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Transition to a different PhD program

PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2017 9:28 am
by Promilla
Hello Everyone,

I am looking to get an opinion on whether it's a good opinion to transition to a different PhD program.

I applied to a couple of PhD programs this year. I ended up picking a very specialized, small program since a) I thought this topic was 100% what I wanted to do (in fact my major); b) there were a lot of faculty that I could see myself working with; c) the school is great.

So I am accepted to this small program, to start this autumn.

But two things happened since then which, after much thought, made me realize that I should have chosen more general/flexible program.

First - long story short - I realized that I would like to explore other fields. My major was in this discipline so I've took specialized courses over the year and did research only in this one discipline. Since I finished my degree, I started broadening my horizon. This made me think that before choosing a lab I will do my PhD in, I would love to try other fields (especially that, usually, PhD gives some direction to your future research). I also feel a bit restricted by the focus of the courses qhich are required in the small program. I would much rather learn other fields (which the big umbrella program allows me to do).

Second - I have mice allergy and, it turned out, all labs which I saw myself working with have no separate spaces for mice work (which is the case in UK - hence, here it has never been a problem as working in equipment, etc allows me to do so). This means that I would, most likely, have to settle for human/translational work which I am not that excited about. I am sure I could figure it out but it's not ideal and I would have much less choice. That's why I am thinking that switching to a larger, umbrella program, with faculty which work on different model organisms would give me a greater chance at satisfying work which I can do without health issues.

Hence, my question. Is it reasonable to ask for a transition to a larger program within the same school (side note- I have not applied to this larger program at this school)? I have informally ask one person and they told me that it would be possible to be accepted for the larger program and transition.

The issues are that the small program accepts only very few students and, if they lose even one of them, it is not ideal. So, I know they will not be happy. Apart from that, I am just unsure whether it reflects really badly on me. Especially since I haven't yet officially started (but, then again, if I switched, I would rather do it before starting the program).

I definitely thought it through. If it wasn't a fact that it is 5-6 years of my life, I wouldn't make the mess. But I would like to give myself the best chance of succeeding and I think this transition would help me do that.

I would appreciate any advice.

Thank you!


Re: Transition to a different PhD program

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 4:20 am
by PG
First, I dont know the rules and guidelines for the PhD program that you are attending or how they usually deal with this type of questions so there might be something that I dont know of that either says that this is easy or that it will be very complicated.

Do you know what you want to do instead? My advice would be that depending on how yrou programme works to contact wither an alternative PI that you are interested in work with or to contact someone responsible for he program that you want to switch to. In most cases finding a PI will be the critical step and were you would want to start.

At some point you also need to speak with your current PI or the person responsible for your current program and inform them that you want to switch. Your mouse allergy might actually be helpful in this discussion since it is something that you cant do anything about and it is also something that they shouldnt take personally ie it is not a scenario in whcih you are saying that they are doing boring science.

If you have support from the PI/program that you want to switch to and from the program that you are leaving I have a hard time seeing that it should be impossible. That you have health reasons might help with the formalities as well.

Re: Transition to a different PhD program

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 7:47 am
by Promilla
PG. Thank you so much for the response.

So the program is based on rotations hence I will start the PhD and then finalize who I want to do the short-term trial lab experiences with. Afterward I am going to settle on one lab.

Thanks a lot for the response. I am mostly worried about burning bridges, etc. I have met all the professors from my discipline and the program and feel like stabbing then in a back if I switch. But I think that would be the best option for me.

Re: Transition to a different PhD program

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 8:31 am
by PG
OK that should make it easier. I would start with talking to the program manager for the program that you want to switch to. The purpose with this is that they will be deciding if it is possible or not. Once they say yes your mice allergy should give you a good reason to switch.

Re: Transition to a different PhD program

PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2017 5:28 pm
Definitely talk first to the program you want to switch into. They may not accept a new student at this point. I know that our program would tell you to apply under the regular admissions cycle in the fall. Our class for next year is full, and we wouldn't consider any new applications (since you haven't started yet, it's a new application). If that is the case with the program you want to move into, you'll have to decide whether you want to give the other program a chance in the meantime. But if you do start one program while applying to others, you might burn some bridges, especially if the program is funding you during that first year and they find out you never intended to stay.

Re: Transition to a different PhD program

PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 3:54 am
by Promilla
Thank you PACN!

I've been told (unofficially) it would be possible so I think the only thing that prevents me from going with it is my fear of being a mess out of this and being a problem. But I think it has to be done! Thanks for the help! I really appreciate it!