Stanford considers itself as one of the leading research universities in this country. This is undoubtedly true though strength and size of different departments vary. It is believed that Stanford's departments of computer science, business and School of Engineering are among the top three in USA. Medical School is also one of the best but it is pretty much a separate unit in the university which I don't know much about. People at Stanford are mostly friendly and general atmosphere is not too depressing. It is located in Bay Area in a town of Palo Alto approximately 40 miles south to San Francisco. That means that it is quintessentially North Californian with all the advantages and disadvantages the latter has. Climate at Stanford is close to what you can dream about. Summer is not too hot (it is typically about 25-30 degrees) and not humid at all which is a huge advantage compared to East Coast. Summer ends in November. There is almost no fall with Winter taking over in December. Winter mostly resembles a nice Moscow fall. Temperatures seldom fall below 10 degrees and some times it rains. In summer it doesn't rain (literally never). Winter ends in March and summer begins. Such a climate makes it a little bit hard to work but most of the people adjust quickly. Snow and skiing are available in Sierra which is about 4 hours of driving away. This brings up the important subject of Californian nature. It is very different from Russian and very nice. People say that it is similar to Crimea. Redwood forests are about 30 minutes away, ocean is 40 minutes and so on. If you have a couple of days Yosemite National Park is 4 hours away and it is worth every minute of driving as an ad would say. Yosemite has terrific waterfalls (and lots of people around them!) and if you really hate the crowd you can go to the upper parts where you can hike for a day and meet just a couple of people. Another nice place is Lake Tahoe which is also 4 hours away but is more crowded and fancy. Another nice feature of Stanford is that it is close to San Francisco. It is a city where lots of things happen though less than in Moscow or New York. Still by American standards it is a city. There is a nice Art Museum, a Symphony and lots of night life. San Francisco Symphony is a nice orchestra and nice soloists often visit San Francisco. Also from time to time there some pop and rock concerts happening which I know nothing about. Another important place within an hour drive is Berkeley with University of California. Somehow not too many people go regularly from Stanford to Berkeley but still it is nice to have such an opportunity. Berkeley is a nice place quite different from Stanford, free of Stanford kind of snobism (they have their own though) and full of wonderful bookstores, CD stores and a major source of all kinds of underground art. Finally one should not forget that Stanford is located in the heart of Silicon Valley and if you decide that you don't want to study any more it is not too hard to find a programming job with that many companies around.
2. Housing and Earthquakes.
Part I sounded pretty nice (at least it was intended to) and here comes the price tag for that. The first one is that you live constantly thinking when the next big earthquake is going to occur. Bay Area is full of geological faults each of which is a potential source of an earthquake. They do happen and Stanford was affected by Loma Prieta earthquake which occurred in 1989. The old building of the Department of Chemistry and the Art Museum are still closed. So earthquakes are not a joke. Another price tag is more direct. Housing is expensive. A room in any of the University residences will cost you about $400 a month. You are virtually guaranteed to get it for the first year. Beyond that you still have a decent chance of getting it but there are no guarantees. Still you can rent a room in Palo Alto for about $450. A studio starts at about $600 and 1 bedroom apartment at about $800. Prices are always going up. If you are married and have children or a child you are guaranteed to get University housing. A 2 bedroom apartment (you can't get 1 bedroom if you have a child) is currently $870/month. We live in such an apartment for the fourth year and it is pretty nice. It is very good for children because every courtyard has a playground and children can play outside all day long. This is very rare for the States and family housing is definitely one of the most attractive features of Stanford.
3. Department of Mathematics
There is a lot of useful information on Math Department home page which you should have a look at. Math Department is not big, there are about 20 professors (compared to nearly 80 or something like that at Berkeley) but they are all if not the greatest then at least pretty good. They do not cover the whole spectrum of mathematics and if you definitely know that you want to do something in particular you should check if there are any people at Stanford who are interested in that. Here is the list of professors with their interests: Joseph Keller - all areas of applied mathematics, wave propagation, numerical methods applied to these problems Gunnar Carlsson -chair, K-theory, algebraic topology Gregory Brumfeil - algebraic geometry Daniel Bump - analytic number theory Paul Cohen - various sorts of analysis, number theory etc Ralph Cohen - topology, low-dimensional topology Yakov Eliashberg - symplectic geometry and topology Solomon Feferman - logic Yitzhak Katznelson - ergodic theory, harmonic analysis Steven Kerchkoff- topology Tai-Ping Liu - hyperbolic PDE's, conservation laws R. James Milgram - algebra, algebraic topology Donald Ornstein - ergodic theory Brad Osgood - complex variables, George Papanicolaou - waves in random medium, stochastic analysis, wavelets, stochastic pde's Richard Schoen - differential geometry Leon Simon - analysis Brian White - geometric measure theory This shows that new fancy developments in mathematical physics (quantum groups, integrable systems) are not represented too well and you shouldn't expect to find lots of activity of that sort. In terms of popularity among graduate students the most popular advisors are Bump, Carlsson, R.Cohen, Eliashberg and Schoen. This does not mean that others are not good advisors just that recently they did not have too many students for various reasons. If you are interested in applied mathematics and numerical analysis you may consider applying to the Program in Scientific Computing and Computational Mathematics. It is a nice applied math program where you can do anything from stochastic analysis and financial applications to dynamical systems. Their graduates have much better chances of finding a nice industry job. The problem there is funding and I think currently there are no Russian graduate students at all. The number of graduate students accepted every year varies and can be anywhere between 6 and 16. At the end of the first year you must take a qualifying exam. It consists of three part :Real Analysis (6 hours), Complex Analysis (3 hours) and Algebra (6 hours). If you fail any of these you may retake it in the fall of the second year. If you fail again you receive masters degree in winter and are kicked out. Most of the students (75-90% depending on a year) pass. After that you are free till the end of your study. There are no mandatory courses at all. It is expected that you finish in four years but usually funding for the fifth year is available. The atmosphere at the department is nice, nobody puts too much pressure on the students. Responsibilities include teaching sections (equivalent of Russian seminars) one quarter and holding office hours for another. You have one quarter when you don't have to do anything except research which is not usually possible at most other universities. Summer funding is available but tiny. For further questions please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
Frequently Asked Questions
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