I have one very important question standing at a very important junction of my career. I am a student in France, finishing his master's and looking for PhD. To say something in short about me, I come from Grenoble, I am not very very good, but I am not bad in mathematics either. Maybe can be classified as "quite good". I am passionate and suitably hard working. My knowledge is not very advanced, but at par ( or in some cases, more) than standard pre-PhD syllabus in France. I also have decent grades. I want to pursue a PhD, I have two options:

Option A Prof. X is very famous and at an university of high prestige. He is quite well known for some of his research work and is extremely established and busy as a mathematician. He can take me for PhD, but the catch is that, he is in Paris. By the way he described his stye of work to me, it is quite clear, that I will have to be extremely independent in my work, and he will not be available always. Plus, life will be very tough I imagine, and I will have to work extremely hard in the competitive environment that Paris offers. Nevertheless, I can benefit from the mathematical environment Paris has to offer, with lots of seminars etc. Also, it will look good on CV to be associated with someone so well-known.

Option B Prof. Y is in a small dept at the university of Avignon. He is also very established in his own field, but maybe not as famous as prof. X. He can take me for PhD too and seems very welcoming. In this case, I know for sure, that I am not a lone warrior and I will have him as a mentor and guide through out. Please note that, prof.Y is also competent in mathematics, just that, he is not as "glamorous" as prof. X, and maybe not that well known all around the world. Also, Avignon being a small place, I will be able to learn things at my own pace and live a comfortable life, in and outside mathematics. Just that, not much will be happening mathematically in Avignon compared to Paris, and the brand attraction and value is lesser than Parisian univerisities and prof. X in some sense.

I know my question sounds very shallow, but being the first member of the family to pursue mathematics professionally, I am at a loss of wits. Also, it's not possible to ask professors these things directly, as some may find it offensive. If I can find some guidance, I will be really glad.

I am just 22, and generally don't bother about ratings and rankings when it comes to studying, but this time, having two options in hand, confuse me a lot.


closed as off-topic by Will Jagy, Aloizio Macedo, Namaste, Rolf Hoyer, J.-E. Pin Nov 17 '17 at 4:32

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Seeking personal advice. Questions about choosing a course, academic program, career path, etc. are off-topic. Such questions should be directed to those employed by the institution in question, or other qualified individuals who know your specific circumstances." – Will Jagy, Aloizio Macedo, Namaste, Rolf Hoyer, J.-E. Pin
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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Go for Prof. Y. At Ph.D. stage you should have someone mentoring you and checking with you regularly. $\endgroup$ – Paolo Intuito Nov 16 '17 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @G.S. thanks for your comment. Maybe this question is lame, but it is really hard to land a position after phd, if I come from a small university and also don't have stellar publications. I will reformulate the question, isn't it true, that if we suppose two students, both just finished their PhD and have comparable publication record. but one of them is from a famous place and the other from a not so big place. Then isn't it easier for the student from the famous place to land a position after phd than the student from the not so big place.? $\endgroup$ – hakunamatata Nov 16 '17 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ I think it depends on what you want to become. An esteemed professor certainly has a 'way that works to become famous'. If that is the goal, then I would go for prof X. $\endgroup$ – Sisyphus Nov 16 '17 at 19:46

This is not an answer to your question, but a discussion of the questions that perhaps you should have asked.

Have you thought about the larger question "Why am I considering a PhD program in a field in which I'm decent but not wonderful, and in which there are relatively few employment opportunities, but lots of people better than me? Am I setting myself up for unemployment a few years from now as the jobs are taken by the better folks?"

I may be misreading what you've said about yourself, in which case you can ignore these remarks. But if I've got them right, maybe the question you should be asking is not "Paris or Avignon?" but rather "Ph.D. in Mathematics, or something else in which I can excel, or at least find a career?"

  • $\begingroup$ yes you are right. Probably the fear is that. Maybe sometimes being swayed by the media and the student culture frenzy of glorifying some places as dream institutes to work.Thanks for the answer, it urged me to take a look in to my reflection. $\endgroup$ – hakunamatata Nov 16 '17 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ Considering that this person has two offers from probably well regarded programs I think the comments about "I'm not that good at math" should not be taken seriously and maybe this person needs to think less, not more about whether they are good enough to pursue mathematics. $\endgroup$ – user38770 Apr 9 '18 at 14:47

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