Which University should I go to for my undergrad in physics?

  • #1
Maddy467
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1
I'm an international student. I've been accepted into Stony Brook (NY), Rutgers-New Brunswick (NJ), University of Arizona and Iowa State University. (all with decent scholarships... amounts in increasing order with Stony Brook costing me the most)

I'm really confused about the first 3. All of them have great physics programs and faculty (as far as I know, although I'm here to be sure of it).

UofA seems to have excellent astronomy research. Although, apart from space observatories, there aren't any national labs in the region. So I'm afraid I'll cut myself off from internship opportunities and cool high-energy physics stuff.

Stony Brook is right next to a national lab in which it actively has an involvement. It's well-ranked as an all-around good opportunity package ig, although not entirely sure.

Rutgers seems to be a nice option too. It's close to New York City as well as right next to Princeton. I have heard they collaborate with Princeton too, which might be beneficial. Being close to the city, I guess both Rutgers and Stony Brook would be full of internship opportunities for undergrad. (Ofc I won't get one sitting idle... I know I'll have to chase down opportunities but at least there would be better chances there)


That said, I don't know how much each of them involves their undergrad students in research and how rigorous each of their coursework is, or how well the faculty compares with each other. How do research/internship opportunities compare? (can be academia or data analysis too ig, I wouldn't mind). I do know UofA has a huge involvement in optics and astronomy but idk about the other two.

Any comments or advice that ya'll might want to give me? I really do want internships... firstly for the experience and fun and secondly for the money too! International fees is A LOT so I do need good academia-related jobs. Selfish, yeah but I do need them. Also, what career outlooks are there after an undergrad in physics? (I know the usual route of Masters/PhD and then going into academia) but well... just for the sake of knowing my options... what are the "industry" options or research options right after undergrad and how much do they pay? What's there for international students in it? Do I get any benefits of coming to the US on an F1 visa (I know connections are it but how helpful is it)?

I know I sound really selfish, but by American standards, when your family is earning a couple thousand dollars a month and you are giving 25k a year for tuition, you do care about money
 
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  • #2
Iowa State also has a National Lab, Ames Lab, nearby. In fact, it is right on campus.

All four are fine schools. Which one you will do best at depends more on you than it does the school.
 
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  • #3
Maddy467 said:
Also, what career outlooks are there after an undergrad in physics? (I know the usual route of Masters/PhD and then going into academia) but well... just for the sake of knowing my options... what are the "industry" options or research options right after undergrad and how much do they pay? What's there for international students in it? Do I get any benefits of coming to the US on an F1 visa (I know connections are it but how helpful is it)?
* The American Physical Society (APS) and American Institute of Physics (AIP) have information on job opportunities for people who graduate with a bachelor's in physics from US universities (along with salary surveys). E.g., start with: https://ww2.aip.org/statistics/whos-hiring-physics-bachelors and https://www.aps.org/careers/physicists/bsprivate.cfm and https://ww2.aip.org/statistics/starting-salaries-for-physics-bachelors.

* If you plan to work in the US after graduation, a F-1 student visa provides a relatively easy path to employment, much less cumbersome and much more likely than via an H-1B visa if you get your degree outside the US. With a designated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) degree from a US university, you can obtain up to a 24-month OPT (Optional Practical Training) Extension of your F-1 visa (https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-th...ional-practical-training-opt-for-f-1-students); [ETA: otherwise, up to a 12-month OPT Extension for other degrees]. This allows companies to hire you temporarily and evaluate you before committing resources and expenses for an H-1B visa. Another big advantage is that you'll have ready access to job fairs, on-campus interviews, and on-site (i.e., employer site) interviews if you're already a student here in the US.
 
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  • #4
Vanadium 50 said:
Iowa State also has a National Lab, Ames Lab, nearby. In fact, it is right on campus.

All four are fine schools. Which one you will do best at depends more on you than it does the school.
Which one would you recommend based off of the opportunities that you get and the quality of education that you receive?
 
