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(Physics Ph.D.) Berkeley or Princeton.

  1. Mar 7, 2015 #1
    I am now facing a dilemma of making a choice between Berkeley and Princeton. My intended research field is condensed matter experiment, especially topological materials and 2D materials. Both graduate schools have the suitable group for my research of interests. Also, I know both of them have very great reputations.

    I know it is odd to get the advice from strangers don't know me well, but it is really important for me to get something other than my understanding of both schools. Because I am an undergraduate from China, I may not know how native Americans consider these two graduate schools.

    Hope someone could help me with the decision.

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2015 #2


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    Both schools are great. Your choice is between research groups. Do you know any of the people?

    Also, they are very different environments for living. You should read about them and decide if you'll be better off in one or the other. This should be a factor in your decision, as your happiness in your surroundings is important to your success.
  4. Mar 7, 2015 #3


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    The weather at Berkeley will be a million times better.
  5. Mar 7, 2015 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    But with a disturbing sameness that you won't get at Princeton.
  6. Mar 7, 2015 #5


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    True, but that's a matter of taste I suppose. I'm from northern Illinois. It's 43 degrees right now and it feels incredibly warm compared to the last few months. I could do without that. We've got snow melting, and it's turning into a slushy nightmare right now. I could do without that too...lol
  7. Mar 7, 2015 #6
    Yes, I am also thinking about the weather condition. I visited Berkeley last year for 5 months, and it is really attracting. In addition, SF is a very nice city which I think is similar to SHANGHAI, my hometown.

    The groups of both universities are all of my great interests. In Berkeley the quantum optics group of FENG WANG has a growing reputation these years and really did very good job last year, while in princeton NAI PHUAN ONG's group is a perfect place too.

    Could you guys provide me with some information about finding a job related or unrelated to doing research in bay areas and NYC? I think I must take my future development into consideration.

  8. Mar 7, 2015 #7
    If you don't mind me asking, what are your stats/research experience/other that got you into both of those schools? Any advice for college underclassmen? I hope I'm in your position in a few years.
  9. Mar 8, 2015 #8
    I am very glad to share my experience with you, but I have to say at first every individual is different. You must find out the most efficient way to get to the position.

    I have an average GPA of 3.66/4.0, but I almost get straight A in all physics courses. I have three years undergraduate research experience. In addition, I got the opportunity to have a 5 months exchange program in Berkeley in my junior year. I did quantum optics experiment about 2D materials in FENG WANG's group, which may help me a lot to somewhat enhance my research background. In my home university, my research of interests are mainly about Dirac materials. So far, I have three publications. One 1st author(equal contribution) under 2nd round review in Nature Material, two cooperated papers on Nano letters and ACS nano.

    I think different graduate school evaluates applicants in different ways. As far as I know, Berkeley does not really care about your GPA, but it really pays more attention on your major GPA and GRE SUB. Princeton may has the same style as Berkeley. For MIT&Harvard, which I also applied to, they may care about your GPA, especially your grades of MATH & PHYS courses. However,all of these top graduate school lay a great emphasis on your undergraduate research experience.

    In brief, you must try your best to keep your GPA at a relative good level. Meanwhile, you should spend more time in the lab. If you can have some publications to proof your research skills, it will be very helpful in your application.
  10. Mar 9, 2015 #9
    3 publications as an undergrad? That's nuts. Congrats.
  11. Mar 9, 2015 #10


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    When you say Dirac materials, do you mean Dirac semimetals? The reason I ask is because a lot of the recent experimental results in that field have come from Cava's group at Princeton. Princeton overall seems to do a lot of experimental work on TIs and other materials. I don't know about Berkeley's experiment group in that area, but I do know that two of the theorists are very interested in topilogical materials so I would assume there is a good experimental focus on it as well.

    I would just visit both schools and see what you think. Talk to a lot of different people to get a good idea of the place. Both are obviously great so I think at this point your personal preference should be a big factor in your decision. I really think it's important that you consider this because you will be most productive if you are happy.
  12. Mar 9, 2015 #11
    Yes, Dirac semimetals are exactly what I am doing and plan to further. One of my publications under reviewed in Nature Material is about this topic. I do know Princeton is really strong in this field, but I do not know if I will be happy there. Both choices are really appealing to be. Berkeley is always with sunshine and I really love the living style there, as well as it has something I am interested in, while Princeton is good at a topic(a very hot topic in the past few years) which I am really interested in and have a good knowledge of. I know either one is perfect and if I choose any one, I will feel somewhat regret not to choose the other.

    I think the only way for me is to have a visit to both universities. Indeed, I am going to attend the open house of both of them, and hope I will figure out the answer then.
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