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Question About Transferring Between PhD Departments

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I'll (try to) keep this short...

Recently I was admitted to a top-tier school to pursue a PhD with funding, fellowships, etc..

Even though this is a dream come true, my recent academic interests have been shifting slightly more towards Computer Science and AI. From my current field, this is not an enormous leap (ie: I have lots of mathematics and programming under my belt), but it is still substantial enough to warrant concern.

Is there anybody out there who has made a similar switch between departments for your graduate degree (though not necessarily to CS per se)? How much bureaucracy was involved? Were you successful?


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I think it depends a lot on the degree and the  department. Would you be reapplying or trying to transfer within a university you've been accepted to? The latter would be much trickier. The former I think depends a lot on your research experience and background, since you'd have to prove thrt you're qualified more so than someone with a CS degree. I suspect physics or math would be one of the easier to transition from, though, given the technical nature of those fields.

I kind of ended up in a serendipitous situation, coming from a neuroscience undergrad and (99% certain) starting a computer science PhD in the fall. I applied for all bioengineering programs (not an uncommon transition), but one school is very open within the engineering program and said it's no problem at all for me to switch to CS as my official field.

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I think I would be applying for a transfer within the University at that point. I've looked into it, and there are definitely resources to do so (forms to fill out, and the like). I would most likely need to find somebody to plead my case, but it doesn't seem impossible....

Did you need to find an advisor in the CS department before they were willing to let you switch? Was it an official transfer between departments, or did you end up having to fulfil all of the Bioengineering requirements, while still adding on the CS stuff?

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The professor who will be my advisor is already in CS. They don't have real departmental divisions within the school of engineering, so it's kind of an unusual situation. I haven't started yet, but it looks like all I'll need is a one-page form and approval from my advisor (who's the one who told me about the possibility and is on board with it). Since the course requirements are really flexible, that's also not a big concern.

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