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Bioinformatics/Computational Biology PhD - UCSC,Duke or UNC?

LittleSLittleS Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
edited March 2011 in Graduate School
Just like many people on this site, I am struggling to make a final decision about the program to attend. I want to do research in the functioning and evolution of transcription regulation, focusing on the computational rather than the experimental side. I currently rank my choices UCSC>Duke>UNC, mainly because UCSC has the advisor I am most interested in (David Haussler), but I am worried about the relatively small size of the department there (not many choices,doesn't seem smart to pin all your hopes on getting into one particular lab) and the fact that UCSC does not carry "name brand" status (although the bioinformatics group itself seems pretty well regarded).
Anyone's opinion will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you.
Post edited by LittleS on

Replies to: Bioinformatics/Computational Biology PhD - UCSC,Duke or UNC?

  • busterbluthbusterbluth Registered User Posts: 48 Junior Member
    I am also a computational bio person so I'll pass along my thoughts. I also looked into UCSC but not the other two schools. I was unable to attend the visit day at UCSC, so my impressions are all based on word of mouth and my own perusal of UCSC faculty web pages.

    In my opinion, I wouldn't be too concerned about the "name brand" status of UCSC. As you mention, UCSC is very well regarded among the bioinformatics community and I think most people would recognize it as among the top ten places to study bioinformatics in the country. Your point about it being a smaller group is a good point, and I can imagine that getting into David Haussler's lab might be non-trivial since he's pretty famous. However, they have several other people that I was very interested in working with (such as Ed Green, Josh Stuart, Kevin Karplus and others). Without knowing your exact interest area (and without knowing anything about the other faculty beyond the material on their web pages), my guess is that you would have lots of opportunities to do interesting and high impact work at UCSC. As I'm sure you know, your publication record and recommendations coming out of grad school will be more important than the name of the university anyway. Publishing 5 good papers at UCSC will outshine a lousy publication record at MIT any day.

    I know less about Duke and UNC, but I don't really think you can go wrong with your choices. They're all great schools.

    Congratulations on your admissions and good luck with your decision!
  • LittleSLittleS Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    Hey, thanks for replying. I did visit, and I got a great vibe from everyone I talked to - including Josh Stuart and Ed Green. David Haussler is also super laid back and approachable. I guess I should just go with my gut feeling and not worry about more inconsequential factors, like the fact the UC system is broke :)
    You are right about publishing papers being better than the institution you come from, of course. Since you didn't visit, I take it you are not planning to go to UCSC?
    Thanks again.
  • busterbluthbusterbluth Registered User Posts: 48 Junior Member
    On the matter of the UC system's financial problems, when I visited at UCSF they had a slide saying that the total university budget that comes from state dollars is around 7% of the total, and the amount of graduate education money that comes from the state is close to 0%. I'm sure the situation is a little different at UCSC since they have lots of undergraduates on campus, but my guess would be that state money doesn't affect grad students directly for the most part. I'm sure it would be a totally reasonable question to ask them if they didn't talk about it when you visited!

    I'm currently undecided on where I'm going, but I'll likely be at one of the bay area schools, so maybe I'll run into you at some point :) I'm hoping that being affiliated with qb3 will allow me to spend some time on each of the UC campuses in the area at some point during grad school.

    On a related note, do you know if there is any mechanism for students studying bioinformatics/comp bio at the various UC campuses to get together, like a student conference or retreat? I haven't heard of anything like that yet, which to me seems like a shame. In the bay area alone there are many students at Davis, UCSC, UCSF, and Berkeley working on various aspects of this field, and it would be unfortunate if there is no way for these students to interact with their future colleagues in the area.
  • LittleSLittleS Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    QB3 seems to foster a lot of faculty collaboration - some of the people I interviewed with at UCSC mentioned they travel weekly to SF/Berkeley for meetings. I don't think students do it all that often, but I didn't ask explicitly. I'm sure there must be at least some listserv for the comp bio bay area students.
    Well, good luck in deciding, and maybe see you around :)
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