Changing PhD/ collab PhD with a different department

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I've started a phd in fluid dynamics. I always wanted one in general relativity or quantum field theory really, I got interviews for that (many really) but none where successful, I got into fluid dynamics straight away so after waiting around I thought I should crack on and maybe it's meant to be. I do not hate my PhD, but I do not love it either. Whereas if it was general relativity or quantum field theory I think I would really really enjoy it. I am now around 8 months in. I enquired about a phd in cosmology/gravity theories a while back, more out of curiosity, and I received this advice back from the professor at a different university. I had not thought of this idea probably cause I thought the other departments would not be interested in the slightest. I am currently in the engineering department. Does his feedback seem infeasible or is it worth a shot? (I am not sure right now if I will apply for cosmology/gravitational phd in a month or so, when application time begins to peak, if I see the right project..part of me still really wants to, part of me thinks I may as well stick to what I've invested time and work into)

FEEDBACK:
I can’t really suggest what’s best, except to discuss your current situation and your ambitions with
your supervisory team. XXX YOUR UNI XXX has some world-class activity in computational cosmology, and it may
be possible for some sort of collaborative project to be worked out. If you’re 4 months in (and what an extraordinary 4 months)
then there is still plenty of time for things to develop

Oh also my grades were pretty average for my degree and masters, so is gr and qft harder to get into than FD? and with my grades it is unlikely I'd get in anyway without top top grades?

Many thanks


Many thanks
 

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  • #2
CrysPhys
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I'm guessing from your post that you're not in the US. Is that correct? If so, where are you?
 
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I'm guessing from your post that you're not in the US. Is that correct? If so, where are you?
many thanks for your reply. correct I am in the UK :)
 
  • #4
CrysPhys
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many thanks for your reply. correct I am in the UK :)
Then you should await responses from posters who are intimately familiar with the UK system. The US system is substantially different. Sorry, I can't be of help here (although long ago I was accepted to Bristol for graduate studies; but as a Yank, I would have had to pay my own way, so that was an offer I could definitely refuse :-)).
 
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  • #5
StatGuy2000
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Then you should await responses from posters who are intimately familiar with the UK system. The US system is substantially different. Sorry, I can't be of help here (although long ago I was accepted to Bristol for graduate studies; but as a Yank, I would have had to pay my own way, so that was an offer I could definitely refuse :-)).
Non-British people are accepted to British universities with funding (typically external funding). The fact that you were accepted without such funding guaranteed basically is the equivalent of a rejection.
 
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Non-British people are accepted to British universities with funding (typically external funding). The fact that you were accepted without such funding guaranteed basically is the equivalent of a rejection.
not true, he could have applied for a specific scholarship which only was only applicable to uk students, or a self-funded project, chill man
 
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  • #7
CrysPhys
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not true, he could have applied for a specific scholarship which only was only applicable to uk students, or a self-funded project, chill man
Thank you for the kind words. First, I'd like to apologize for my flashback from several decades ago. I didn't intend it to detract from your issue. For me, it all worked out as I got offers, with full funding, from Urbana-Champaign, Harvard, and Cornell to choose from.

Now let's focus on your issue. I hope that UK members here will provide you the assistance you need; and that you too will find a satisfying, rewarding career in the field of your choice.
 
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What is the structure of your PhD programme? 3 or 4 years (or "3+1")? Do you already have supervisors assigned, and if so, was the funding tied to those supervisors or did you get into a general PhD programme? I'm not sure how you could make this transition from fluid dynamics to cosmology without changing supervisor, unless you intend to work on a topic which intersects the two subjects, in which case you might be able to set up a supervisory team spanning the two departments. If it is possible to change supervisor while staying on the same programme with the same funding then you could consider that instead.
 
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  • #9
Dr. Courtney
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On the bright side, if you complete the PhD in fluid dynamics, it's a lot less likely we'll be hearing from you down the road complaining about not being able to find a job.
 
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On the bright side, if you complete the PhD in fluid dynamics, it's a lot less likely we'll be hearing from you down the road complaining about not being able to find a job.
mm not how i'd like to live my life, passion comes first
 
  • #11
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What is the structure of your PhD programme? 3 or 4 years (or "3+1")? Do you already have supervisors assigned, and if so, was the funding tied to those supervisors or did you get into a general PhD programme? I'm not sure how you could make this transition from fluid dynamics to cosmology without changing supervisor, unless you intend to work on a topic which intersects the two subjects, in which case you might be able to set up a supervisory team spanning the two departments. If it is possible to change supervisor while staying on the same programme with the same funding then you could consider that instead.
hiyah many thanks for your reply. yes i have two assigned supervisors. the scholarship is from the engineering department, not the maths or physics, so I doubt that would be able to directly switched over. However I believe that the main supervisor had full control over this scholarship (he was awarded it when he arrived at the university ), so if he agreed on a intersection with a supervisor within the maths/physics department it may be possible. But I also dont want to pee off my current supervisors, if they would not like to grant permission for such a thing, in particular say. I also don't know topics that could involve a intersection, but I could do a little research in the possibilities
 
