Grad schools, nanotechnology, canada vs. us, and more

In summary, the conversation is discussing the speaker's desire to work in nanotechnology and the path they are currently taking to achieve this goal. They are an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto and have completed two years so far with two more to go. They mention that most work in nanotechnology is fundamental research and that they will most likely have to go to grad school. They discuss their grades and current research project, and their concerns about not being "of any great genius". They mention their plan to apply to grad school at UofT and their previous desire to go to a top US school, but after researching and finding that UofT ranks highly in the world, they are reconsidering. They also mention a friend's advice to
  • #1
About me: I want to work in nanotechnology. For this, I'm currently an undergraduate at the University of Toronto in Engineering Science, Nanoengineering Option. I've finished 2 years so far, and I have 2 left as an undergraduate.

The way things are currently going with nanotechnology, any work in the field is probably fundamental research. That means that I'll probably have to go to grad school. That's fine. I'm not violently opposed to spending 3 or 4 more years in university.

The problem is that I'm not of any great genius. I currently have a 77%, B+, 3.3 GPA. (At UoT, those three are equivalent, just to be perfectly clear.) If the next 2 years go well, that may be pulled up to something like an 81%, A-, 3.5 GPA.

I'm also doing some work this summer in carbon nanotubes, a research project with a professor here at UofT. If things go really well, some paper of minor significance may be published. It's nothing too important in the grand scheme of the scientific community, but personally notable for me as an undergraduate planning for grad school.

This is most likely enough to get me into the University of Toronto's grad school for something like Materials Engineering, doing a nanotechnology oriented thesis towards a Master's and eventually a PhD. Now, I'm not exactly thrilled with the prospect of going to UofT, since I've had it beaten into my head that the top US names are what to strive for: Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Caltech, etc...

Nevertheless, doing some research, I came across the following list. [Broken]

World Rank Institution Country Total Score Score on Alumni Score on Award Score on HiCi Score on N&S Score on SCI Score on Size
1 Harvard Univ USA 100.0 98.6 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 60.6
2 Stanford Univ USA 77.2 41.2 72.2 96.1 75.2 72.3 68.1
3 Univ Cambridge UK 76.2 100.0 93.4 56.6 58.5 70.2 73.2
4 Univ California - Berkeley USA 74.2 70.0 76.0 74.1 75.6 72.7 45.1
5 Massachusetts Inst Tech (MIT) USA 72.4 74.1 78.9 73.6 69.1 64.6 47.5
6 California Inst Tech USA 69.0 59.3 66.5 64.8 66.7 53.2 100.0
7 Princeton Univ USA 63.6 61.0 76.8 65.4 52.1 46.8 67.3
8 Univ Oxford UK 61.4 64.4 59.1 53.1 55.3 65.2 59.0
9 Columbia Univ USA 61.2 77.8 58.8 57.3 51.6 68.3 37.0
10 Univ Chicago USA 60.5 72.2 81.9 55.3 46.6 54.1 32.7
11 Yale Univ USA 58.6 52.2 44.5 63.6 58.1 63.6 50.4
12 Cornell Univ USA 55.5 46.6 52.4 60.5 47.2 66.2 33.6
13 Univ California - San Diego USA 53.8 17.8 34.7 63.6 59.4 67.2 47.9
14 Tokyo Univ Japan 51.9 36.1 14.4 44.5 55.0 91.9 49.8
15 Univ Pennsylvania USA 51.8 35.6 35.1 61.2 44.6 72.6 34.0
16 Univ California - Los Angeles USA 51.6 27.4 32.8 60.5 48.1 79.9 24.8
17 Univ California - San Francisco USA 50.8 0.0 37.6 59.3 59.5 62.9 48.8
18 Univ Wisconsin - Madison USA 50.0 43.1 36.3 55.3 48.0 69.2 19.0
19 Univ Michigan - Ann Arbor USA 49.3 39.8 19.3 64.8 45.7 76.7 20.1
20 Univ Washington - Seattle USA 49.1 22.7 30.2 57.3 49.6 78.8 16.2
21 Kyoto Univ Japan 48.3 39.8 34.1 40.0 37.2 77.1 46.4
22 Johns Hopkins Univ USA 47.5 48.7 28.3 43.7 52.6 71.7 14.2
23 Imperial Coll London UK 46.4 20.9 38.1 46.2 39.4 65.8 44.5
24 Univ Toronto Canada 44.6 28.1 19.7 39.1 41.2 78.4 42.8
25 Univ Coll London UK 44.3 30.8 32.9 41.0 41.0 61.1 42.6
25 Univ Illinois - Urbana Champaign USA 43.3 41.7 37.4 46.2 36.0 58.2 17.8
27 Swiss Fed Inst Tech - Zurich Switzerland 43.2 40.3 37.0 39.1 43.2 47.1 41.5
28 Washington Univ - St. Louis USA 43.1 25.1 26.6 41.9 46.8 56.2 44.9
29 Rockefeller Univ USA 40.2 22.7 59.8 31.5 43.6 27.1 38.6
30 Northwestern Univ USA 39.5 21.8 19.3 47.9 35.8 57.2 37.0
31 Duke Univ USA 38.9 20.9 0.0 48.6 46.8 62.7 36.2
32 New York Univ USA 38.7 33.9 25.0 43.7 39.3 50.9 19.1
33 Univ Minnesota - Twin Cities USA 38.3 36.1 0.0 53.9 35.9 69.6 12.8
34 Univ Colorado - Boulder USA 37.8 16.6 29.8 43.7 38.3 47.5 27.4
35 Univ California - Santa Barbara USA 37.0 0.0 28.5 45.4 41.4 44.0 36.2
36 Univ British Columbia Canada 36.3 20.9 19.3 36.0 31.6 59.5 34.9
36 Univ Texas Southwestern Med Center USA 36.3 16.6 33.9 33.8 40.5 40.0 34.9
38 Vanderbilt Univ USA 35.1 12.6 30.2 37.1 23.8 50.2 41.7
39 Univ Utrecht Netherlands 34.9 30.8 21.4 31.5 29.9 58.1 22.1
40 Univ Texas - Austin USA 34.8 21.8 17.1 50.2 28.8 53.7 12.8

