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Old 13.06.2015, 21:05
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MSc in Bioinformatics: University of Edinburgh or Johns Hopkins?

Hey folks,
I was hoping you could give me some advice in choosing where I should pursue my Master's degree. I have recently been accepted to the University of Edinburgh as well as Johns Hopkins University to study bioinformatics, and I have found myself feeling very conflicted as to which university I should choose. A quick bit of background– I have no previous computer programming experience, and am moving into bioinformatics from a purely life science track (Bachelor's in biochemistry), as I decided somewhat recently to switch gears in my academic direction. Thankfully my background in the life sciences was solid enough to get me accepted by the universities, but given my current knowledge of bioinformatics, I'm not sure which university better fits my profile and offers a more thorough education, more networking possibilities, and more post-graduate opportunities from the Master's level.

There are many more financial and logistical advantages for me to attend the program at Edinburgh, and by all means it is considered by many to be a great university, but I am hesitant to choose this mainly because Johns Hopkins is such a highly ranked university in the life sciences (top ten in the world). That being said, rankings must always be taken with a few grains of salt, and additionally, rankings do not indicate the quality of a particular program. What's more, when I compare the structure and courses offered by the programs side by side, it seems (at least in my limited perspective) that University of Edinburgh's MSc program is better than Johns Hopkins.

So I am reaching out to as many people as I possibly can in order to find out whether it is worth it for me to make the extra effort to attend Johns Hopkins, or if the University of Edinburgh's Master's program is on par with Johns Hopkins.

Thanks so much for any help and advice you can provide.
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Old 13.06.2015, 21:51
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Re: MSc in Bioinformatics: University of Edinburgh or Johns Hopkins?

Johns Hopkins for sure. No doubt for its reputation
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Old 14.06.2015, 15:50
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Re: MSc in Bioinformatics: University of Edinburgh or Johns Hopkins?

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Johns Hopkins for sure. No doubt for its reputation
By all means I do not doubt its reputation, but as I stated before, the Master's program at Johns Hopkins is really going to be a stretch for me both financially and logistically. I just wish I knew if the school's reputation is really worth the extra cost, since, as I wrote before, when I compare the two programs side by side, University of Edinburgh seems to be just as good of a program (in terms of courses offered, number of bioinformatics research groups in the area, also required thesis).
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Old 14.06.2015, 19:47
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Re: MSc in Bioinformatics: University of Edinburgh or Johns Hopkins?

To be honest, if it is such a stretch you may be better off in Edinburgh, especially if you plan to stay in Europe. Just because a school has an excellent reputation does not mean all programs are good for all people. If it's that much stress, you'll probably do better in Edinburgh.

But one thing you might do is to seek out potential employers and see what they think. Does the Hopkins program award you any financial aid or stipend? If not, another reason to not go. Also if you think one program is better suited to you than another, go there.
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Old 14.06.2015, 20:57
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Re: MSc in Bioinformatics: University of Edinburgh or Johns Hopkins?

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To be honest, if it is such a stretch you may be better off in Edinburgh, especially if you plan to stay in Europe. Just because a school has an excellent reputation does not mean all programs are good for all people. If it's that much stress, you'll probably do better in Edinburgh.

But one thing you might do is to seek out potential employers and see what they think. Does the Hopkins program award you any financial aid or stipend? If not, another reason to not go. Also if you think one program is better suited to you than another, go there.
This kind of brings up another issue which is somewhat of a sore spot for me– I don't exactly know what I'm going to do with my Master's in terms of employment. Bioinformatics is being used in a variety of fields, as well as many different research groups, so although I might get a job after graduation, it is also conceivable that I continue my education and get a PhD. I could always just assume that I want jobs X, Y, or Z and contact some potential employers, but I'm just not sure if that would be efficacious if I end up pursuing an entirely direction ultimately.
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Old 14.06.2015, 21:30
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Re: MSc in Bioinformatics: University of Edinburgh or Johns Hopkins?

I also second the line of thought that if you are looking to seriously get into bioinformatics think ahead towards the PhD. It's a very complex and specialised field and you'll never have enough qualifications.

I had a quick look through the two curriculas and they seem largely equivalent. Both universities sport top end research - at MSc level you'll barely get into the field. One could think that Edinburgh is a bit more remote while J-H is smack in the middle of a vast east coast full with universities and companies in the field. But you can get your Nobel prize in either of them.

You also have to think where you would fit or find your place best.
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Old 18.06.2015, 18:29
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Re: MSc in Bioinformatics: University of Edinburgh or Johns Hopkins?

I came to progamming even later than you. I now use the R progamming language and even some of its bioinformatics packages (stored in Bioconductor). I'd say that at the Masters level most of the factors that you mention are not key. You are going to have your work cut out getting up to speed with the computing side, so the quality of the teaching is what matters most in your case, IMHO. So ... check class sizes, student/tutor ratio, etc. Having seen and heard how top US universtites function, I worry a bit that they work on a "sink-or-swim" system. If you are near the top, it's a fantastic experience. If you need more than average help, beware. I imagine that impression is not correct at all univerisites and all departments. However, as you will be head-to-head with computing graduates, it's a point to bear in mind.
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Old 18.06.2015, 19:16
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Re: MSc in Bioinformatics: University of Edinburgh or Johns Hopkins?

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By all means I do not doubt its reputation, but as I stated before, the Master's program at Johns Hopkins is really going to be a stretch for me both financially and logistically. I just wish I knew if the school's reputation is really worth the extra cost, since, as I wrote before, when I compare the two programs side by side, University of Edinburgh seems to be just as good of a program (in terms of courses offered, number of bioinformatics research groups in the area, also required thesis).
OK. lets make it simple. You are comparing a LV bag and a H&M bag.

1. both bags fuctioning similar = both schools offer similar level courses. U used the term "as good as", thats your feeling, no comment. If u say " Edin better than JHU", many people will not agree. (hard to believe HM is better than LV)
2. when u go out, LV bag attracts attention = JHU stands in front in the job market
3. LV worths the price? depends on your affordability.

Conclusion: in accounting, there are two ways to book your tuition fees: asset and expense

If u consider education as an investment which generates future cashflow, book
it in asset, go for JHU. If u consider it as one-off expense, book it as expense and go for Edin
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Old 18.06.2015, 23:26
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Re: MSc in Bioinformatics: University of Edinburgh or Johns Hopkins?

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OK. lets make it simple. You are comparing a LV bag and a H&M bag.

1. both bags fuctioning similar = both schools offer similar level courses. U used the term "as good as", thats your feeling, no comment. If u say " Edin better than JHU", many people will not agree. (hard to believe HM is better than LV)
2. when u go out, LV bag attracts attention = JHU stands in front in the job market
A most unfortunate comparison for a most sensible academic. This may be exactly what he wants to avoid....over paid institutions, with only a big name. I think he was looking for some hard facts....

Last edited by 3Wishes; 18.06.2015 at 23:50. Reason: fixed quoting
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Old 18.06.2015, 23:46
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Re: MSc in Bioinformatics: University of Edinburgh or Johns Hopkins?

Uni of Edinburgh all the way, one of the best in Europe in this field.
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