Emma, University of Rhode Island

AddedTuesday, June 14, 2016 at 10:54 AM

Choosing the better discipline for graduate school

I am a junior in the biomedical engineering program at an average engineering school, trying to decide what to do after graduation. I have very good grades and am currently doing research with two professors. I could work toward my Masters at this school but it would be in electrical engineering (which could be could to show other skills) but I would be able to do research with a biomedical professor. Staying at this school will also save me money. Or I could apply to other biomedical engineering programs that are higher ranked. I was wondering what would be a better option from a professionals point of view. Thank you for your help!!
Related to Choosing a School, Graduate School
  • Kay C Dee , Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
    Answered Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 10:54 AM

    Hi, Emma,

    This is a great question, thank you for asking it!  Graduate degrees are a little different from undergraduate degrees – for graduate school, the ranking of the school becomes less important to the value of your degree.  Your undergraduate degree largely gets judged on your overall school name, because you’re completing a standard curriculum that every student (in that major) there does.  But your graduate work will be much more specialized, and judged more highly on the particular research you do and how productive you and your advisor are (in terms of papers written, presentations given, etc.).  So, let’s say that Person A attends the SuperCool Institute of Amazing Reputation (and let’s say that everyone worldwide recognizes that school’s name, SCIAR) and Person A writes an okay thesis, but never writes a paper or gives a presentation about their work.  Person B attends the State University of Technical Stuff (less highly-ranked than SCIAR), and writes a really interesting thesis that advances our understanding of how something works, writes two peer-reviewed journal articles, and gives four presentations at professional conferences about their work.  Person B has a lot more to talk about at their job interviews or to point to in their Ph.D. graduate school applications.  Person B is the one who’s gotten the most out of their graduate education, and is most likely to be hired.  (Person A gets to wear a SCIAR sweatshirt to the grocery store on the weekends and have people assume that they’re smart or they know someone who’s smart.  But because their graduate degree wasn’t productive, they can’t even network well with other SCIAR alumni.  Person B has a big professional network, of SUTS alumni and of people at other institutions/industry/government agencies who have seen and are impressed with their work.)

    So my advice is to think about the kinds of research you’d really like to do for your graduate degree, and find out who is doing that kind of research and what schools they are at (looking at people’s affiliations on journal articles will help with this, as will good old-fashioned web searching).  See who’s doing what you’d LOVE to be doing, and where.  Then you can start filtering your options by where in the world/country you’d like to be located, finances, etc. Learn about the faculty members whose labs meet your criteria, talk to their current students, see how the faculty involved run their labs and who you might be a good match with.  If that lab is at SCIAR, then by all means, apply there (and buy the sweatshirt)!!  If that lab is somewhere else, then that’s where you want to be.

    I hope this helps.  Good luck!

    KCD