Sorry, I couldn't resist the urge...Northwestern vs. Pittsburgh MSTP

yakattack145

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Jun 8, 2007
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I never liked these kinds of threads, but that was before I had a difficult decision of my own to make. I suppose it really does take one to know one...

I've been very fortunate to land some great acceptances this cycle, and I've narrowed my choice down to Northwestern and Pitt. Here's my personal list of pros/cons:

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY
Pros - Chicago is amazing, top 10 chemistry graduate program (USNWR)
Cons - very expensive for the ~$26,000 stipend, possibility of having to commute to Evanston for graduate study, few labs doing my particular area of research although many doing related work

UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH
Pros - affordable Midwest living, UPMC is a beast, one lab (albeit aging) doing exactly my area of research, extremely well integrated MD/Phd program (IMO)
Cons - Honors/Pass/Fail grading, Pittsburgh < Chicago, top 40 chemistry graduate program (USNWR)

I would love to hear from current students at either NW or Pitt about their particular experiences, as well as the perceptions of those who interviewed at either program. I would like to go into academic medicine...
 
Dec 31, 2009
91
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Pittsburgh, PA
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MD/PhD Student
Some considerations for choosing Pitt...

-Between Pitt, CMU, and all of UPMC, there is some serious breadth to the amount of research going on. The benefit of this (which I've experienced) is that as your research interests evolve, you'll have a LOT of options in most areas. Keep in mind that you may end up looking in other departments than just chemistry, and we have solid choices all around.

-With the large size comes lots of resources. I've been able to scrounge up money and resources to pursue side interests and projects and make awesome contacts at Pitt, CMU, and UPMC.

-Assuming you're concerned about competing for honors, your two science years are unranked, so for the vast majority of people who just pass (like 135/150 ish) the honors doesn't make a difference. Most students would say study well to learn what you need to do well on Step 1 and 3rd/4th year. You certainly can gun for honors and AOA if you want.

-Pittsburgh is a great place to be a (relatively) poor student. The 24k goes a long way here. In my year, 25% own a home or condo and another 25% are buying now/this summer. If you buy something and maintain it for 7-8 years, you've got a sweet investment or chunk of change to buy something when you're going for residency. This is something you likely can't do in Chicago. The town is a lot of fun and we make it to happy hours after MSTP journal club. This isn't really something unique to Pitt, but your money will go farther.

-Program culture. I like ours. My year is super sociable and we enjoy hanging out and working together. Dinner parties, bowling, happy hours, study groups, etc. The director here does a great job of guiding you through your training IMO.


However, NW is a fantastic program and you really can't make a bad choice with either schools. Chicago is a cooler and trendier city, but it's big and more expensive. Figure out what's more important to you. Also, the things I've said have been a little general/generic, so let me know if you have specific questions.
 

dmblue

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Sep 19, 2008
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MD/PhD Student
same...if you have specific questions about NU let me know
 

dmblue

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Sep 19, 2008
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MD/PhD Student
Pitt students are more loquacious, while Northwestern people are far more curt.
i can be quite loquacious when given a clear question

My recommendation would be to go with the school you think you would be happier at. 8 years is a long time. Also, don't limit yourself by narrowing down on labs already. You will be introduced to a lot of researchers and fields during your first year, and you could change your mind.
 

Neuronix

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I love these threads. It's always just a discussion from students at the individual schools who promote their own schools and pre-meds who are gung-ho for one school or the other either because they're attending or hoping to get off the waitlist.

My opinion: Northwestern, because I could never live in Pittsburgh.

I'd really refrain from generalizing about the students at various schools. I dunno what pre-meds say about the students here after they meet me and I'm actually honest with them as opposed to rah rah rah happy cheery :laugh:. The few students you meet is not a reflection of the whole school, in fact, it's usually just a reflection of a bunch of chipper first years.
 
Dec 31, 2009
91
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0
Pittsburgh, PA
Status
MD/PhD Student
Pssshhhaw!

I just think that at Pitt our you-know-what smells like roses and yakattack ought to know the truth! :p
 

bd4727

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Jul 17, 2008
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I think it is a big mistake to pick an MSTP based on 1 lab. Chances are you will change your mind, that person will move or will not be accepting students, etc. If you have a field in mind that you are undoubtedly going to puruse, you need to pick a place that has many (like 10+) faculty doing research in that area. That way you will have a variety to choose from when the time comes, and there will be an atmosphere of researchers around who you can go talk to or collaborate with during your PhD. IMO going somewhere bc of 1 PI is about the biggest mistake an MSTP applicant can make.