• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products via PF Here!

Schools How much does faculty matter in getting admission to top graduate schools?

  • Thread starter pnptruong
  • Start date
I heard that in order to get into top graduate physics(and engineering) programs, people should go to research universities that have professor obtaining their PhD degrees from top universities such as MIT, Stanford, UC-Berkeley, Caltech. Is that true?

I feel really bad about my recent college decision: I chose the University of Notre Dame over CU-Boulder, my state school because they offered me a full ride. Notre Dame, though categorized as a national university, does not invest a lot in research but commits to undergrad teaching instead. Therefore, there're only a few of their faculty coming from top research universities.
CU-Boulder, on the other hand, is well-known for their research in engineering and physics programs and most of their faculty come from top universities.

Although Notre Dame is pouring a lot of money into their science and engineering programs, I doubt that there will be a drastic change in faculty while I attend the university.

Did I make a wrong choice???
Is that true?
Kind of, but not quite. Some professors* look at your adviser when deciding whether to take you into their labs/fund you, so having an adviser they know gives you an automatic boost 'cause your adviser is basically vouching that you're not a total waste of funding. A lot of professors happened to have gone to the top schools, so that's the pool they know, and 10-20 years ago, that's who was doing a lot of research, but some of the best known people are at the most random schools.

*This is what my adviser and other professors I've talked to have said.

Did I make a wrong choice???
*shrugs* You chose the school that you thought fit you best, so make the best of it. I also chose the school that gave me a free ride, but accidentally landed an adviser from a big name school 'cause I paid attention when someone spoke to me. Your school is gonna have its own awesome things for you to take advantage of, so make the most of it and you'll be fine.

but commits to undergrad teaching instead
Congrats, you may get a quality education. Having had far too many awful but well funded professors, I'm envious of anyone at a school that actually values education.

If it really bothers you, just go out and apply for REUs.
If it helps any, my friend from Notre Dame is finishing his first year as a PhD student in physics at Princeton.

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving