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Best (not best ranked!) smaller grad programs for physics

  1. Mar 10, 2007 #1

    I am starting to think more seriously about where I would like to get my phd. I am not really interested in going into an extremely competitive program. For one, I am not a competitive person by nature, secondly, I don't think I am Stanford material, third, I think I would have a better time in a close knit group that doesn't mind going out for a drink at the end of the day. I want to go to a good physics program, but not necessarily the best ranked. Ranking is not nearly as important as the ability of the school to meet my financial needs, research opportunities and etc. Also, I want to be somewhere with good weather, nothing cold, nothing snowy. Warm is good, hot is bad. I currently live in California and attend UC Davis. I love California and would have no qualms staying here if some people could share their experiences with programs in the state. Out of state would be fine as long as the area is nice. Nothing too remote, nothing too urban.

    I wonder if anyone will have any suggestions that would meet my picky requirements!

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2007 #2
    I too am interested in hearing about some smaller grad programs in physics that are doing good research (especially in solid state device physics). I would like to apply to some of the big name schools, but I'd also want to apply to some of the smaller, but good, schools.

    BTW, I have been in Michigan for my entire life and I want to get out of this state. In fact, I would like to get out of the midwest altogether and go somewhere warm, like California.
  4. Mar 11, 2007 #3
    I did my undergraduate work at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. They have a quality program with some excellent faculty. The environment isn't too competitive so interaction with classmates would be pleasant.

    On the downside, athens is a little remote. It's about 70 miles from columbus, ohio (our state capital) which is just a short drive.

    I'm presently at Wright State University in Dayton, OH. This is a significantly smaller program (in terms of funding and number of students) which means one gets to be more acquainted with the faculty and students. The environment is cooperative and the students are a fairly close knit group.

    That being said, at present we only have a masters program, however the head of our dept just informed me they have started a joint program with the college of engineering, with a focus on nano, in order to facillitate a phd program.

    Dayton isn't a very urban area, it's a small city (170k people or so) with many suburbs and a fair amount of stuff to do.

    The one advantage of going to school here is that WSU is right next to wright patterson air force base, with almost limitless funding for application oriented research. There exist a number of opportunities for students to collaborate with researchers on base, and make a nice chunk of change in the process.
  5. Mar 11, 2007 #4
    I'll just point out that if you're thinking that the highly-ranked schools have students who are fiercely competitive with each other, then you're pretty much wrong. I've seriously never seen any evidence of competition between students in my top-10 program, and indeed, why should there be? Qualifying exams are done on absolute scales, as are grades most of the time, and heck, grades don't matter anyway. Likewise, I've never heard of any such feeling from acquaintances in other top programs.

    And by the way, first year we were "going out for a drink at the end of the day" a few times a week--and that was the busy year.

    Also, since you're worried about your "financial needs", be aware that lesser programs tend to pay less (yes, even accounting for geography), and of course funding levels (and hence RA opportunities) will be correlated to some extent with the reputation of the department.

    That being said, good luck with your search.
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