Master in Bioengineering at EPFL vs Biomedical Eng. at Imperial College
June 10, 2014 7:59 PM   Subscribe

I summarize this dilema below: I have been accepted at EPFL (Switzerland) for the master in bioengineering with an EPFL Excellence Fellowship and also at the MsS in Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London. Both Universities are very well ranked in these areas, as you can see in this bioengineering rank. In most rankings, Imperial College is a few places above EPFL and London is a great city but I would have a really good scholarship if I go to EPFL (18000$ per year) and the tuition is much lower (about 1000$ vs 13000$ at Imperial).

I attended engineering school for two years and medical school for three years, therefore I would like to make the most of my medical training by going to a school with a very clinical oriented research. This sounds more like Imperial College because they have a good connection with Saint Mary Hospital.

I have tried to dig up information on alumni of these courses (employers, proportion that followed a PhD, ...) but with no sucess. I am currently emailing potential Master advisors that interest me to check their availability.

Do you think that I am considering the right aspects or I am forgetting something important? What would you do?

You can look at Imperial College London curriculum here.
EPFL bioengineering webpage
You can look at EPFL curriculum here.
posted by tsuwal to Education (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't comment on the quality of the programs, but I can say that if you come to Switzerland, you will be surrounded by breathtaking beauty on a regular basis. I was in Lausanne a couple of weeks ago and it's a great city. Lots of students. It is known as the party city in Switzerland, which is granted actually not my thing in particular, but there are a lot of other things to do as well. Mountains are everywhere, lots of interesting foreign folk around.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 11:32 PM on June 10, 2014

Rankings are pretty irrelevant when you're as highly ranked as both those universities. I'd go with the better financial deal. It does say that instruction at EPFL is anglophone but you'd want to learn enough French to really get the most out of your stay in Lausanne.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 11:42 PM on June 10, 2014

One of the things you don't mention but ought to be considering is that the imperial MSc programme looks to be a one year course but that the EPFL programme is two years, this will mean more education and a possibly more prestigious qualification, obviously will mean more time before your career and may have implications for getting into a PhD programme. My understanding is that European institutions will attach more value to the two year programmes, UK institutions may be less bothered.

If you are thinking PhD then you might also talk to imperial about their MRes.
posted by biffa at 2:12 AM on June 11, 2014

You say you are interested in clinical research. Look very closely at scope of clinical research happening currently at the two institutions. Which one excites you more? Who is publishing highly-regarded work?

Consider that getting involved with a ongoing research program that is well-regarded can definitely be a boost to your own personal growth and success.
posted by superelastic at 5:10 AM on June 11, 2014

At this level, who your supervisor is is the most important thing. They're the ones who will have the network of research colleagues and contacts that you need to develop to be a success as a researcher. The most successful grad students, IMO, are those who have a good idea of who they want to work for prior to joining the university.

Start reading journals, if you haven't already. Identify potential groups and profs you would like to be part of, who's work excites and interests you. Contacting potential supervisors is the right way to go. It's not at all out of line to call them up prior and discuss possible areas of work.

A clue for which group might be better to work for: look at the publication order in the papers produced. A group which gives first-authorship to students is often one that is generous with credit. One in which the prof is always first and the students second, or down the list would raise concerns for me.

An important consideration for you should also be which network you wish to develop. Scientific networks tend to be separated by language: if you go to Switzerland you may find it difficult to reintegrate into the UK and vice versa. This is not irrevocable though: you have a doctorate (more important) and post-doc periods to expand your connections too.
posted by bonehead at 6:06 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Imperial has more of that British prestige, which is worth its weight in gold in that country. Although I know nothing of the other school, I often have received the impression that even great schools scattered about the EU lack prestige-points in the UK (or US).
posted by jjmoney at 8:48 AM on June 11, 2014

Hey, I applied to EPFL bioeng as well for this fall, and am not going because I already had a masters and got accepted to a PhD program in the US instead.

EPFL has strong ties with certain PhD programs at MIT if that's your thing. I've also seen EPFL master alumni all over the US lab pages while applying for my PhD here - didn't see many Imperial College alums, for what it's worth. (I assume it's because they all stay in the UK?)

I'll second what everyone else is saying (not knowing if you want to end up in the US or if you're even from the US) - most people in the US have *no* idea that there are good education options away from the US and are mostly uninterested if the grading system is different or difficult to understand.

In short- it all depends what you want to do after!

Good luck & feel free to memail me if you want! (and Lausanne really is a stunning, stunning place to live in if you like the outdoors!)
posted by Riton at 1:46 PM on June 11, 2014

Forget the rankings, however they are supposedly calculated, they mean exactly nothing at this level in academic research. No one but administrators with more business jargon they don't understand than brain cells has a single shit to give, and if you betray having even looked at them you will only look foolish by association. By this point in your career you are culturally expected to be capable of critically examining the aspects of a department that a number can never quantify.
"18000$ per year"
I've got friends at EPFL and you should be warned that Lausanne is an obscenely expensive place to live. While you can certainly make do with this, you certainly shouldn't expect it to go especially far. You will also have an impossible time getting to know actual Swiss people, but will be surrounded by ex-pats in the same boat.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:30 AM on June 12, 2014

Lausanne is at #6 in this list of most expensive cities to live. London is #1 however.
posted by biffa at 3:22 AM on June 18, 2014

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