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Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by Mus, Mar 26, 2007.
If you had to pick between Penn MD/PhD vs. Cornell MD/PhD, where would you go?
Give us more details about your scientific and personal interests. I would probably choose Penn, but we could probably give you better advice if provided more info about you.
My research interests are in immunology right now - I am currently working in an NK cell lab (undergrad). I'd like to do the PhD in some field of immunology, probably cancer immunology, but I know my interests can change with time.
For the people who would pick tri-I, what are your reasons? What about for those who would pick Penn - what are your reasons?
My impressions are that Penn is very well integrated with MD and PhD and the program is well run. I like how the students get to go to clinics in the middle of 2nd year and get that experience before they go off to PhD. Penn has amazing research going on as well. How important do you think having experience at the clinics is before doing the PhD?
When I interviewed at the Cornell Tri-I, I found the research, especially with the choices of Rockefeller and Sloan-Kettering to be very impressive. The atmosphere seems slightly more laid back there and the MD/PhD program is smaller (half the size per class than at Penn). The integration seems to be pretty good, although the students don't have as long of a clinical experience as they do at Penn before doing their PhD.
And then there's also the choice of NYC or Philly.
What do you think?
philly doesn't compare to nyc. also is you want to do cancer research I think that makes tri-I evem a better choice too. I also don't think doing clinical stuff before your PhD training before unless it's just electives. What if you do your medicine clerkship before grad school and then want to do IM? You did it 5 yrs ago? do you think you will be ready for an IM residency and have current letters or rec?
I'm sorry, I didn't make it clear what year I was in.
I am currently an undergraduate student in my senior year. In this application cycle, I got accepted at these two MD/PhD programs (Penn and Cornell) and am trying to decide which one to go to.
I can't answer which program is better overall, but make your choice based on whichever program you think has better research opportunities -- do not choose based on which program you think is stronger clinically, because the preparation you get will essentially identical at both places.
If you are thinking cancer immunology, my (admittedly poor) understanding is that Tri-I would probably be better. However, both schools are so good that I'm sure you could find at least one amazing PI in your field at either school (because it doesn't sound like you have an extremely specialized interest), and one good PI is all it takes for a PhD.
Which atmosphere did you like more? At which school did you have better rapport with the students? Can you stomach NYC for 7 or 8 years? Can you stomach Philly for 7 or 8 years? Any family complications?
I would probably go with the intangible, personal reasons rather than choosing based on slight differences in research opportunities.
I got the chance to interview at both and liked both a lot. However, I am no NYC material. Are you? Also, their curricula is quite different. Penn has a very strong immunology department, and rockefeller has big names in molecular immunology as well. Are you going to both revisits? I would check out the grad school requirements at each school and get a feel of how happy their grad students are during revisits and how supported they feel. Just my opinion. Good luck!
I'm not really gonna chime much in here. I didn't apply to Cornell and I don't know much about Cornell. Philly has its plusses and minuses, but it sure isn't NYC that's true. That isn't to say I haven't been to NYC numerous times since I started here... It's only 2 hours away. Some people call Philly the "Sixth Borough" I'm not going to cheerlead for Penn just because I'm a student though... There's things I like and things I don't.
I think clinical training before your PhD is very very useful and I think every program should have it. That's just my personal bent because I really discovered what residency I wanted to be in because of doing clinics before the PhD. Now I'm doing the research that fits right into the residency and career I want rather than just doing something general and hoping it fits in later. Different people argue about how important this is, but I think it's very important, especially for trying to land a good spot in such a competitive residency.
That being said, so what if you did your medicine clerkship before your PhD? You still have a Sub-I and other electives to complete when you get back. You really think our MD/PhDs are handicapped because they did medicine before their PhD? It's not true. All MD/PhDs match extremely well in specialties like medicine, especially since medicine really isn't that competitive to begin with. Besides that, the department of medicine will sit down with you and make sure you have all the recommendations, rotations, and recent experience necessary to land a good residency and succeed.
I'm glad I got my IM and Neurology rotations out of the way as it convinced me I really didn't want to be doing IM or Neurology like I thought I might want to be doing. That being said, since IM is so popular among MD/PhD grads I'm almost certain one who is going into IM from Penn will pop in eventually and back me up on this.
Anyways, Mus I think you should check out both revisits and see how you feel after that. Congrats!
this is so true. i had never visited nyc (crazy, i know) before going to the tri-i and columbia interviews. i kept on hearing how amazing nyc is, etc etc etc. but even though i go to school in the north east, i'm still from surburbia, TX, and i definately felt overwhelmed in nyc. it felt strange to be in an area where the city overshadows the school, and not the other eway around... so yea, nyc wasn't a good match for me.
even though UPenn is still very in-the-middle-of-the-city, there was still a very distinctive campus feel to it. maybe because the undergrad campus was nearby??
