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Best chemistry department?


Replies to: Best chemistry department?

  • kihylekihyle Registered User Posts: 307 Junior Member
    i just looked at proportion of professors who started out recently at chem departments in good universities and where they graduated from with a PhD

    when i was picking schools to apply to i thought that rankings may not be the way to go about it so I took a survey of where young professors got their PhD's from in my field - it took some time on the net but Caltech came out on the top even though Berkeley graduated more students each year

    now i've worked in academia and industry and i know that it is tougher to become assistant prof at a good place than find a job in the industry - industry has more of team effort going on - you're likely to be working with people who are on your level - your goals are set for you - you'll have a salary for sure - starting out as an assistant professor is hard - it requires more effort, more independent thinking, more creativity and multitasking on your part - you have to come up with your own goals, train your own group, and get yourself and others funded all by yourself

    there are really great people who would be successful anywhere - i'm not prejudiced about anyone who went to UCB - i think it is a great school overall and they pick out top applicants - but many of us need some more individual guidance when we start out on the road to PhD - UCB just does not do a very good job of it - they use stress to weed people out - get a class of 80 with the aim of geting it down to 40 in the next two years - some fall out after an academically stressful 1st year, others after 2nd years exams - caltech gets a small class size in the beginning - then they really work on the people they get to make them shine - there is less emphasis of what grades you get your 1st year - instead they want you to work 14/7 in your lab and they want you to write more independent proposals than any other school - that gets you to think on your own for a change - they keep their size small so your interaction with professors can be much more involved (+ you have more space and time on the instruments while UCB is much more cramped)

    so my idea that caltech graduates more independent thinkers is based on the above observations - you can disagree with me, Alexandre, and may be i'll even change my mind, but for now this is how i see it
  • chemkid06chemkid06 Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    I have been accepted to the Ph.D. program in Chemistry at the University of Southern California and Georgia Tech. As I read the above posts, both schools are decent in this field. I am currently attending a small, liberal art college, so going to either school (which are both very large in size, and both locates in big cities) would be a huge change for me. I don't have any basis to compare USC and GATech in many aspects. Can anyone please give me some guidance?

    I also got in the Ph.D. program in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Kansas. I thought I would try something different than "pure Chemistry", and luckily was accepted to KU. Ultimately, I want to work in the pharmaceutical industry, but I am not sure if getting a Ph.D. in Pharm. Chem or in Chem (with a medicinal/pharmaceutical-related research project) would make any difference. Kihyle, you have worked in the industry before, can you help me out?

    Thanks so much!
  • kihylekihyle Registered User Posts: 307 Junior Member
    the following is in my, and only my, humble opinion only:

    you know, i do not think it will make much of a difference which degree you will finally obtain - some people will disagree with me here in that for the people who are hiring you "pharm chem" in you degree will sound like an alluring combination .... i worked for about a year in a pharmaceutical company doing the so called medicinal chemistry - there we had chem PhD's and PharmD's working on the same floor doing the same thing (i don't know about the same salary) .... of course, if you plan to work for a pharmaceutical company, while you'll be most likely assigned to do just one specific set of tasks (chemists do their synthesis and biologists do their testing) it helps to be multidisciplinary because the prime targets of all of the drugs you make are biological in nature - so it helps being able to read the literature you boss will bring in and understand it too .... i have known of one person who said that his background in both chemistry and biology helped him succeed in the company he had joined - that the drugs he made have been incredibly active [but i have very high doubts about one person being able to engineer a drug with a knowledge of the active site conformation as well as potential metabolism going on because in modern times this is very hard to do (even with computational aid)]

    you have also not specified what is it exactly that you see yourself doing in a pharm company? at the very entry-level position people usually work in very specific areas - here, if you plan to do chemistry (translate synthesis and purification) you need to be firmly grounded in you chemistry basics - you should know things from your Corey-Fuchs reaction to some mechanical things like fact that HF reacts immediately with glass, may be know how to use some instrumentation - when they are hiring you they want to see a nice presentation on the kind of chemistry you did for your graduate degree as well as what kinds of problems you solved on your own and how you solved them .... beyond the entry-level, as a PI you need to have a more complete picture in perspective because you are the one who chooses what problems to work through, which compounds to pursue, where to direct each person's effort - as a chemistry PI you should have a firm grounding in chemistry, but it is relevant to read & understand the literature concerning your area of pharmacological focus, literature which is not all synthetic chem talk

    and of course, also remember that a PhD should be done in the more widely known program with the more famous group leader - sadly, it has always been true that people react very strongly to where and under whose direction you have completed your graduate studies and less strongly to what kind of work you have done (they start getting into it later in the interview, but at first it is good to impress them with someone's name, with whom you associated during your work - sometimes a company might favor some professor over others having a very good experience with students his or her lad produces) - so you have to sort of build-up your "pedigree", and this goes for both industry and academia

    you should also hold in mind where you will end up after you finish PhD - now california has a very nice flourishing biotech and pharm industry thing going ... i have not lived anywhere in kansas neither atlanta but i have a feeling that their surrounding area may not be as supporting of your professional goals

