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    Hello,

    I've been offered admission to both universities, and I'm a bit undecided. I'll be studying natural sciences/biology.

    One thing I'd like to find out more about is what kind of research opportunities for undergraduates exist at Churchill. I know how this works at Princeton, but not at Cambridge.

    Are there a variety of research projects undergraduates can join? How competitive are the placements? Is there a formal program or is it more a matter of finding an individual professor who is open to the idea?

    Other things being equal, I would probably choose Princeton, because they have offered me a substantial amount of money, while at Cambridge I would need to pay the full international student tuition. (I'm American.)

    Cambridge seems to be ranked higher in the life sciences than Princeton, though I'm not sure whether the rankings reflect more on the graduate studies programs or apply equally to the undergraduate experience?
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    (Original post by DachshundFan)
    Hello,

    I've been offered admission to both universities, and I'm a bit undecided. I'll be studying natural sciences/biology.

    One thing I'd like to find out more about is what kind of research opportunities for undergraduates exist at Churchill. I know how this works at Princeton, but not at Cambridge.

    Are there a variety of research projects undergraduates can join? How competitive are the placements? Is there a formal program or is it more a matter of finding an individual professor who is open to the idea?

    Other things being equal, I would probably choose Princeton, because they have offered me a substantial amount of money, while at Cambridge I would need to pay the full international student tuition. (I'm American.)

    Cambridge seems to be ranked higher in the life sciences than Princeton, though I'm not sure whether the rankings reflect more on the graduate studies programs or apply equally to the undergraduate experience?
    Tagging Student403 wolfmoon88 for their insights...
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    (Original post by DachshundFan)
    Hello,

    I've been offered admission to both universities, and I'm a bit undecided. I'll be studying natural sciences/biology.

    One thing I'd like to find out more about is what kind of research opportunities for undergraduates exist at Churchill. I know how this works at Princeton, but not at Cambridge.

    Are there a variety of research projects undergraduates can join? How competitive are the placements? Is there a formal program or is it more a matter of finding an individual professor who is open to the idea?

    Other things being equal, I would probably choose Princeton, because they have offered me a substantial amount of money, while at Cambridge I would need to pay the full international student tuition. (I'm American.)

    Cambridge seems to be ranked higher in the life sciences than Princeton, though I'm not sure whether the rankings reflect more on the graduate studies programs or apply equally to the undergraduate experience?
    (Original post by jneill)
    Tagging Student403 wolfmoon88 for their insights...
    Thank you for the tag

    Congratulations about both of your offers, they are both extremely great institutions!

    Quite honestly, I know of a former classmate who was in the same position as you except he had an offer from Oxford instead of Cambridge. He decided to go to Princeton.

    In terms of rankings, yes they do reflect post-graduate education more than undergraduate education. However, I do think undergraduate education in Oxbridge is generally better than in equivalent US institutions especially in terms of NatSci or related STEM subjects but depending on your educational philosophy you can easily argue the opposite. (Early specialisation vs. more exploration) But in Cambridge, there is the Tripos system which does allow you some flexibility in terms of switching tracks etc...

    Unfortunately, I do not know about undergraduate research opportunities in Cambridge.

    Depending on your financial situation/ do you want to go abroad for an experience/ modules and educational philosophy etc... if the financial aid/merit scholarship is high enough, perhaps Princeton would still be the best option.
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    (Original post by DachshundFan)
    Hello,

    I've been offered admission to both universities, and I'm a bit undecided. I'll be studying natural sciences/biology.

    One thing I'd like to find out more about is what kind of research opportunities for undergraduates exist at Churchill. I know how this works at Princeton, but not at Cambridge.

    Are there a variety of research projects undergraduates can join? How competitive are the placements? Is there a formal program or is it more a matter of finding an individual professor who is open to the idea?

    Other things being equal, I would probably choose Princeton, because they have offered me a substantial amount of money, while at Cambridge I would need to pay the full international student tuition. (I'm American.)

    Cambridge seems to be ranked higher in the life sciences than Princeton, though I'm not sure whether the rankings reflect more on the graduate studies programs or apply equally to the undergraduate experience?
    Try this site.
    There're pages where you can ask current students such questions. (Both on college-based and subject/department based questions)
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    (Original post by DachshundFan)
    Hello,

    I've been offered admission to both universities, and I'm a bit undecided. I'll be studying natural sciences/biology.

