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The California Institute of Technology

How this student rated the school
Research QualityA Research AvailabilityA+
Research FundingA Graduate PoliticsA
Errand RunnersB Degree CompletionB+
Alternative pay [ta/gsi]B Sufficient PayA
CompetitivenessA Education QualityA+
Faculty AccessibilityA Useful ResearchA
ExtracurricularsA Success-UnderstandingB
Surrounding CityB Social Life/EnvironmentC
"Individual" treatmentA FriendlinessA-
SafetyA Campus BeautyB+
Campus MaintenanceA University Resource/spendingA
Describes the student body as:
Friendly, Arrogant, Approachable

Describes the faculty as:
Friendly, Helpful

Lowest Rating
Social Life/Environment
Highest Rating
Research Availability
He rated most things higher than other students did.
Date: Dec 31 1969
Major: Astronomy (This Major's Salary over time)
I graduated from Caltech with a PhD in 1975, after arriving in 1970, with a degree in Planetary Sciences from what was then the relatively new planetary sciences group in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. To my surprise, this was not in the astronomy group, which is a part of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy. My experience with P.S. reflects a very friendly, mostly concerned group of faculty, a few of whom are extremely elitist and arrogant, all of whom define the cutting edge of their respective specialties. However, when I arrived there were 5 new graduate students; 14 months later (after qualifying orals) only I was left. In a more typical year, more than 50% survive past qualifying orals. There were always great opportunities to join observing runs with the faculty at some of the world's best observatories: it was Palomar then and Keck now. Faculty were not only easy to reach, when they were in town, they often sought you out.

I had no problem getting into a Postdoc and then remaining at a NASA field center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I note that one of the "dropouts" in my year was still provided with a "terminal" MS degree and works as an astronomy- and space-science oriented programmer at JPL.

Now, all that said, I add that I had two roommates with entirely different experiences in Biology and Chemistry. In either department, one joined the inner group of your faculty advisor and there you stayed through your entire graduate-student career. My biology buddy put up with a major "name" with all of his elitist tendencies and royal pretentions, but did well with the extremely good recommendation this guy provided his subsequent career: "OMG, you did your work with Dr. ____ and you survived!"

My chemistry buddy was so despondent, he dropped out without even a Master's degree and disappeared from the face of the earth so far as science is concerned.

No matter what area of science or engineering you're in, you are nowhere else going to find so many Nobel laureates per square km, and so many scientifically notable people in the faculty club (which you CAN join as a graduate student, for a fee…just like the slightly higher-paid faculty). Before coming, talk to the people you're going to work with, unless you just want the prestige and figure you'll deal with the personality quirks one way or another. Talk especially with other graduate students!

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