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UCSB CCS vs Berkeley for Undergrad Research

  1. Mar 28, 2014 #1
    I'm going to enter college this fall, and I will have a choice between UCSB CCS Physics and Berkeley Physics. The way I see it:

    CCS offers me more research opportunities, smaller classes, more happy and social student body, probably a higher class rank (Cal is supposed to be more competitive than UCSB), likely a higher GPA, priority registration and closer relationships with professors.

    Berkeley offers me more distinguished faculty, more professionally happening location, prestige and higher ranked departments in case I switch out of physics.

    I'm leaning towards CCS as you can probably see. I want to go to grad school in physics and I enjoy research, so I need and want to have research as a priority. I also think the idea of "creative" work suits my learning style, but I think you people would probably know better than I do. It seems like at UCSB CCS I'm a big fish in a small pond, and at Berkeley I'm a guppie in the Atlantic Ocean.

    Which would you choose, and why?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 28, 2014 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    What makes you think Berkeley has more distinguished faculty?
  4. Mar 28, 2014 #3


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    I'd advise you to go where you want to go - UCSB.
  5. Mar 28, 2014 #4
    I have personally visited both programs. Honestly, if I were you I would go with UCSb CCs. It is an absolutely amazing program they have. Benefits also include not being required to take a pre req for a course, no unit limit, ability to drop a course all the way up to the day of the final. Not to mention the extremely close personal attention you will receive from day 1.

    As a side note, is there any sort of physics specialty you are interested in? The only thing Berkeley may be much better at is astro. ( this is just word of mouth). I still argue that UCSb is a much better option for you. Professor hand pick the applicants.

    Congrats by the way.
  6. Mar 28, 2014 #5
    I had simply assumed, but your comment made me google it and I found that UCSB actually has one more current physics Nobel Laureate than Berkeley does. That said, I'm not sure how accessible the Nobel Laureates are at either university and I have no idea how the faculty at UCSB is regarded in the field as opposed to the faculty at Cal, so insight into that would be appreciated!

    Thanks! I'm mostly interested in quantum. I used to be more interested in astro but I slowly realized that the appealing part of that to me was more cosmology than it was astronomy, so if I didn't pursue quantum I would probably try for the notorious cosmology focus. That said I will be pursuing a general physics major for undergrad, focusing research on those areas of interest so I can tailor my grad school application. Is UCSB well regarded for quantum? Newsweek rankings only say so much.

    Do you think that my research opportunities at UCSB CCS would be much better than they would be at Berkeley? Also, if I can't handle CCS, what about UCSB Honors vs. Berkeley regular admission?
  7. Mar 29, 2014 #6
    Well, I am not so experienced with the research opportunities at UCB, but from what I have heard, you have to put in a lot of effort to be noticed. Then is UCSB CCS they pretty much give you all the opportunity in the world to succeed.
    As for Quantum, I am not entirely sure, I did visit the theoretical research institute UCSB has and it is really cool. They do a lot of work on cosmology and string theory.

    I would only go to UCSB for their CCS program, but they do have an amazing physics program regardless. So take it as you will. Have you had the chance to visit both?
  8. Mar 29, 2014 #7
    I'm visiting Berkeley the weekend of April 11th, and have visited UCSB and attended a CCS breakout session. I know David Gross at KITP completed the standard model so he's really important in quantum physics, but I'm not sure how much exposure I would have to great scientists like that, being a lowly undergraduate.

    Are research opportunities something that you can get at any school if you just look for them, or is it something where if you want a quality position you do need to be noticed by the faculty?

    Also, why would you go to Berkeley regular as opposed to UCSB Honors (non-CCS)? Is it so hard to switch into CCS, or not worth it to switch it? It seems like CCS is basically just a souped-up version of Honors, with a slightly different course progression and more integrated research projects, but none that would otherwise be out of reach of an honors student. Is this a fair characterization?
  9. Mar 29, 2014 #8
    I can't comment on the research opportunity's, but I do know that UCSB CCS is almost impossible to transfer into. The benefits of the program are primarily the first two years, so I would say it is best to go into it at the beginning of the program. If I were you, I would choose UCSB CCS, but honestly, it is your life. Do as you please. Visit both schools and decide for your self which is a better match for you. I personally like UCB much better, but the benefits of the UCSB CCS program are very hard to pass up.
  10. Mar 29, 2014 #9
    Do you have any comment as to why Honors UCSB < Berkeley regular?
  11. Mar 29, 2014 #10
    I just like UCB as a school better is all. Go visit both and decide for your self.
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