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Choosing a computational math PhD program

Posted: Sat Apr 04, 2020 2:26 pm
by itissqrt(-1)
Hello all,

I'm mainly done with my application season, and I'm looking at two offers from University of Utah and North Carolina State University. My field of research which I'm certain about is computational mathematics, specifically high performance computing usually as applied to numerical PDE, but I enjoy working on numerical linear algebra as well. I also have interests in nonlinear dynamical systems and the functional analysis framework of numerical PDE.

Both schools have offered me basically the same amount of money, and cost of living seems to be somewhat comparable so there's no point of contention there. Also both areas have pros for me, so I'm not biased in either location. Rather, I'm struggling to tell which one has stronger professors and reputation in my field.

NCSU certainly has some greats in numerical linear algebra, has a great applied analysis group, and strong research in inverse problems. They have lots of industry contacts with the national labs, but I intend to continue in academia, so I cannot tell how useful this is outside of a backup plan (which is relevant to be fair). Also, they're ranked pretty low on usnews, but just about everyone I talk to tells me that this is BS, and that a strength of a department is better judged by individual faculty. Hence why I'm here.

Utah has quite a few people studying numerical PDE a little more directly, and has SCI, a whole institute dedicated to scientific computing (and imaging). That seems like a place for me, but there's only 1-2 faculty in the math department in SCI and I can't help but pause that I might be locked into working with them should I go there (of course, both of them seemed like wonderful people). They are, also, ranked almost 20 spots higher on usnews (once again, if this is relevant).

Can someone here comment on your perceived strength/reputation of each department? I liked each, and hope to give the university I don't choose as much time as possible to find someone else. I also have a possibility from Rice's CAAM, who hasn't responded to me yet (and they ask for people not to contact them, so I'm a bit confused on how to deal with them :? ).

I appreciate any comments.