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The choice between 3 European masters

  1. Sep 25, 2013 #1
    Good day everyone,

    Let me introduce myself. I am currently in the process of getting everything together to start applying for masters programs in physics, for the year 2014-2015. I am a 20 year old student from the Amsterdam University College, in my third and final year of my physics education. Well, in all honesty, AUC offers a liberal arts and science program. Exactly how I will convince the universities that I am applying to that my education is not sub-par compared to a normal physics program is a topic for a different thread entirely I'm afraid, so for the sake of this topic I will just assume that this is not an issue.
    I suppose it is also important to describe what kind of physicist I hope to be. The truth is that I do not know if I want to pursue a degree in academics or in the industry, but what I do know is that in any case I want to work on something that is not purely theoretical. Hoping that I will not offend anyone, let me put it this way; I want to work on things that in principle can be applied, in a direct manner. I do not need to be the engineer that puts things together, and I do not necessarily need to be an experimentalist either, working on the theory of possibly experiments is fine too. I just don't want to focus on the standard model, or things beyond that, I suppose.
    Moreover, I currently also plan on pursuing a PhD after I get my masters degree. Where and what I am not sure of, although qubit research is something I find very interesting.

    In this topic I want to focus on three programs that I would love to be able to pursue, and I would like to hear your opinions on the pro's and cons.

    • The MASt in Experimental and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge, which is taught alongside the Part III of the undergraduate MSci Physics Tripos and is designed to act as a top-up course for students who hold a 3-year undergraduate degree who wish to pursue a research degree within the department. This is exactly what I am, as I will have finished a 3 year long bachelor program. I like this program not only because of Cambridge's amazing reputation, but also because I would love to do a PhD there, possibly something like the NanoDTC. The down side I see with this program is that it is only 9 months, whereas European masters degrees are typically 1.5-2 years long. Should I instead take a look at the MPhil in Physics Cambridge offers?
    • The MSc in Physics at Imperial College London, tailored to BSc graduates. It even has the option of doing extended research (should I?). Without extended research it is 12 months long, and with it is 2 years. A definite edge over Cambridge is that there are no obligatory college fees. (Funding is definitely something I will have to look at, but that's not the subject of this thread)
    • The Msc in Physics at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. This is, just like the Msc at Imperial, a program that is tailored to the European bachelor program, so it should fit mine. It is a year and a half long, and thus it feels like it might be one of the more 'complete' programs. A downside is the cost of living in Switzerland, which is huge, but then again the admission costs are low. Frankly speaking though, the idea of living in a German speaking city seems less attractive than living in an English speaking one.

    These are the programs that I am considering. Originally doing a masters degree in physics at Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne or Ludwig Maximilian München were also on my list, but I really do not speak any French, which makes living there a lot harder, and somehow München doesn't really attract me.

    From what I already wrote above, the way I see is that the Cambridge degree has two important advantages: the name, and the possibility of doing a PhD there. A definite con is that it is the shortest of the programs, as well as the fact that it might not be a perfect match to a standard European bachelor, as it is basically just part III of their own program. I am also not able to find a wealth of information regarding peoples experience with this program, so if anyone has some, please do share them!

    Imperial College has the advantage of relatively low costs, and the possibility of extended research. Now, I am (as of now) planning to also pursue a PhD, so this might not be the most logical thing to do (or is it?), but studying for a longer period of time never hurts, I would think. They are also a top 10 university when it comes to Physics (as far as I know), but they obviously don't have the Cambridge reputation.

    Finally, ETH Zurich also seems like a solid choice. I have a professor that did research there for quite a while, and he is definitely an intellectual force to be reckoned with (very subjective, I know). Their program is the longest, offering 1.5 years, and it also naturally fits to the European bachelor. I do speak a little German, so I won't be lost completely, but it is still less attractive.

    Now, the reason I started this thread is to ask if anyone could give me any qualitative advice on why to (or not to) pick one of these above the others. I fully understand that I have NOT yet been accepted, and that I might not, but this is just hypothetical. I would love to hear about experiences with any of them, and which ones are more theoretical or experimental and such. I have of course read all the accompanying webpages, but they are never very extensive.
  2. jcsd
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