  • #5
CrysPhys said:
* The American Physical Society (APS) and American Institute of Physics (AIP) have information on job opportunities for people who graduate with a bachelor's in physics from US universities (along with salary surveys). E.g., start with: https://ww2.aip.org/statistics/whos-hiring-physics-bachelors and https://www.aps.org/careers/physicists/bsprivate.cfm and https://ww2.aip.org/statistics/starting-salaries-for-physics-bachelors.

* If you plan to work in the US after graduation, a F-1 student visa provides a relatively easy path to employment, much less cumbersome and much more likely than via an H-1B visa if you get your degree outside the US. With a designated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) degree from a US university, you can obtain up to a 24-month OPT (Optional Practical Training) Extension of your F-1 visa (https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-th...ional-practical-training-opt-for-f-1-students); [ETA: otherwise, up to a 12-month OPT Extension for other degrees]. This allows companies to hire you temporarily and evaluate you before committing resources and expenses for an H-1B visa. Another big advantage is that you'll have ready access to job fairs, on-campus interviews, and on-site (i.e., employer site) interviews if you're already a student here in the US.
Hi! Thank you for the helpful sources! Any idea about college rigour, quality, reputation and opportunities based on which you'd recommend a particular college?
 
  • #6
Maddy467 said:
That said, I don't know how much each of them involves their undergrad students in research ...

You should email the physics department at each university and ask them. E.g., when I was an undergrad at MIT, they explicitly supported undergrad research through their Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

Maddy467 said:
Rutgers seems to be a nice option too. It's close to New York City as well as right next to Princeton. I have heard they collaborate with Princeton too, which might be beneficial. Being close to the city, I guess both Rutgers and Stony Brook would be full of internship opportunities for undergrad.

I wouldn't expect a plethora of undergrad internship opportunities in New York City proper, unless you're interested in the simulation of financial and business systems. Core physics research is limited primarily to university labs (such as at Columbia). Google has been expanding its facilities in the city, but I don't know what work they're doing and what opportunities they offer for undergrad internships. Similarly for several tech innovation centers being launched. In years past, the place to go for physics-related internships was IBM Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, outside the city. They've pared down their physics-related research a lot; but still worth checking out.

Similarly, in New Jersey, in years past, the place to go for physics-related internships was Bell Labs when it was part of AT&T. Again, physics-related research has been greatly pared down since AT&T broke up and other owners took over Bell Labs. There were several lab complexes in NJ. They've all been shutdown now except for the headquarters (now Nokia Bell Labs) in Murray Hill. That complex will be shutdown, and Nokia Bell Labs will be moving to a new facility in New Brunswick in a tech complex near Rutgers. That won't happen for several years, though. It would still be worthwhile to find out what opportunities are available at Murray Hill. There are other tech companies in the New Brunswick/Princeton area with physics-related work, but I don't know whether they offer undergrad internships.
 
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  • #7
Maddy467 said:
Which one would you recommend based off of the opportunities that you get and the quality of education that you receive?
My answer is unchanged:
Vanadium 50 said:
Which one you will do best at depends more on you than it does the school.
 
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  • #8
Maddy467 said:
Any idea about college rigour, quality, reputation and opportunities based on which you'd recommend a particular college?

* I can't be of much help here. I basically agree with V50. The issue is that your four options are all large state universities. If you had a mix of, e.g., small liberal arts college, medium private university, and large state university, there would be more differentiating factors to discuss (such as class size, whether your courses are taught by professors or teaching assistants, lab facilities, ...). Perhaps others with direct experience with undergrad classes at any of the the four universities can chime in.

* Reputation doesn't really mean much and is a reflection of personal bias. For me, Arizona stands out, BUT that's only because optics was one of my pet areas of interest. With respect to special facilities, you have the Optical Sciences Center (since renamed) at Arizona, Ames National Lab at Iowa State, Brookhaven National Lab near Stony Brook, and Princeton Plasma Physics Lab near Rutgers. Are you leaning towards any specialty at this point?

