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    Hi everyone,

    I have been offered PhDs in neuroscience at both UCL and Cambridge (both 3-year positions), and I am having a really really hard time deciding. There are a few pro and cons with both positions, and I will list these below. I could really use some of your honest and constructive views on the two positions (not just 'go to Cambridge'. I would even be interested in hearing which position you would choose if you imagine having my background and research interests, and why.

    Background: I have a BSc in psychology / cognitive neuroscience from a Swedish university and I have a MSc in neuroscience from University of Oxford. I have previous experience with both human neuroimaging and both rat and mice work. My main interest is in learning and memory, and I want to conduct my PhD mainly investigating the neural basis of these functions in rodents (but, if possible, also gain some more experience with human neuroimaging).

    UCL position:

    - I would mainly use in-vivo electrophysiology to investigate learning mechanisms in rats, but I would also gain some experience with human neuroimaging methods by investigating similar mechanisms in humans (another PhD student would be mainly in charge of the neuroimaging projects. We would both be named on each others publications).

    - Both supervisor and co-supervisor are very well-known in the learning and memory field, both when it comes to human and rodent research.

    - The position is funded by the Marie Curie-Sklodowska ITN fellowship, so it would actually pay a salary and not just a stipend (its hard to say the exact net sum, but somewhere between ₤23-29k per year).

    - The project will be conducted in collaboration with Google DeepMind and I will be able to spend time inside the company. The project is also conducted in collaboration with other European universities (such as NTNU in Norway and SISSA in Italy) and I would be paid to spend up towards two months at 3 of these other European universities to learn their approaches.

    Cambridge position:

    - The project will actually be a collaboration between a researcher at UCL and a researcher at Cambridge. I would actually spend the first two years commuting from Cambridge to UCL on a daily basis (around 1 hour train ride one-way; since you have to live within 10 miles of city centre as a Cambridge student). At UCL, I would use in-vivo electrophysiology to investigate learning mechanisms in Alzheimer's mice. The last year would be spent in Cambridge where I would use human neuroimaging methods on Alzheimer's patients to investigate similar mechanisms as in the mice.

    - Main supervisor at Cambridge is very well-known in the Alzheimer's field (using mainly human neuroimaging and clinical methods) and the co-supervisor at UCL is very well-known in the learning and memory field when it comes to rodent work.

    - The funding is still a bit unclear. I have been nominated for a Cambridge Gates scholarship, but I still do not know if I will be granted an interview. There's also a scholarship from my home country I can apply for and I am fairly certain (but not 100% certain) I would obtain it. In any case, I would obtain a stipend and not a salary (between ₤14.5-17.5k per year).

    Other points to consider:

    - I have talked with people who have worked with both my main potential supervisor for the UCL project, and with my co-supervisor for the Cambridge project, and everyone says that the co-supervisor for the Cambridge project is a bit more organized and a better electrophysiologist.

    - UCL has a much more vibrant neuroscience community, and is the second best (in terms of number of publications in top journals) university in the world when it comes to neuroscience research. While Cambridge has a fairly small neuroscience community, it is also very good, and the university is much more known worldwide.

    - I do not yet know whether I want to stay in academia or go into industry (I would get some industry insight with the UCL project, since it has ties with DeepMind, but perhaps the Cambridge name outweighs or equalizes that advantage).

    - I have to give my decision next week, i.e. before I know whether I will obtain any scholarship for Cambridge.

    If you have any others questions about the projects please ask!

    Thank you!
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    (Original post by gjnn)
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    Wow that is a lot to consider. First off well done on getting two offers with the possibility of some funding.

    I wouldn't worry as much about the reputation as such as it's more about the topic, supervisor and papers you come out with if any.

    I'd be wary of taking up the Cambridge offer with no guaranteed funding at this stage. While the organisation of the supervisor is a plus I would consider whether you want to go into the Alzheimer's field or would rather do more general neuroimaging, learning and memory stuff at this stage. Finally I'd be attracted by the industry angle as that will open some doors too. Overall for me UCL is winning.

    EDIT: please do not create multiple threads on TSR about the same thing.
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    (Original post by alleycat393)
    Wow that is a lot to consider. First off well done on getting two offers with the possibility of some funding.

    I wouldn't worry as much about the reputation as such as it's more about the topic, supervisor and papers you come out with if any.

    I'd be wary of taking up the Cambridge offer with no guaranteed funding at this stage. While the organisation of the supervisor is a plus I would consider whether you want to go into the Alzheimer's field or would rather do more general neuroimaging, learning and memory stuff at this stage. Finally I'd be attracted by the industry angle as that will open some doors too. Overall for me UCL is winning.

    EDIT: please do not create multiple threads on TSR about the same thing.
    Thank you for your fast reply! Yeah the way I see it, both funding and the fact I would have to commute for a long time (although I might have to commute for some time in London as well, depending on where I am living) are two downsides with the Cambridge project.

    I apologise for creating two threads - I wasn't sure which forum would be best to post in.
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    (Original post by gjnn)
    Hi everyone,

    I have been offered PhDs in neuroscience at both UCL and Cambridge (both 3-year positions), and I am having a really really hard time deciding. There are a few pro and cons with both positions, and I will list these below. I could really use some of your honest and constructive views on the two positions (not just 'go to Cambridge'. I would even be interested in hearing which position you would choose if you imagine having my background and research interests, and why.

