I am in the process of applying to PhD programs in Materials Science, and I am having trouble deciding how to round-out my selection of graduate schools. I have been working very hard this semester to prepare graduate application materials and investigate programs in which I would be comfortable spending four or more years, but the process is pretty overwhelming when combined with the my course load. I would really appreciate some advice before December rolls around, so that I have time to pursue other universities that would not simply reject me out of hand. I am facing a bit of an uphill battle in moving from Physics/Applied Math to Materials Science or Electrical Engineering, so I can't reach too far at this stage. I am applying to Penn State's Materials Science program, University of Washington's Materials Science and Electrical Engineering departments, and University of British Columbia's Materials Engineering and Electrical Engineering departments. My strongest bet is currently Penn State because I worked there last summer for my REU and made some good connections, but I would prefer to live somewhere other than State College PA for 4-6 years. Personal Profile: Interests: electronic materials, MEMS devices, sensors, metamaterials, modeling materials computationally, analytical math modeling. I want to work in industry and found a startup someday. I am interested in graduate programs with cleanroom access, industry ties, and efforts to fund nanotechnology. I am also looking for overlap between electrical engineering and materials science programs. I really want to live in or within short driving distance of a coastal big city, such as Seattle or Vancouver. I would decide on a grad school based on this issue, ie no midwestern locations. Academic profile: School: Humboldt State University (small liberal arts, biology, and environmental engineering focused CSU in northern California). Majors: Physics and Applied Mathematics double major. I am taking most of my upper division physics in the last three semesters, so about five of my classes will not be taken before I finish applying. This includes quantum physics, the closest class my university offers to solid state physics. Year: Currently a fifth year senior who will graduate this Spring. Total GPA: 3.87, Major GPA: about 3.85 i think. GRE: September 2008 was 620v/720q/4.5aw, November 2009 was 550v/770q/???aw (haven't gotten the official report yet). Research Experience: REU at Penn State in summer of 2009, in materials science (nanowire characterization). Publications: I am the last author (before the advisers) in a paper being published in Nano Letters this month, based on my work this summer. Letters of Rec: One from a Physics professor, one from an Applied Math professor, and one from my Penn State adviser. She is a prolific publisher who most likely carriers some weight as a recommender, although I do not know how strong of a letter she will write. Thank you in advance. P.S. If I were to obtain a masters degree at Penn State or a similar tier school, while producing good research and earning excellent grades/recommendations, then would my chances of entering a PhD program at a top-10 university be decent?