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I need some advice.

I got into a great school and everything is pointing me to go there except I'm not sure if there is a great research fit. I want to start not attached to a group so I have time to try out a few groups. The school has a good variety of research but only one professor that is doing research I originially thought I was interested in. How many people change their research focus after starting school and then also has anyone had bad experiences or heard of bad experiences going into a school not in a lab yet?

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I started my master's program not in a lab and switched advisors three times in the first year, and overall it was a positive experience. In my case, there were unexpected availability conflicts in addition to wanting to explore other research areas - both reasons were valid and handled well. Professors are professionals, they understand some movement is going to happen with students and generally don't take it personally.

It's usually more difficult to switch if a professor/lab is providing funding for you, has a RA/TA contractual obligation, or heavily invested in you in some other way. Even then, movement between labs is often more of a logistical issue than anything else (e.g. waiting until the end of an academic year). I know there are programs in which labs are more structured due to politics or other reasons, but you should be able to get info on this ahead of time.

Look in your program handbook to see if there's any guidelines or policies on this. If not, email the program coordinator and ask for details to be better informed of how your program operates.

Edited by OhSoSolipsistic
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On 3/27/2017 at 9:39 PM, colorandlight said:

Your ability to work well with your research advisor is way more important for your success and happiness than the specific research topic. If you program has rotations, you'd also have some time to figure that out.

That's definitely how I'm feeling now. I would rather love the group and advisor and just like the research than love the research and dislike the group. 

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