* I live in NJ. All I can say is that Rutgers had the opportunity to become a much better university than it is today. NJ at one time was the hub for telecommunications and pharmaceutical industries, with top-flight physicists, chemists, biologists, engineers, and computer scientists. As the industries downsized here, there were proposals to build a nanotech and a biotech center at Rutgers and retain the scientists and engineers within NJ. But the state governor, state legislature, university president, and alumni were more interested in upgrading the football stadium and football team instead. Sorry for the aside. But how Rutgers currently compares with the other universities, I don't know. A problem common to all state universities is that they are at the mercy of the state governments. At least the current NJ governor has been more supportive of hi-tech; see, e.g., the HELIX complex (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HELIX_(New_Brunswick,_New_Jersey)). [ETA: I'm sure that residents of other states will have similar anecdotes about how messed up their state governments are. So don't let my story dissuade you from Rutgers. I'm only relating what might have been.]

* You are correct in placing #1 priority on academics and research opportunities. If you can't decide on that basis, then take into account secondary factors, such as climate and surrounding community. With respect to climate, you have a choice between the desert Southwest, the wide dynamic range of the Midwest, and the more moderate Mid-Atlantic (though weather on Long Island is more variable than in New Brunswick due to coastal storms). With respect to community, you have a choice between urban, college town, and suburban (with reasonable access to NYC).

* If you still can't decide, go where it's least expensive.

* Congratulations on your acceptances. I wish you much success, wherever you decide to go.
 
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  • #9
CrysPhys said:
* I can't be of much help here. I basically agree with V50. The issue is that your four options are all large state universities. If you had a mix of, e.g., small liberal arts college, medium private university, and large state university, there would be more differentiating factors to discuss (such as class size, whether your courses are taught by professors or teaching assistants, lab facilities, ...). Perhaps others with direct experience with undergrad classes at any of the the four universities can chime in.

* Reputation doesn't really mean much and is a reflection of personal bias. For me, Arizona stands out, BUT that's only because optics was one of my pet areas of interest. With respect to special facilities, you have the Optical Sciences Center (since renamed) at Arizona, Ames National Lab at Iowa State, Brookhaven National Lab near Stony Brook, and Princeton Plasma Physics Lab near Rutgers. Are you leaning towards any specialty at this point?

* I live in NJ. All I can say is that Rutgers had the opportunity to become a much better university than it is today. NJ at one time was the hub for telecommunications and pharmaceutical industries, with top-flight physicists, chemists, biologists, engineers, and computer scientists. As the industries downsized here, there were proposals to build a nanotech and a biotech center at Rutgers and retain the scientists and engineers within NJ. But the state governor, state legislature, university president, and alumni were more interested in upgrading the football stadium and football team instead. Sorry for the aside. But how Rutgers currently compares with the other universities, I don't know. A problem common to all state universities is that they are at the mercy of the state governments. At least the current NJ governor has been more supportive of hi-tech; see, e.g., the HELIX complex (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HELIX_(New_Brunswick,_New_Jersey)). [ETA: I'm sure that residents of other states will have similar anecdotes about how messed up their state governments are. So don't let my story dissuade you from Rutgers. I'm only relating what might have been.]

* You are correct in placing #1 priority on academics and research opportunities. If you can't decide on that basis, then take into account secondary factors, such as climate and surrounding community. With respect to climate, you have a choice between the desert Southwest, the wide dynamic range of the Midwest, and the more moderate Mid-Atlantic (though weather on Long Island is more variable than in New Brunswick due to coastal storms). With respect to community, you have a choice between urban, college town, and suburban (with reasonable access to NYC).

* If you still can't decide, go where it's least expensive.

* Congratulations on your acceptances. I wish you much success, wherever you decide to go.
Thank you so much for your help! T-T overwhelmed by the detail someone provided to help me out xD... anyways well... Idk.. I actually love pretty much all branches of physics. Love maths too! As well as engineering. But Ig research is my cup of tea, so I'm going for physics. Although I guess I can switch up after the undergrad too.

UofA has excellent Astronomy and Optics but I'm worried that since there are no other labs around, I'll be confined to those areas of physics in terms of opportunities.

Stony Brook and Rutgers seem more promising in a sense that they are closer to better industries and labs (if we ignore the state of California right next to Arizona) but again, would I be losing an opportunity to go into a univ that is amazing for astronomy (i.e. UofA)? Aghhhh idk! I want to explore my interests but don't want to miss out on opportunities. I wanna have fun making new connections, learning cool physics, doing research all without the burden of overwhelming myself with fighting for scarce internship opportunities and financially supporting my own living, given I am an international student.