    Background: I have a BSc in psychology / cognitive neuroscience from a Swedish university and I have a MSc in neuroscience from University of Oxford. I have previous experience with both human neuroimaging and both rat and mice work. My main interest is in learning and memory, and I want to conduct my PhD mainly investigating the neural basis of these functions in rodents (but, if possible, also gain some more experience with human neuroimaging).

    UCL position:

    - I would mainly use in-vivo electrophysiology to investigate learning mechanisms in rats, but I would also gain some experience with human neuroimaging methods by investigating similar mechanisms in humans (another PhD student would be mainly in charge of the neuroimaging projects. We would both be named on each others publications).

    - Both supervisor and co-supervisor are very well-known in the learning and memory field, both when it comes to human and rodent research.

    - The position is funded by the Marie Curie-Sklodowska ITN fellowship, so it would actually pay a salary and not just a stipend (its hard to say the exact net sum, but somewhere between ₤23-29k per year).

    - The project will be conducted in collaboration with Google DeepMind and I will be able to spend time inside the company. The project is also conducted in collaboration with other European universities (such as NTNU in Norway and SISSA in Italy) and I would be paid to spend up towards two months at 3 of these other European universities to learn their approaches.

    Cambridge position:

    - The project will actually be a collaboration between a researcher at UCL and a researcher at Cambridge. I would actually spend the first two years commuting from Cambridge to UCL on a daily basis (around 1 hour train ride one-way; since you have to live within 10 miles of city centre as a Cambridge student). At UCL, I would use in-vivo electrophysiology to investigate learning mechanisms in Alzheimer's mice. The last year would be spent in Cambridge where I would use human neuroimaging methods on Alzheimer's patients to investigate similar mechanisms as in the mice.

    - Main supervisor at Cambridge is very well-known in the Alzheimer's field (using mainly human neuroimaging and clinical methods) and the co-supervisor at UCL is very well-known in the learning and memory field when it comes to rodent work.

    - The funding is still a bit unclear. I have been nominated for a Cambridge Gates scholarship, but I still do not know if I will be granted an interview. There's also a scholarship from my home country I can apply for and I am fairly certain (but not 100% certain) I would obtain it. In any case, I would obtain a stipend and not a salary (between ₤14.5-17.5k per year).

    Other points to consider:

    - I have talked with people who have worked with both my main potential supervisor for the UCL project, and with my co-supervisor for the Cambridge project, and everyone says that the co-supervisor for the Cambridge project is a bit more organized and a better electrophysiologist.

    - UCL has a much more vibrant neuroscience community, and is the second best (in terms of number of publications in top journals) university in the world when it comes to neuroscience research. While Cambridge has a fairly small neuroscience community, it is also very good, and the university is much more known worldwide.

    - I do not yet know whether I want to stay in academia or go into industry (I would get some industry insight with the UCL project, since it has ties with DeepMind, but perhaps the Cambridge name outweighs or equalizes that advantage).

    - I have to give my decision next week, i.e. before I know whether I will obtain any scholarship for Cambridge.

    If you have any others questions about the projects please ask!

    Thank you!
    That's a very tricky decision and I've got a couple of comments that might make it harder -

    First, don't forget that a salary will be taxed and a stipend won't. So the lower end of the UCL offer might be less than the upper end of the Cambridge funds - I haven't done the maths!

    Second - do check with Cambridge very specifically that the 10 mile rule will be applied if you have to do research elsewhere, it can be waived in those specific circumstances, especially if you are coming back in the third year. It's worth checking if you haven't already.

    I'm usually a strong advocate of Cambridge, I do believe that reputation plays a strong part in 'top end' careers. However, UCL is up there in this field and will serve you just as well in the sector, especially with Oxford already on your CV. The Google Deep Mind is the clincher for me, on the facts above - that gives you the non-academia name as well.
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    (Original post by threeportdrift)
    That's a very tricky decision and I've got a couple of comments that might make it harder -

    First, don't forget that a salary will be taxed and a stipend won't. So the lower end of the UCL offer might be less than the upper end of the Cambridge funds - I haven't done the maths!

    Second - do check with Cambridge very specifically that the 10 mile rule will be applied if you have to do research elsewhere, it can be waived in those specific circumstances, especially if you are coming back in the third year. It's worth checking if you haven't already.

    I'm usually a strong advocate of Cambridge, I do believe that reputation plays a strong part in 'top end' careers. However, UCL is up there in this field and will serve you just as well in the sector, especially with Oxford already on your CV. The Google Deep Mind is the clincher for me, on the facts above - that gives you the non-academia name as well.
    Thanks a lot for your comment! The salary I mentioned (23-29k) is actually my estimate after taxes and social security contributions etc!

    And I have asked my supervisor about the 10 mile rule, and he said that it was not negotiable. I of course don't know if he fully knows about waiving rules or not, but that is what he told me when I directly asked him at least. And in either case, I would then live in London on a Cambridge stipend, which would be financially harder than living in London on a salary.
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    (Original post by gjnn)
    ...........
    That makes is easier then - UCL!

    And tell Cambridge the reason why - money and inflexibility on living arrangements.
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    (Original post by threeportdrift)
    That makes is easier then - UCL!

    And tell Cambridge the reason why - money and inflexibility on living arrangements.
    Thanks again for your reply! I very much appreciate your viewpoint, and to be perfectly honest, I am leaning towards UCL because of those reasons. I just want to make sure I am not making a mistake, since it is hard to turn down Cambridge..
 
 
 

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