Thanks to everyone for your suggestions and insight! I'll definitely try to revisit both programs before I make my final decision.
Penn hands down.
Aside from the attraction of living in NYC, tri-I has little to offer versus any of the other top programs. I don't want to go off on a rant here, but there is a good deal wrong with the tri-I. There are positives too, rockefeller and sloan kettering have some good immunologists. Even cornell has carl nathan. My advice to you is, if you're interested in the tri-I, make sure you can find one person (at least) at each of the three institutions you're interested in.
Tri-I. The interaction with the faculty here is superb. The amount of NAS members that actually guide and mentor you is phenomenal. The research options are awesome at Rockefellar and MSK. Penn has good research options too, but not as neat as Rockefeller.
antfarm, could you elaborate on the "good deal wrong with the tri-I?" just curious...
I played this game last year as well. I was accepted to both and I struggled with it until last minute.
I loved tri-i and nyc. The research is fantastic and it really was little personal things that made me choose Penn. Some of these things included having a car to get home to jersey to visit my family and friends, potentially owning a home at some point during my time here, being part of the larger university campus and all the perks that come along with that like intramural sports (getting to beat the wharton guys, dental students, vet students, ugrads, etc.) and getting to pretend I'm still in college by going to ugrad bars, hanging with nursing students, meeting people from other schools drexel, nova, temple, jefferson, pcom, usp, etc.
I knew that both schools were excellent so I decided that my decision would be made on the little things that would make my 7.52 years as happy as possible. Maybe I should have paid more attention to things like grading, class structure, % of time in small groups, but to be honest I really didn't care. I just wanted to be with normal people, learn cool stuff, and get out as efficiently as possible.
Now, if I really want to be honest I would tell you that I used a magic 8-ball the day before I had to make a decision and then made up all the other stuff but you all probably wouldn't believe that. BTW, if you do in fact use the 8 ball go by how you feel when the answer comes up and not so much on what the answer really was. I felt relieved when I asked if I should go to Penn and it said Yes.
Just wanted to emphasize what neuronix mentioned- the core clerkships aren't that important to residency. Yes, you should get good grades in them, but your letters should come from your upper level courses where you have actual responsibility (there are about 6 mos more of these at Penn than other places). Your real prep for residency is the upper level courses - once you have the basics down, you can start learning how to be a MD. I personally liked having IM before my PhD because it gave me a great clinical mindset from which to think as a scientist. No comment on the NYC stuff, though there if fine cx research at Penn. Whatever you chose if fine, just don't do decide using false info....
Tri-I for sure. I was interested in both places too and in cancer immunotherapy work. After taking a close look at cornell and penn, it was a pretty easy choice. I can guarantee you there will be many more faculty in your area at Tri-I than Penn, plus the research there I felt was more proliferative and respected. Smaller class size is a big plus, and NYC>Philly. It was a no brainer for me.
I would like to endorse this method. If neither school really trumps the other for you then try the 8 ball. CaipirinhaQuinho is right about the feeling you get when you know the 8 ball has made the right or wrong decision. It's like forcing yourself to deal with the fallout of a decision without actually making it. Plus you get to play with toys!
That said, I'm likely going to tri-I so I hope to see you at revisit.
I've been hearing this more frequently lately, which surprises me, as I'm used to hearing the praises of a larger student cohort (larger peer group for the long haul, more diversity of interests/experience to draw upon, etc.).
Can someone make a case for the advantage of smaller MSTP class size (~12-15)? (I'd hazard "greater personal attention," but I doubt this is an issue, considering the robust administrative infrastructure of larger programs like Penn.)
I can't make the case for either small or large MSTP class size being better having only ever been at a large class size program. But what I do think is that the class size is irrelevant as long as the program has enough resources to take care of the class it has.
When I was interviewing, what scared me from some other programs was just how hard it was to get any questions answered from program administrators. You'd call or e-mail and never get responses. That tells me the program doesn't have enough support staff. What happens when you become a student and need help with something? But these were actually small to mid-sized programs.
At Penn the support is always there. Any day if you have a problem you can usually get the program administrator or director if not right then, that same day. The office is always open and nobody ever has a problem with you barging in and talking to them. There are lots of program events. When I've had issues I've even gotten calls on my cell on the weekends. From all this, I can't say I feel at all like large class size is a bad thing.