Anyways, Ig I'll annoy some people on the web that have had actual experience with the universities as physics undergrads... you guys are right! Thanks for the help!
 
  • #10
Well, I'll toss in one plug for Rutgers. Are you interested in figure skating? Rutgers has an enthusiastic figure skating club. They skate at the same rink I do, and I've become friends with several of the girls there. Too bad you're so far away. This Friday, the club is hosting an open house for prospective freshmen.
 
  • #11
Maddy467 said:
But Ig research is my cup of tea
Maddy467 said:
Anyways, Ig I'll annoy some people on the web
Sorry, what's "Ig"? Instagram?
 
  • #12
berkeman said:
what's "Ig"?
Maybe research worthy of an Ig Nobel Prize?
 
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  • #13
My guess: "I guess".
 
  • #14
Maddy467 said:
I actually love pretty much all branches of physics. Love maths too! As well as engineering. But Ig research is my cup of tea, so I'm going for physics.
It might be a good idea to look at the candidate school's math and engineering programs. If you decide you want to switch in a year or two - and people do, all the time - you will have at least factored this into your initial decision.

And non-academic factors, while they shouldn't dominate your thinking, should definitely be a factor. You don't want to be miserable for four years. If you hate snow, Arizona might be a better choice than Iowa State.
 
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  • #15
Rutgers has figure skating.
Iowa State has cow-tipping.
Take your pick.
 
  • #16
CrysPhys said:
Well, I'll toss in one plug for Rutgers. Are you interested in figure skating? Rutgers has an enthusiastic figure skating club. They skate at the same rink I do, and I've become friends with several of the girls there. Too bad you're so far away. This Friday, the club is hosting an open house for prospective freshmen.
yeah well... not many virtual events for us
 
  • #17
berkeman said:
Sorry, what's "Ig"? Instagram?
lmao noo... it's "i guess"
 
  • #18
Vanadium 50 said:
It might be a good idea to look at the candidate school's math and engineering programs. If you decide you want to switch in a year or two - and people do, all the time - you will have at least factored this into your initial decision.

And non-academic factors, while they shouldn't dominate your thinking, should definitely be a factor. You don't want to be miserable for four years. If you hate snow, Arizona might be a better choice than Iowa State.
will do! sure thing...
 
  • #19
Vanadium 50 said:
Rutgers has figure skating.
Iowa State has cow-tipping.
Take your pick.
woah! ahaha I didn't know that.. though... I am more of an athletics and soccer person... do they play any of that there?
 
  • #20
Maddy467 said:
lmao noo... it's "i guess"
Ah, thanks. Please keep in mind that we discourage the use of text speak here at PF. Acronyms like LMAO are fine though. :smile:
 
  • #21
Maddy467 said:
woah! ahaha I didn't know that.. though... I am more of an athletics and soccer person... do they play any of that there?
"Athletics" has several meanings. What specific activities are you interested in besides soccer?
 
  • #22
CrysPhys said:
"Athletics" has several meanings. What specific activities are you interested in besides soccer?
Well... I play soccer, volleyball, badminton, I run, 400m and marathons.. like to stay fit tbh and workout
 
  • #23
Maddy467 said:
Well... I play soccer, volleyball, badminton, I run, 400m and marathons.. like to stay fit tbh and workout
With maybe the exception of badminton, those are all fairly popular in the US, and don't require a specialized facility (such as an ice rink). You should be fine at any of the schools on your list. What's the seasonal range of outdoor temperatures where you are now?
 
  • #24
Vanadium 50 said:
Rutgers has figure skating.
Iowa State has cow-tipping.
Take your pick.
Rutgers has Xtreme Frisbee.
Iowa State has cow-patty Frisbee.
Decisions, decisions.
 