  • #12
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What is the structure of your PhD programme? 3 or 4 years (or "3+1")? Do you already have supervisors assigned, and if so, was the funding tied to those supervisors or did you get into a general PhD programme? I'm not sure how you could make this transition from fluid dynamics to cosmology without changing supervisor, unless you intend to work on a topic which intersects the two subjects, in which case you might be able to set up a supervisory team spanning the two departments. If it is possible to change supervisor while staying on the same programme with the same funding then you could consider that instead.
3.5 years, not a plus one
 
  • #13
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hiyah many thanks for your reply. yes i have two assigned supervisors. the scholarship is from the engineering department, not the maths or physics, so I doubt that would be able to directly switched over. However I believe that the main supervisor had full control over this scholarship (he was awarded it when he arrived at the university ), so if he agreed on a intersection with a supervisor within the maths/physics department it may be possible. But I also dont want to pee off my current supervisors, if they would not like to grant permission for such a thing, in particular say. I also don't know topics that could involve a intersection, but I could do a little research in the possibilities
It sounds to me like your only options are: 1) stick it out with your fluid dynamics PhD 2) quit your PhD and start a new one (or apply for new ones and then quit if/when you get one, which might be awkward) 3) steer your project towards an interdisciplinary area between cosmology and fluid dynamics.

If you want to go for 3), you will need to scope out who is doing what research in the cosmology department and assess whether there is any potential for collaboration.
 
  • #14
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It sounds to me like your only options are: 1) stick it out with your fluid dynamics PhD 2) quit your PhD and start a new one (or apply for new ones and then quit if/when you get one, which might be awkward) 3) steer your project towards an interdisciplinary area between cosmology and fluid dynamics.

If you want to go for 3), you will need to scope out who is doing what research in the cosmology department and assess whether there is any potential for collaboration.
yeh 3 is what i'm really asking whether this sort of thing can happen, and also this would be awkward if the engineering supervisors aren't happy about it wouldn't it?
 
  • #15
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3 is what i'm really asking whether this sort of thing can happen
Can it happen? Sure. Will it happen? That is another story. It sounds like you don't have an identified topic in mind, and without that, it's next to impossible.
 
  • #16
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Can it happen? Sure. Will it happen? That is another story. It sounds like you don't have an identified topic in mind, and without that, it's next to impossible.
well obviously I'd do my research. I am just checking if it is possible first, as I have never heard of it. As a rejection of the idea may make working with my current supervisors awkward for the next couple of years if I choose to complete it in fluid dynamics? no?
 
  • #17
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Even if it goes forward it may be awkward.
 
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well obviously I'd do my research. I am just checking if it is possible first, as I have never heard of it. As a rejection of the idea may make working with my current supervisors awkward for the next couple of years if I choose to complete it in fluid dynamics? no?
These kinds of questions depend on the temperament and personality of your supervisors, and how you handle the situation. All I can say is that it would appear to carry some risk. On the other hand, even if it failed, I would be surprised if it caused some complete breakdown of your relationship with your supervisors and PhD, assuming they aren't completely unreasonable people.
 
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What is the structure of your PhD programme? 3 or 4 years (or "3+1")? Do you already have supervisors assigned, and if so, was the funding tied to those supervisors or did you get into a general PhD programme? I'm not sure how you could make this transition from fluid dynamics to cosmology without changing supervisor, unless you intend to work on a topic which intersects the two subjects, in which case you might be able to set up a supervisory team spanning the two departments. If it is possible to change supervisor while staying on the same programme with the same funding then you could consider that instead.
i think i replied to this, but not sure it was clear enough, the funding is tied to one of those supervisors (the main supervisor ), yes
 
  • #20
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Can it happen? Sure. Will it happen? That is another story. It sounds like you don't have an identified topic in mind, and without that, it's next to impossible.
i wouldnt say its a 'sure' to can it happen? i'd assume there's alot of supervisors who would be totally against it?
 
  • #21
CrysPhys
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i wouldnt say its a 'sure' to can it happen? i'd assume there's alot of supervisors who would be totally against it?
Assuming you come up with at least a draft of a proposal for a joint research program and present it to your supervisor, here are 3 scenarios along the spectrum of possible responses:

(1) Positive extreme. Your supervisor is impressed with your initiative, welcomes the opportunity to expand his horizons, agrees to a joint research program, and works out joint funding arrangements with the physics supervisor.