    One thing I'd like to find out more about is what kind of research opportunities for undergraduates exist at Churchill. I know how this works at Princeton, but not at Cambridge.

    Are there a variety of research projects undergraduates can join? How competitive are the placements? Is there a formal program or is it more a matter of finding an individual professor who is open to the idea?

    Other things being equal, I would probably choose Princeton, because they have offered me a substantial amount of money, while at Cambridge I would need to pay the full international student tuition. (I'm American.)

    Cambridge seems to be ranked higher in the life sciences than Princeton, though I'm not sure whether the rankings reflect more on the graduate studies programs or apply equally to the undergraduate experience?
    Current Cambridge NatSci here...

    Regarding the undergraduate research opportunities at Cambridge, it's probably a bit less than many US universities (I have a friend at Johns Hopkins, she did research placements even during the first couple of years of her degree, during term time and got credit for them - this just isn't a thing in the UK...). Generally, the only opportunities you have for real research would be during the summer vacations.

    Having "Cambridge" on your CV probably helps to find these placements though (but then, so would Princeton...) - I've managed to get internships (including two research placements) every summer of my degree so far, each lasting a couple of months (we get three+ month summer holidays in Cambridge...).

    There are both formal and informal programs - I've heard of several friends just talking to their supervisors and lecturers to arrange summer research projects at Cambridge, usually these are pretty informal and unpaid (although some colleges will offer free accommodation/ funding, and you can apply to various research councils for funding). You can also easily email/ call researchers at other universities to organise an informal project, but again there may be difficulties getting funding that will actually pay you a salary rather than just covering the project costs - although this is potentially changing somewhat with new regulations banning unpaid internships in the UK and research councils starting to realise that not many students can afford to work unpaid in a lab, so for certain types of research (e.g. medical) its pretty easy to get some funding that will pay you too.

    I've always just gone for organised placements outside of Cambridge (can't think of anything worse than spending the summer stuck here lol...) - the Cambridge careers service sends rounds emails about opportunities like these pretty much every week, just googling "biology summer research program" will bring up loads of opportunities, and Cambridge has some formal links with other universities/ ERASMUS (europe)/ IARU (International Association of Research Universities) to offer research projects, summer courses, etc. but I've never managed to get onto one of these. There are loads of opportunities both in the UK/ Europe and abroad - I interned at Cancer Research UK in Glasgow (Scotland) in first year (working in a microbiology lab), then at Shanghai Jiaotong University (working in their School of Pharmacy, doing medicinal chemistry) after my year abroad. I also know friends who went to Switzerland, Harvard, MIT, France, etc. for summer research programs - there are loads of opportunities available. Not sure how it is for international students though and the funding for some smaller UK/ European placements, but any outside of Europe or in the US you should have an equal, or better, chance. For organised research placements, depending on location there's usually a relatively generous stipend/ salary which is a good bonus

    That being said, it can be a bit hard at first to get these opportunities as some are very competitive - you have to apply EARLY, get in touch with researchers directly, have good grades behind you, etc. Once you have one big research placement down though, its much more easy to get future ones since you have that "work experience".

    Although there aren't any official research experiences built into the NatSci course, we do have a fair amount of lab work (probably two-three afternoons a week in first year, two-five afternoons in second year, etc. depending on what modules you chose). Third and fourth year lab work is usually even higher, although obviously very dependant on what major you chose, and most fourth years have a significant research project contributing around 30% of your grade. Some modules let you do this lab work in collaboration with researchers - e.g. my second year Pharmacology module included a "mini project" for four weeks in their research labs, culminating in a poster presentation - a kind of taster of research work I guess, and if you are struggling to get research experience on your CV could be stretched to count for that... Most weekly lab work though is just teaching labs, where you do the same experiment every other student is doing/ did for the past 10 years, write up a lab report and get some marks (although for most biology modules, there's usually no credit for the lab reports/ projects, instead you have a practical/ theory exam on the lab work at the end of the year).
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    In terms of rankings, I've heard that for undergraduates Cambridge is generally considered to have better teaching quality/ depth - in that rather than wasting time studying general education classes we get straight in with the actual science. This also reflects what I've seen in terms of the level of work of my American friends - they've often only covered topics briefly and are covering easier topics with less wider reading/ understanding required. An example is in Chemistry (my major), we have to both learn a particular reaction, fully understand the mechanism in terms of molecular orbitals etc., be able to analyse the specificity and selectivity of the reaction, how to modify it for different chemicals or desired products, whether there are interactions with other functional groups, etc. then our exams will give us completely new examples requiring much in depth thinking. Whereas, my American friends are often taught more from a textbook/ to a syllabus, perhaps only have to learn the basic mechanism and interactions, and in their exams may be presented with examples they've come across before. i.e. the focus in the UK is more on complex understanding, whereas in the US its more about memorising the facts. (obviously generalising a LOT here though...).