    i have not been to any of these three schools (except USC campus once) so sorry i cannot give you any more detail than this - in my own opinion it does not matter very much if you obtain a PhD in chem or pharm chem because it will still be PhD work which is similar school to school - you can take the biochem and toxicology classes at any school which has a somewhat developed biochemistry department or otherwise learn it on your own - anyhow, i hope you visit all these schools and talk to faculty and graduate students there to check out the overall environment of the school - make sure that there are at least a few faculty with whom you'd be interested to work with - ask how many students they have graduated and where those students ended up (which companies) - otherwise it is much more important how good of a work you will do and who you'll do it with rather than the title of the PhD you'll get in the end
  • av004mav004m Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    The University of Rochester has an amazing undergraduate program. We also have some hot names in the field of inorganic chemistry. I am proud to be a graduate.
  • av004mav004m Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    what about Pitt for organic...they are getting real good.
  • eiffel13eiffel13 Registered User Posts: 189 Junior Member
    I'm reactivating this thread. What are the top 25 or so undergraduate
    chemistry departments?
  • Sam LeeSam Lee Registered User Posts: 9,449 Senior Member
    fyi: 2007 us news *graduate* (peer assessment) ranking:
    1. California Institute of Technology 4.9
    1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4.9
    1. Stanford University (CA) 4.9
    1. University of California--Berkeley 4.9
    5. Harvard University (MA) 4.8
    6. Scripps Research Institute (CA) 4.6
    7. University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign 4.5
    7. University of Wisconsin--Madison 4.5
    9. Cornell University (NY) 4.4
    9. Northwestern University (IL) 4.4
    11. Columbia University (NY) 4.3
    12. University of California--Los Angeles 4.2
    12. University of Chicago 4.2
    12. University of Texas--Austin 4.2
    15. Yale University (CT) 4.1
  • Zarathustra22Zarathustra22 Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    I hate to bring up a dead topic, but this is relevant. I've noticed Berkeley is listed as the top school for chemists. I wanted to let anyone who is interested know that they now have full semesters of their chemistry classes online on their website at UC Berkeley Webcasts | Video and Podcasts: Chem 1A. I've actually watched the chem lectures on the MIT and Yale websites as well and I must say that the teachers at Berkeley are amazing. The MIT teacher blew through the material and was, quite frankly, boring. Alex Pines at Berkeley was awesome. He made the course material easy to understand and he does at least one cool experiment during every lecture.
  • Sam LeeSam Lee Registered User Posts: 9,449 Senior Member
    Yea, he's pretty good!
  • eiffel13eiffel13 Registered User Posts: 189 Junior Member
    Thanks Zarathustra! I'm still stalking this info and will absolutely check out the
    chem classes online. Thanks again, amd also belated thanks to Sam Lee
    for US News ranking. Still stalking this info, I am!
    Happy New Year!
  • hopefullyIvyhopefullyIvy Registered User Posts: 81 Junior Member
    (at the risk of hijacking the thread) where do you guys find these rankings for best departments? I am trying to find a list for good mathematics departments, but no success.
  • emikoemiko Registered User Posts: 94 Junior Member
    Just to let you guys know, Chem 1a at Berkeley is for non chemistry majors. Most of the people who are taking it are thinking about MCB or just any other majors. This course is supposed to be the easier version comparing to chem 4A, which is intended for chemistry or chem E majors.

    However, I do agree that chem 1a is AMAZING! The professors who were teaching the courses were really great at explaining things and making students to think deeply about the topic. I think this is the first time I have ever truly understood a lot of things in general chem (I actually learned all these materials several times in high school in Taiwan,US and a community college). I absolutely hated chemistry when I was in high school b/c I thought it was just a very very hard and boring subject. After taking chem 1a, I just fall in love w/ chemistry and I am thinking about doing a minor in chem with my major in biochem (under MCB department).
  • AlexandreAlexandre Registered User Posts: 24,573 Senior Member
    Powergrid, NU is exceptional in Chemistry. Definitely up there with (if not better than) the likes of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton and Yale.

    Cal is obviously one of the top 4 or 5 Chemistry departments on Earth. Michigan, which has pumped over $400 million into its life science programs in the last 5 or 6 years, is also quite strong, particularly for undergrads. Other excellent programs include UIUC, Wisconsin (both of which are top 10 nationally), UCLA, UNC and UT-Austin.

    If I had to group them,that's how I would do it:

    GROUP I:
    California Institute of Technology
    Harvard University
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Stanford University
    University of California-Berkeley

    Columbia University
    Cornell University
    Northwestern University
    University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign
    University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Princeton University
    University of California-Los Angeles
    University of Chicago
    University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
    University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
    University of Pennsylvania
    University of Texas-Austin
    Yale University

    Johns Hopkins University
    Ohio State University
    Pennsylvania State University-University Park
    Purdue University-West Lafayette
    Rice University
    University of California-Irvine
    University of California-San Diego
    University of California-Santa Barbara
    University of Colorado-Boulder
    University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
    University of Washington
  • aloealoe Registered User Posts: 307 Member
    what about Colorado State University? And why is UCI where it is on that list? Also, any thoughts on the direction of Princeton's chem department?
  • goodatthingsgoodatthings Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    Northwestern definitely has one of the top chemistry departments! Don't be hating!
This discussion has been closed.