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Grad vs Undergrad research interests


ryanmor
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hey everyone,

I am starting my third year of undergrad this year and have been working on research projects in the same lab for two years now. The work I'm doing will end up being incorporated into my senior honors thesis. I've been seriously looking into PhD programs and relevant professors. How critical is it for my undergrad research to be related to my graduate research/prof area of interest? The work I've been doing is in the field of ecology, but after taking several classes and talking to a few other profs, I think I may be more interested in evolutionary biology/systematics research areas. I can easily incorporate some ecological concepts into other fields but I'm afraid some evo bio profs may not want to take me on with little research experience in their field.

Any thoughts?

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It's always better if your research experience, LORs and writing sample for grad school all come from the same field that you did in undergrad, but it's not essential. The most important thing to show ability to do research, which your current projects will do for you. Next it would be good if you showed that ability in your proposed field. If all your experience is in another field, you'll have a harder time explaining why you want to change fields and how you know the new field is really right for you. Since you still have two years before you graduate, you should have more than enough time to take classes and gain experience in your new field, so that shouldn't be a problem. You can't change what you've already done so don't worry about that. Students often change their minds during undergrad (and even later) so while I can't tell you that all bio profs will be accommodating, it should by no means be impossible for you to change fields and find professors who would work with you even though your background is unusual--especially if it's still relevant in some way (but otherwise as well). If you're sure about this new direction, I'd say go ahead and finish your current work, and try to have some new work/classes in the new field starting this year as well. That should be more than enough.

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