    Another thing to think about though is the assessment methods - in Cambridge, your entire degree grade is based on about a week of exams at the end of third year (and if you do the masters year too, a combination of third and fourth year exam grades and your research project). There is usually a maximum of 20-30% coursework, and we only have end of year exams (no mid-terms/ end of terms). To get into your chosen major, you have to do well in the end of year exams of the second year, but other than that your first and second year grades mean nothing (you just have to pass). Modules run the length of the year and there isn't much flexibility in them compared to the US system (although Cambridge does have much more flexibility than most other UK unis for the first few years of the NatSci course). Basically, in the US the pressure is spread more evenly throughout your degree, so you have to focus consistently for four years but if you slip up one term because of some external issue it's not a massive problem. In contrast, at Cambridge you could theoretically laze around for two years (although the supervision system makes this kinda difficult, and most Cambridge students end up putting a lot of pressure on themselves) then at the end of third year there's MASSIVE STRESS for the last term and a week of HELL, which if you're feeling a bit sick for you're entire degree is wasted...
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    I may be giving Cambridge a bit of negative rep here though, but we do have a reputation for having terrible student mental health and welfare support, and the system does put a lot of stress onto students. Personally, I would say that Princeton probably offers much better research opportunities and the flexibility and more stable workload of the US system would certainly suit me better - although it's up to you what you think of the two very different systems.
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    Thank you for the in-depth replies. They are very helpful.

    PS: Another question. How much political correctness would you say there is at Cambridge? I know there is a fair amount at Princeton, though not as much as some other US universities.
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    (Original post by DachshundFan)
    Thank you for the in-depth replies. They are very helpful.

    PS: Another question. How much political correctness would you say there is at Cambridge? I know there is a fair amount at Princeton, though not as much as some other US universities.
    Define what you mean by political correctness in a university context? In terms of your degree, I don't think it really enters into anything (I guess unless you were to study a more politics related subject or something...).
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    (Original post by dragonkeeper999)
    Define what you mean by political correctness in a university context? In terms of your degree, I don't think it really enters into anything (I guess unless you were to study a more politics related subject or something...).
    Well, I guess I mean the general atmosphere at the school. Of course I believe it's important to treat people from all backgrounds with respect and to not discriminate, but at some US universities, things have gotten to the point where learning takes a 2nd seat to the PC distractions.

    A family friend teaches in the social sciences at a university and has admitted to being afraid of his students. He censors himself during lectures, because he has seen colleagues subjected to "witch hunts" after their students accused them of not being PC enough.

    At other schools students demand "trigger warnings" from professors, so they can avoid being exposed to material that might upset them.

    You're right that there would be less of this in science courses at Cambridge. OTOH, Princeton does require students to take courses outside their field of study, which means I would be taking some humanities or social science courses.

    I'm also waiting to here from MIT in March. Their acceptance rate is ~ 8%, so who knows?
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    (Original post by DachshundFan)
    Well, I guess I mean the general atmosphere at the school. Of course I believe it's important to treat people from all backgrounds with respect and to not discriminate, but at some US universities, things have gotten to the point where learning takes a 2nd seat to the PC distractions.

    A family friend teaches in the social sciences at a university and has admitted to being afraid of his students. He censors himself during lectures, because he has seen colleagues subjected to "witch hunts" after their students accused them of not being PC enough.

    At other schools students demand "trigger warnings" from professors, so they can avoid being exposed to material that might upset them.

    You're right that there would be less of this in science courses at Cambridge. OTOH, Princeton does require students to take courses outside their field of study, which means I would be taking some humanities or social science courses.