  • #25
CrysPhys said:
With maybe the exception of badminton, those are all fairly popular in the US, and don't require a specialized facility (such as an ice rink). You should be fine at any of the schools on your list. What's the seasonal range of outdoor temperatures where you are now?
Oh well... I've been born and brought up at a hill station... So I have lived a fair bit of my life with temperatures ranging from -2 to 30 degrees (Celcius) of temperature... But yeah lately I've been in much hotter environments... So around 10-40 degrees currently. So ig I'll be okay in both Arizona and New York... should have adequate facilities though (which ig I will?)!

My major concerns are opportunities (research and other "industry" jobs would also suffice), Faculty interactions, how well is the learning experience (rot/practical), community and the overall student body environment
 
  • #26
Maddy467 said:
Oh well... I've been born and brought up at a hill station... So I have lived a fair bit of my life with temperatures ranging from -2 to 30 degrees (Celcius) of temperature... But yeah lately I've been in much hotter environments... So around 10-40 degrees currently. So ig I'll be okay in both Arizona and New York... should have adequate facilities though (which ig I will?)!

My major concerns are opportunities (research and other "industry" jobs would also suffice), Faculty interactions, how well is the learning experience (rot/practical), community and the overall student body environment
I did reach out to people on Reddit and Instagram, haven't received replied regarding research though! huh!
 
  • #27
CrysPhys said:
My guess: "I guess".
I guess, " I guess", fp ( fixed point).
 
  • #28
Sorry to tell you, but you're not likely going to find a place that has absolutely everything you're looking for. So better to prioritize your wishes. Big city with variety but less friendly vs small town, cosier but fewer opportunities, etc.
 
  • #29
WWGD said:
Sorry to tell you, but you're not likely going to find a place that has absolutely everything you're looking for. So better to prioritize your wishes. Big city with variety but less friendly vs small town, cosier but fewer opportunities, etc.
Yeah well, my priorities are straight... At the apex of them all is research opportunities (especially as an int'l undergrad), experience and quality of education. Do you think Rutgers is a good option for that? How does it compare to Stony Brook or UofA (I am in the Rutgers honour college thingy too.. that any good?)
 
  • #30
Maddy467 said:
I did reach out to people on Reddit and Instagram, haven't received replied regarding research though! huh!
Did you make a post on each university's subreddit? Personally I would go to Iowa State or Rutgers - you'll have an easier time standing out at the former, but the latter will give you a broader scope of research opportunities outside physics simply due to how large it is.
Pro tip: attend colloquia and seminars, even those meant for graduate students. It'll help you see what research is all about, what fields might interest you, and it will get you on the radars of professors and grad students. I got two research opportunities my first semester this way; but one was in CS and the other was applying CS, which is more accessible to lower classmen than physics, so YMMV
 
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  • #31
Muu9 said:
Did you make a post on each university's subreddit?
I did!
Why do you not recommend Stony Brook and/or UofArizona? Do they not have as good of a reputation and research outlook as Rutgers? (They are sure better ranked... Arizona leading in Astro and Stony Brook is just better overall)

Yeah well, Rutgers is big, but I'm just afraid it's quantity over quality. Please correct me if that is the case... I really think Stony Brook and UofA are 2 ends of my spectrum... good overall whereas good specialisation... Rutgers falls in between ig...
 
  • #32
Maddy467 said:
reputation
Reputation...Reputation...Reputation...Reputation...Reputation...

I am sensing a theme. It almost makes me want to ask "So, what part of India are you from?"

All four are excellent schools. None is at the very tippy top. And at the risk of repeating myself, which one you will do best at depends more on you than it does the school.
 
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  • #33
Vanadium 50 said:
Rutgers has figure skating.
Iowa State has cow-tipping.
Take your pick.
Iowa is the choice if ones likes the big bovine variety.
 
  • #34
All are great choices. Stop overthinking. Pick the one with the hottest girls.

Go with the one that offers the higher scholarship amount. This would reduce the hours needed to work, and thus, more time to study.
 
  • #35
MidgetDwarf said:
All are great choices. Stop overthinking. Pick the one with the hottest girls.

Go with the one that offers the higher scholarship amount. This would reduce the hours needed to work, and thus, more time to study.
I suspect, with a handle " Maddy467", she is a girl.
 

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