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Which grad program should I pick? UC Merced or William and Mary?

  1. Mar 29, 2009 #1
    I was accepted to both UC Merced and William and Mary. Objectively, which of these schools would be a better choice for studying high energy/particle physics?

    I understand UC Merced is still developing its programs (and currently has no degree in this field), so if I were to go there I might try to transfer to another UC school to complete my degree or wait and hope that they develop a high-energy program while I'm there.

    I'd appreciate any input you have regarding either university. I'm under much pressure to make a decision either way.
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  3. Mar 29, 2009 #2

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    And if they don't?
  4. Mar 29, 2009 #3
    Not the best course of action, I know. I would probably have to continue through with their AMO program, or maybe opt to transfer.
  5. Mar 29, 2009 #4

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    Transferring as a grad student is not simple. Depending on circumstances, you can lose a significant amount of time there.

    On the other hand, William and Mary is not strong in HEP: it's been traditionally a medium energy place, due in part to its proximity to JLAB. They've pretty much turned over all their experimenters in the last few years, and the biggest name in their theory department is Marc Sher. He's good, but there's only one of him.
  6. Mar 29, 2009 #5
    I thought it might be simpler to transfer within the UC system, since the curricula should be near identical for the first year or so. If that's not the case, then Merced may be a risky choice. Looking at access to accelerator labs then, would you say Merced has some advantage in its proximity to SLAC? Both universities are sending students to LHC sometimes too. Similarly, there is only one professor at Merced with experience in HEP.

    I appreciate your advice. So, would you lean either way?
  7. Mar 29, 2009 #6
    Go for William and Mary. There are good, both theory and experiment. I claim no objectivity here :devil: But their activity is not limited to JLab. Even if it were, how bad is that ? Do you ever read the http://www.er.doe.gov/np/nsac/nsac.html report ? Take out super-high-LHC energies, what's happening apart from neutrinos and JLab ? W&M does both.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  8. Mar 30, 2009 #7

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    Why do you think that? It's no more and no less so than any other pair of schools. Maybe even less so, as Merced is advertising its "innovative" curriculum.

    Merced is not all that close to SLAC. In fact, 22% of the other UC campuses are closer. :)
    Geographic proximity is only part of it JLAB was placed in Newport News partially because there was an existing medium energy community, and once it was there, area universities found it easier to recruit medium energy faculty. Merced was placed in Merced because the State of California thought that's where it should go.

    Neither university is listed as a collaborator on the US-CMS or US-ATLAS webpages. If you mean Roland Winston, he was in HEP, but lately has been doing (arguably more interesting) work in solar energy.

    It sounds like neither one is really doing exactly what you want, so you're kind of gambling that one or the other will develop a program like you want in a year or two. I'm not sure I could guess which one is more likely to do so.
  9. Mar 30, 2009 #8


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    I second that. This is a no brainer. The proximity and connection of W&M to Jlab makes the choice easy.
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  10. Mar 30, 2009 #9
    Not so simple folks. The University of California is one of the strongest research institutions in the field. While your home base of operations, so to speak, may be the new Merced Campus, your mentor may well be at Berkeley, as example. The Berkeley Rad. Lab or Lawrence Livermore facilities will offer you all you will need to do what ever research you desire. Your postdoc opportunities will be very, very strong and your research grants will far surpass anything you can expect from W&M. Where is your family and what are your hobbies? Be sure to consider everything when making this important decision. Good luck young man. I hope to meet you one day soon in California.
  11. Mar 30, 2009 #10
    All of this is far from a guarantee. Choose wisely.
  12. Mar 30, 2009 #11
    If you want to seriously go for research in fundamental physics, most probably you do not have any other hobby or anything else that could interfere :tongue:
    That's plain wrong. There are many better places depending on your interest. For what is being discussed here, there is no better place than JLab for JLab physics. You want to know why or how it's possible ? Because people who were pioneering this physics in SLAC designed JLab just to be the best place to continue SLAC ! Just look out the quality of what goes out in publication, and if you don't have time, again please just read the NSAC report I pointed to earlier. I think you must first make out your mind on what physics you are interested in, and then only you can choose to go to the best place to do it.
  13. Mar 30, 2009 #12
    Oh please Humanino. Get off your East Coast high horse. Comparing JLab to SLAC is like a draft horse to a Triple Crown winner. There are always better places "depending on your interest", but the question posed was specific to two schools. Two years in the UC system will enable this young man to spend the next year at CERN or working with Nobel Prize winners at UCSB or Berkeley. Go for a young school, young man, and get out of the small stuffy and stodgey old campus. Choice between cobwebs and enlightenment. Go UC!
  14. Mar 30, 2009 #13
    I waited around at Merced for a few hours on the way to Yosemite, walked around town, etc, and the area doesn't seem very interesting at all. It's basically in the middle of nowhere. Take that for what its worth...
  15. Mar 30, 2009 #14
    Unfortunately, you have it wrong again. The high horse I grew up just a few minutes away from CERN, where I left my "families and hobbies" to fulfill a genuine passion for physics.
    If you like LHC physics, what are you doing on this side of the ocean ? Get your guts on the other side where the action takes place, you will learn much better.
  16. Mar 30, 2009 #15
    Ok, valid points all around. Again I appreciate your insight. Here is some background:

    I am graduating from a small liberal arts & sciences college. I have had research experience at Jlab, and will be working at SLAC this summer. Most of my family is 2-3 hours away from Merced, except for my father who lives 3 hours from W&M. I would like to work towards working at CERN.

    Regarding transfering,
    So it sounds like transferring (as in from Merced to UCSB or other UC) would not be a good choice. Merced did say that they would allow me to take classes at other UC universities, so I would have some flexibility in that. Other than that, I'm not sure what else I should consider.

    I would love for my guts to be there, and when the time/opportunity comes I may take them there. Currently I have a fairly binary choice though: UC Merced or W&M. If you think W&M would be a better choice on that path I'd like to know why.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2009
  17. Mar 30, 2009 #16
    Not much can be described as potential lonely as high energy particle physics. The search for the origin of the universe will involve a lot of years, deep thoughts, few experiments and a lot of calculations and data reduction. Breaking up those long periods of thought may be time with family, a warm dinner and bottle or two of wine, a walk on the beach, a stroll through a forest, or rafting down a river. The fact that your family, or most of it, lives close to UC Merced would be the deciding factor for me. A great scientist can come from simple means, but without family it can be a sad journey. You sound like a young man who will succeed at either institution. I called the Physics Dept. at UC Merced this afternoon as a result of your post and left the conversation with a very warm feeling that you will make your mark at that institution. You will follow your gut to CERN and I trust that anti-matter will one day be stabilized in a hand held canister designed and housed in your laboratory. Follow your mind, but don't abandon your heart. Both schools will be adequate to meet your career objectives, but if I were you I'd stay close to family. Hope to see you in California. Good luck with your education, research, career and life. You sound like one sharp fellow.
  18. Mar 30, 2009 #17
    One last point. You may want to refer to the new Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) Use Agreement between Stanford University and The Regents of the University of California. Under this Use Agreement, users from the University of California are granted permission to use the SLAC facility. While you would be a registered student at the Merced Campus, you could take classes at Berkeley or Santa Cruz as well and do your key experiments at SLAC. Members of your thesis committee may be from UC Merced, but also include members from Berkeley and Santa Cruz, as example.
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