So at least according to one method of evaluation (that has all of the usual suspects near the top) the University of Toronto is in the top 1% of world-wide universities, the top one in Canada, and one of the top 25 in the world. All of a sudden the prospect of getting a PhD from it seems more appealing, since it appears that UofT is in the company of some pretty well-recognized names. (I don't know if this position is commonly accepted - I've heard from UofT that UofT is a world-class university, and from Engineering Science that "Engineering Science is among the world’s top undergraduate engineering programs", but I'd expect to hear that kind of self-advertising)

But by this point everything is starting to get confusing.
- Should I be shopping for a name like Stanford, or should I be looking at hundreds of universities for professors whose interests closely match mine?
- What would be the difference between going to a Stanford versus a Northwestern University? (I imagine both will teach me roughly the same material, with roughly the same amount of talent.)
- How much importance lies in having your PhD from a particular place? Is a PhD rendered useless if it's from one place... versus being treated like God's gift to mankind if you've got a Stanford PhD?

Bottom line is I want to work in Nanotechnology, and probably need a PhD to do something interesting. I'm not good enough to get into Stanford; how much should I worry about that? (Worries such as how much will a PhD from a 'lesser' university like UofT hurt me when looking for a research/engineering position at a company.)
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  • #2
Is that ranking universal in all fields? It doesn't say much about the specific nanotechnology field...As far as I know Alberta(Ucal or UA) and UWaterloo both have nano tech programmes for grad school and As you said UFT...honestly if you can get just as good a degree here (cheaper in tuition and housing) you might as well stay here. Just build up a research portfolio and good grades and maybe when its time to do a postdoc you can go to the states.
  • #3
the shotgun approach


Reading your post was really familiar for me, because I'm exactly in the same situation as you. I'm a 3rd year engineering science physics option student who is finishing off my PEY term and I am interested in going to physics-y nano research next year in grad school, probably focusing on quantum dots.

I've got a friend who is very adamant on going to US grad schools, and he keeps trying to sell me on the idea that anyone can get into these schools if they just go about applying properly. He suggests writing the GRE and putting enough effort in so that you can ace it; then he suggests applying to a wide variety of schools and hoping that one will take you. Since each school usually has a quota of Canadian students that they like to hit, even if the competition is fierce for some school there may be a shortage of applicants in others. He suggests using this shotgun approach because of the fact that the name of the school really does matter. When you compare the salaries and grant money that profs receive later in their career, it usually stems right back to where they did their graduate degrees.

While my average is hovering around 80%, and most top US schools take applicants with 85 and up, I'm still going to give it a shot; I will write the GRE and apply to a bunch of schools... it's the best I can do. And if not, then UofT is a really great school with no shortage of good profs doing nano (I can recommend a few if you are interested)
  • #4
dstanley said:
He suggests using this shotgun approach because of the fact that the name of the school really does matter. When you compare the salaries and grant money that profs receive later in their career, it usually stems right back to where they did their graduate degrees.

Since they legalised gay marriage its been dark in Norway six months out of the year.

Correlation does not imply causality. I'm willing to wager that the salaries and grant money have more to do with their capability as researchers, which is probably what got them into those schools in the first place. But hey, what do I know?

1. What is nanotechnology and how is it used in graduate schools?

Nanotechnology is the study and manipulation of matter on an extremely small scale, typically at the molecular and atomic level. In graduate schools, nanotechnology is often used in research and experimentation in fields such as materials science, engineering, and medicine.

2. What are the main differences between graduate schools in Canada and the US?

One major difference between graduate schools in Canada and the US is the length of programs. In Canada, most graduate programs take 1-2 years to complete, while in the US they typically take 2-3 years. Additionally, the cost of attending graduate school in the US is generally higher than in Canada.

3. What are the job prospects for graduates with a degree in nanotechnology?

The job prospects for graduates with a degree in nanotechnology are quite promising. This field is rapidly growing and there is a high demand for professionals with expertise in nanotechnology across various industries such as healthcare, electronics, and energy. Additionally, many universities and research institutions are also seeking graduates with a background in nanotechnology for research and development positions.

4. Are there any notable graduate schools in Canada and the US that specialize in nanotechnology?

Yes, there are several notable graduate schools in both Canada and the US that specialize in nanotechnology. In Canada, the University of Waterloo, University of Toronto, and McGill University are known for their strong nanotechnology programs. In the US, some top schools for nanotechnology include Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of California-Berkeley, and Georgia Institute of Technology.

5. Can international students apply to graduate schools in Canada and the US for nanotechnology programs?

Yes, international students are welcome to apply to graduate schools in both Canada and the US for nanotechnology programs. However, it is important for international students to consider visa requirements, language proficiency, and potential funding opportunities before applying to graduate schools in either country.

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