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What is the best Department of Physics in the World?

  1. Jul 23, 2005 #1
    [SOLVED] What is the best Department of Physics in the World?!


    I was spending my time "analyzing" the cast of some of the most reputable universities in the world...and I found three departments that impressed me for the excellent faculty:

    1 - Princeton: http://physics.princeton.edu/www/jh/people/faculty.html [Broken]

    2 - Stanford: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/physics/people/faculty.html (see also: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/physics/people/nobel.html)

    3 - Harvard: http://physics.harvard.edu/facultyresearch.htm [Broken]

    I don't know...but I guess that the faculty of Princeton is better than the faculties of Stanford and Harvard...they have EDWARD WITTEN - The Physicist That Won The Fields Medal!!! :smile:

    So...in your opinion, what is the best Department of Physics in the world?!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2005 #2
  4. Jul 24, 2005 #3


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    As fourier pointed out, it really depends on what type of physics you are talking about. I remember someone saying like, the university of michigan has one of the best plasma physics programs or something like that. So it really depends on what your talking about.
  5. Jul 24, 2005 #4
    yeah nothing ed witten has ever done would have much value to a physicist who is really more of an engineer, for example.
  6. Jul 24, 2005 #5
    it is hard to rank department strength like that, because for instance, Witten is at the princeton institute for advanced study, meaning he doesn't teach any classes. So going to princeton, you're teachers aren't always the best faculty that they show on their list. Princeton usually falls in the grad school rankings that I've seen for this reason.

    As everybody else has said, it really depends on what part of physics you want to get into for grad school, for undergrad, not so much, because even somebody in another field will know more about your field than you while you are an undergrad.

  7. Jul 24, 2005 #6
    I will go with Physics Department-IIT,Kanpur

  8. Jul 24, 2005 #7


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    If you ask physicists this question, you will get either

    (i) different schools, and not just one answer, coming from them or

    (ii) a response that that question is meaningless and undefined.

    As a physicist, I have always picked (ii) as the answer. Most physicists (in fact, ALL) that I know of would respond the same way. Point to me a "best physics department" in the world, and I'll point to you what area of physics that department really sucks in.

    So maybe what you should do a research on is, what is meant, really, by "best", and why is (ii) the case.

  9. Jul 24, 2005 #8
    At the risk of sounding insulting i would like to say that your question really is completely meaningless. First of all, you say you have done research on this. Well, i would like to know what criteria did you use to classify one department as being better as another ? How are you sure that your classification is valid and when is your classification valid into your own eyes ? The fact that i can ask such 'relative' questions to you, should convince you of the fact that what you are trying to achieve here is purely speculative. Many graduate students are always looking for the 'best' department to do reasearch but it bothers me. In all honesty, working with a very well known professor does not imply that your work is going to be great because of the simple reason that when you are doing a phd, you are the one in charge and responsible for the actual work. That famous professor just sets up the general guidelines of your research and helps you out with all the questions and difficulties that you might have. Besides, what are the chances of you doing actually something great ? Indeed, they are ZERO, so even if you are doing a phd, do not take your own situation too seriously because the chances of you achieving a Nature publication is quasi ZERO. Remeber that most succeful physicists never do actually anything worth mentioning. Only those happy few geniusses will do all the important work and you can only look at their marvellous progression and admire it. THAT IS THE ONLY REALITY, independent of which famous lab you work at.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  10. Aug 1, 2005 #9

    Marlon i appreciate yours reply(really!) but i would like to ask ya then what is the importance of facilities given at Mit/Harvard/Princeton or anyother college!!
    Well doesn't they have much better environment compared to other colleges which can make ya feel much better and help ya go deep!!
  11. Aug 2, 2005 #10
    So... Which departments are good at mathematical Physics, especially in Calculus of Variations and Relativity?
  12. Aug 2, 2005 #11
    well, i am looking at this through my european eyes. Out here there isn't that big a quality difference between individual universities. All i am saying is that studying at a big university does not boost up your personal talent. Even if you get accepted, do not think you actually have a better chance of doing great research (which is extremely rare anyhow). As far as learning and guidance concerns, i am not really in the position to judge that since i did not an US university.

  13. Aug 4, 2005 #12
    What about Caltech?
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