Forum:PhD: Research interest or better program?
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5.1 years ago
Sslero • 0

Hi,

I will be applying to PhD programs this year for computational biology and bioinformatics. I have worked on fungal genomics for a few years as a computational biologist during my undergraduate.

My concern is that I am not sure whether I want to stay in academia or move to the industry after my PhD. This makes it difficult for me to decide that whether I should apply to top-tier schools with good computational biology programs without any research in fungal biology or lower-ranked schools that have both computational and fungal biology programs.

Would it be wiser to use this opportunity to make a big transition to human biology? For those who have obtained PhD in this field, how is the impact of your research area in your career?

PhD • 1.4k views
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Would it be wiser to use this opportunity to make a big transition to human biology?

Yes. But that is a general answer since human health is always going to have plenty of research support/interest.

I would not worry about job in academia or industry at this time since you are at least 5 years away from being at the decision point. You are going to flip flop between the two depending on your experiences over the next few years. If you are sure that you want to do a PhD then get into a program that is of interest to you.

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I would argue that unless you want to make your research career focus a specific organism, the fungal aspect isn’t really relevant.

Someone who can code, knows the general concepts of genome assembly, or transcriptomics or what have you, has the skill set to transfer to any organism.

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Is this still true even though I have a several first author papers and a few co-author papers in this field?

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Of course. You aren't tied to that organism forever. Plenty of academics research multiple organisms, some change field altogether etc.

In very general terms, your 'knowledge' isn't as valuable as your skillset. A friend of mine did a wet-lab PhD on bacterial regulation/transcriptomics, and then moved in to a post-doc in human cancer biology. That's a much more drastic change than switching from computational biology of a fungus to a human (IMO), and that is perfectly legitimate.

My own PhD supervisor no longer works on the same organism he did his PhD on. People move all the time. What's more, with industry, it would be pretty much expected I would say. There may be certain hard limits (e.g. do you need to be licensed in some particular way for some job, such as animal work), but even then, lots of that comes in on-the-job training.

There is absolutely nothing stopping you 'moving horizontally', and if an employer won't let you, that's a major red flag that they aren't worth working for anyway.

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I see. Thank you for you advice :). I will certainly look for chances to make this transition as well!

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