I think some things come down to cognitive dissonance. People are always trying to justify their own decisions, even if their reasoning wouldn't really hold up to any scrutiny or objective information.
Just to add to the mix, Sloan Kettering has a reputation for being a great cancer center (one of the very best) but also of being anti-research.
Really? If that were true in the past I think that is in the process of being rectified. I mean Varmus just opened up a Cancer Biology PhD program this year.
I think that is their hospital and I haved heard the same about their residency programs, but isn't there a seperate resarch institute?
I think you spelled anti-cancer incorrectly
To clairfy, let me mention the following:
I have met with researchers at SK and some feel that they are not appreciated/supported and that research is only of secondary importance:
The residency programs are not as flexible when it comes to integrating research and it is generally not allowed, even in research-heavy fields like Rad-Onc.
If anyone knows otherwise, feel free to correct me.
This impression is not unfounded with regard to some of the residency programs, because the clinical volumes are so high (Sloan is a top place for rad-onc, but isn't the 'best' in part because of the high clinical:research time ratio). This situation is a bit absurd for residents given the opportunities, and with regards to clinical research, it is a fellow-oriented institution.
But with regard to the institution's orientation in general, the diametrical opposite is true. Just over my time here (though this predates my time by a long stretch), I've seen an astonishing expansion in its research programs, and the people they've hired are always seem like coups - both established investigators and young, with Harry V. setting the tone from the top.
I think in the past people would think about Sloan for clinical, and Dana Farber for research (MD Anderson being ... in Texas). With regards to recruitment of young faculty and other indicators, that's changed.
A few years ago they finished building a monstrous new building and started their own PhD program (which is very competitive - surprising to me because of its new status and circumscribed aim). I watched with some interest, because it serves as a model of how to rapidly expand a place without sacrificing quality (it's not an easy task) - but they accomplished that in part by recruiting excellent chairs (i.e. Alan Hall for Cell Bio, James (Jim) Allison for Immunology), as well as having strong people already in place (Joan Massagué, Nikola Pavletich, Kathy Anderson) and having that set the tone as well.
Cornell, as I see it, is still the lagging bastard child of the three institutions with regards to research, though they have some standouts and promising young people. But quality is more variable - the sort of set up you'd see at most other universities with traditional departments (Rockefeller has no dept, and SKI's are nominally cancer oriented). They're about to double their research space (has been a constraint in the past) with a building to rival Sloan's, but I'm skeptical about their ability to expand and increase their quality unless they make some personnel changes. We'll see. But they also cater to a different type of research, so the diversity is welcome.
There are internal gauges of each institutions competitiveness - for instance there are more TriI students heading to Sloan and Cornell in recent years because their research interests aren't met by Rockefeller's offerings (75 faculty at Rock vs ~225 at Sloan+Cornell). But even at Rockefeller, there is an influx of more excellent young investigators (due to the open faculty search), and Paul Nurse wants to make make the graduate program even more attractive (the stipend, for instance, was on the low side, tied to similarly competitive programs - but was upped to 29k this year). With all the building (clinical and research), 3 graduate schools competing for us and PhD students, we're looking forward to an "arms race" where we'll be the beneficiaries. The next frontier of this battle, we hope, will be increased housing options. It's an interesting tension of cooperation and competition, given the high number of monies that are available to collaborations between TriI faculty across institutions (i.e. the 50 mill stem cell fund), as well as students who do joint theses.
Ah, a bit of a digression. Anyway, I don't think that general impression of Sloan is founded.
Considering it's been ~8 yrs since this thread was last bumped, I was wondering if those who were deciding between these two programs could comment on their ultimate decision or if they've seen other factors they previously didn't consider come into play during their training.
Currently trying to make this decision myself and would appreciate other's current or past impressions of these two excellent programs!
Congratulations!!! Both programs are outstanding training environments. Do 2nd visits... You are not going to do a bad decision (even if it ends up a coin flip - not advisable). Agree that research mentors are the key drivers, but family, location, environment, program leadership are also important.
The 1.5 year thing in my view is the biggest difference. I actually think it helps a lot. It should give you .5 extra years of research time 3.5 years PhD + 3.5 years of med school as opposed to 3 + 4 that would be required at other schools. Also the 6 months you save is a waste of time in basic sciences.
Also if you take Step 1 after those 6 months in Clerkships you will do better on it, which as many students have mentioned is incredibly important. You want to get every advantage you can to get the highest score possible.
The idea that the 6 months is anything but a benefit is wrong. I can't understand why more schools don't switch to it.
Also I think Penn has a stronger medical school than Cornell and stronger in more residencies in case you want to match back at your home institution - though I can't speak to this as much and it is more qualitative.