(2) Neutral middle. Your supervisor is not interested, and tells you to mull over your goals and decide whether you want to continue with your current program or not. Even if you do decide to stay, he's likely to question your commitment and passion, and perhaps devote less effort to you than he would have otherwise.

(3) Negative extreme. Your supervisor takes it as a personal affront, and gets seriously ticked off at you. He gives you the boot, if allowed; if not, he makes your life miserable, and you wish he had been allowed to give you the boot.

You said you have a main supervisor who controls the funding. Are you on a friendly enough basis with other supervisors who collaborate with your main supervisor and know your main supervisor's temperament well? If so, approach them with your plans, and ask them how your main supervisor would likely react. This is a situation in which you'll need to be willing to assume some risk.

With respect to a negative extreme, that can happen. I have served as a volunteer mentor. Once I was matched with a Russian student who was completing her masters. She told her advisor that she wanted to pursue her PhD elsewhere. He took it as a personal affront, and told her in so many words that if she tried to leave his group, he would make her regret it. She decided to take the risk. I helped her with her applications to US schools (her English was not too good at the time). She was accepted to several schools in the US, completed her PhD in the US, postdoc'd at another US school, and is now a tenured professor in the US. So for her, taking the risk paid off, and her story has a happy ending.

Whatever you decide, I hope your story has a happy ending too.
 
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  • #22
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Assuming you come up with at least a draft of a proposal for a joint research program and present it to your supervisor, here are 3 scenarios along the spectrum of possible responses:

(1) Positive extreme. Your supervisor is impressed with your initiative, welcomes the opportunity to expand his horizons, agrees to a joint research program, and works out joint funding arrangements with the physics supervisor.

(2) Neutral middle. Your supervisor is not interested, and tells you to mull over your goals and decide whether you want to continue with your current program or not. Even if you do decide to stay, he's likely to question your commitment and passion, and perhaps devote less effort to you than he would have otherwise.

(3) Negative extreme. Your supervisor takes it as a personal affront, and gets seriously ticked off at you. He gives you the boot, if allowed; if not, he makes your life miserable, and you wish he had been allowed to give you the boot.

You said you have a main supervisor who controls the funding. Are you on a friendly enough basis with other supervisors who collaborate with your main supervisor and know your main supervisor's temperament well? If so, approach them with your plans, and ask them how your main supervisor would likely react. This is a situation in which you'll need to be willing to assume some risk.

With respect to a negative extreme, that can happen. I have served as a volunteer mentor. Once I was matched with a Russian student who was completing her masters. She told her advisor that she wanted to pursue her PhD elsewhere. He took it as a personal affront, and told her in so many words that if she tried to leave his group, he would make her regret it. She decided to take the risk. I helped her with her applications to US schools (her English was not too good at the time). She was accepted to several schools in the US, completed her PhD in the US, postdoc'd at another US school, and is now a tenured professor in the US. So for her, taking the risk paid off, and her story has a happy ending.

Whatever you decide, I hope your story has a happy ending too.
many thanks for your reply
 
  • #23
f95toli
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However I believe that the main supervisor had full control over this scholarship (he was awarded it when he arrived at the university ), so if he agreed on a intersection with a supervisor within the maths/physics department it may be possible.
It is highly unlikely that your supervisor has "full control" over how the money in his project is spent. It is likely to be something like EPSRC or STFC Fellowship which means that he will have had to write a proposal to win it. He will also have deliverables/milestones that needs to be done in X number of years. Hence, even if he liked the idea of doing something completely different he would still need to find a new source of funding (and hire someone else to do the work you were meant to do).
The fact that your PhD is 3.5 years suggests that you are not part of a CDT. This in turn means that you've been hired to work on a specific project and whereas there is typically some flexibility in terms of the final goals (things don't always go according to plan) you can't usually go off and do something completely different.

Doing a PhD is somewhat weird in that from YOUR point of view it is about learning new things and being able to in a few years put a "Dr" in front of your name; but from the point of view of the supervisor you were hired to help deliver a project and make sure he/she can get enough papers through the door to be in a position where he/she can be successful in winning new funding in a few years. In this respect it is not very different from any other job.
 
  • #24
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It is highly unlikely that your supervisor has "full control" over how the money in his project is spent. It is likely to be something like EPSRC or STFC Fellowship
yes I knwo what these are thank you, no the scholarship is funded from the university. and it was rewarded to him when he first arrived in 2011. apparently he had not found the right student to give it to until now (feel sorry for him and his poor choice)
 

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