Comments from current and former graduate students in the department.
The best sources of information about graduate school are graduate students themselves. Below is a selection of comments from one of our recent graduate opinion surveys.
Relating to research...
"One of the best things here...that this is a place where important physics is occurring, in other groups as well as your own. For instance the first month i was here, we had colloquia and invited talks by Philip Anderson, Roger Penrose, and Leo Kadanoff (Marker Lectures) - there must be something exciting here when people like that keep showing up. Or seeing articles by/about Dr. Chan and Dr. Maynard in Physics Today, or reading my advisor's article for Scientific American. It confirms the sense that I'm somehow participating in important work rather than trivia. That's a big motivation enhancer."
"I enjoy participating in cutting-edge research, knowing that few other labs in the world are using the techniques we are to investigate important phenomenon in solid state physics."
"...the department is steadily growing (especially in my general area) and holds an impressive number of grants for research."
"The department is large and has diverse interests. I knew that if I decided to change the subfield I wanted to pursue, I would have many labs to choose from."
"The seriousness and competence exhibited and expected by faculty in research is really excellent."
"The professors are very friendly and helpful."
"The graduate students and most of the faculty are quite friendly and the quality of research is usually quite good."
"There are so many new professors doing interesting things."
"The helpful people, excellent faculty members and the extensive program of talks, colloquia and seminars by leaders in their fields."
"The faculty and staff were particularly friendly. Looking at research/fabrication facilities, Penn State had the NNF, a Materials Research Group, and a number of surface science groups."
Relating to the geographical location....
"It is in the East, close to major cities like New York, Washington DC, etc."
"Rural living environment was a definite plus. I have two small children to raise and I didn't want to have to worry about what they were being exposed to while I was away studying."
"It is peaceful and conducive for learning, may be due to the fact that State College is not a big city."
"The good level of most of the graduate courses and the nice community of State College."
Related to Teaching...
"One thing that made a difference early on was a comment during one of the early orientation meetings for new TAs, when the asst. dept. head said "We need you, we need you very much" to teach here. I never heard that at Maryland. There are other ways where the staff or faculty in a general way make me feel welcome. It helps keep students motivated, at least me."
"PSU treated me with a certain amount of respect, and the people here were hospitable. I enjoyed my visit here to see the department, and that was my biggest deciding factor in coming here."
"Also, it was a large university, meaning that if anything caught my interest in the liberal arts - a fun class, I could go ahead and take it. It snows in winter."
"I am impressed so far with the graduate committee's interest in hearing the graduate students' opinions."
"i like the people. Looking at our department, we're a good barrel of apples."
"...I think the intellectual climate is stimulating, there is a lot of diversity in research topics, and I think there is quite a level of tolerance towards different ideas."
"I like [that] there are people who want to make the graduate life in the Department better."