    I'm also waiting to here from MIT in March. Their acceptance rate is ~ 8%, so who knows?
    Wow, I've never heard of that happening in Cambridge - but then as you say, it's not such an issue for science subjects. I've only ever read about issues like this in newspapers about debate clubs and the like at other universities, generally about concerns over inviting controversial speakers or debating non-PC topics. So I guess, you'd probably find that Cambridge has much less of an overly-PC atmosphere. Obviously (I hope!) we're generally not racist or discriminating deliberately against anyone, but we perhaps don't make such a big deal about these issues.

    Ooh, good luck! Cambridge has a (very competitive) exchange with MIT which I wish I could have gone on (unfortunately my grades weren't good enough :'( ) and I've heard great things about the studies there
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    (Original post by dragonkeeper999)
    Cambridge has a (very competitive) exchange with MIT which I wish I could have gone on (unfortunately my grades weren't good enough :'( ) and I've heard great things about the studies there
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    Cancelled from this year.
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    (Original post by jneill)
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    Cancelled from this year.
    WHAAAAT!!! I guess it was probably pretty expensive for them to fund or something Grrr, I'm always being annoyed at how few opportunities Cambridge offers for studying abroad (for Chemistry: 1 place to go to MIT... now nothing...), they don't seem to realise what a fantastic opportunity it is...
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    (Original post by dragonkeeper999)
    WHAAAAT!!! I guess it was probably pretty expensive for them to fund or something Grrr, I'm always being annoyed at how few opportunities Cambridge offers for studying abroad (for Chemistry: 1 place to go to MIT... now nothing...), they don't seem to realise what a fantastic opportunity it is...
    I don't know the reasons... but I think they know how good an opportunity it was given the competition for places.

    Yes, it's a shame.

    Maybe CalTech instead (!) (that's a jk btw - I have no idea...)

    "We are actively exploring alternative ways to continue to be able to provide an international dimension to the undergraduate engineering course, but it is likely to involve a summer research programme."
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    (Original post by jneill)
    I don't know the reasons... but I think they know how good an opportunity it was given the competition for places.

    Yes, it's a shame.

    Maybe CalTec instead (!) (that's a jk btw - I have no idea...)

    "We are actively exploring alternative ways to continue to be able to provide an international dimension to the undergraduate engineering course, but it is likely to involve a summer research programme."
    Meh, students are generally busy doing internships over the summer or earning money, and there are loads of summer research programs already (although I guess some funding would be nice since many of the ones in America charge crazy amounts of money, other ones e.g. in Europe or China are free or partially funded though). If it's not a year abroad as part of your degree course, they're not offering anything substantial...

    Any idea if this would be opened up to other departments too, like the MIT exchange was (run by engineering dept. but with places for a few students from the physical sciences departments)?
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    (Original post by dragonkeeper999)
    Any idea if this would be opened up to other departments too, like the MIT exchange was (run by engineering dept. but with places for a few students from the physical sciences departments)?
    Yeah - dunno...
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    (Original post by jneill)
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    Cancelled from this year.
    Such a shame in 2017! Let's hope they arrange other equally excellent opportunities soon 😞😞
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    (Original post by 210555)
    Such a shame in 2017! Let's hope they arrange other equally excellent opportunities soon 😞😞
    (Original post by dragonkeeper999)
    xxx

    Just discovered there's a new postgrad scholarship thing offered by Stanford.

    Event this week!
    https://apply.knight-hennessy.stanfo...9-a8dfbc62078d

    Also at a few other UK universities, but not Durham

    NB. This is just a list of events - anyone can apply from any university!

    More info
    https://knight-hennessy.stanford.edu/program/overview


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    (Original post by jneill)
    Just discovered there's a new postgrad scholarship thing offered by Stanford.

    Event this week!
    https://apply.knight-hennessy.stanfo...9-a8dfbc62078d

    Also at a few other UK universities, but not Durham

    More info
    https://knight-hennessy.stanford.edu/program/overview


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    Ooh, yeah I got an email about that - I can't make the talk though Also, it's bizarrely for 2018 entry earliest
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    (Original post by dragonkeeper999)
    Also, it's bizarrely for 2018 entry earliest
    Forward planning

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