going to Stanford.

8) Stanford's campus is drop-dead gorgeous. MIT's campus is kind of... ugly.

After some research, Yale appears to have a program very much like Stanford's, but it is a brand new umbrella and might therefore not facilitate cross-talk as well during my prospective tenure. Plus it's in a rather ugly town (sorry Easha and Ryan), an uncomfortable distance from airports or family members or large cities, with fewer coaching opportunities and no circus stuff that I know of.

Back to thermodynamics!


Anonymous said...

Well, no apologies necessary--your criticisms all ring true!

Neen said...

I don't know if this helps any, but when Doran and I were looking at Stanford last spring, we has several really mediocre encounters with Profs and Grad students in the Chem Dept and the Business School. In the Chem Dept, some professors actively mocked both their grad students and prospies, and grad students complained of being ridden really hard. One prospie asked a prof about what it was like to live to close to San Fran and the mountains, etc, and the Prof literally started bashing him "Do you really think you're going to get to do any of that while you're here", and then mocked the prospie again during the cocktail hour later in the day. Really shitty guy. Other profs were not that bad, but definitely not buddy-buddy in their interactions with their grad students. In the Business school, graduate students complained of never leaving Stanford, of it feeling like they were living in suburbia. They were also uber stand-offish, but that may have more to do with the fact that they were GSB students than anything else! Anyways, we left Stanford with a really bad taste in our mouth.

Take this all with a grain of salt -- the Bio department probably has a far better vibe than the Chem Dept or the Business school. Just thought I'd share our limited but gutteral reaction to the place.

Elizabeth said...

@Nina: Huh. I definitely didn't get that reaction from people. The UC people I know at Stanford (bio department) are having a great time, and go to San Francisco more than once a month, and say they have friends who go almost once a week. Other people go hiking, rock climbing, etcetera. The professors were really personable and made more fun of themselves than their students, too. Whenever I talked about non-research stuff to professors they were actually super supportive and pointed out graduate students I should talk to. So I definitely didn't get that impression of Stanford. Maybe it's the Chem department.

Thanks for the advice tho!