I graduated from my undergrad with a B.S. in math and cellular/molecular biology in 2017. Shortly after, I started a fully funded Ph.D. program in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. I spent a year there and did very well. However, I felt as if something was missing. At the time, I thought it was the fact that I wanted to have more math in my studies. One thing led to another, and I was able to get funding and a transfer into the math Ph.D. program within the same college of science. I thought this was the right decision at the time but I feel as if I rushed into it too quickly.
This upcoming May, I will have spent a year in the math program, as a fully funded student. I did okay my first semester, and I chalked up not doing as well as I am used to due to it being a while since I had done this upper level math. However, now I am realizing it’s mainly because I don’t actually enjoy this anymore. I thought I would enjoy upper level math but I don’t seem to have the passion I used to. At times I feel absolutely miserable. I have no motivation because I don’t enjoy any of this anymore. I can’t see myself doing this for another year let alone 4 to finish my phd. My grades have fallen drastically. I’m not doing well.
I’ve thought about this a lot, and I believe I made a mistake. I want to go back to more biologically based research mainly and apply some mathematics to it when able. Not the other way around. So I’ve applied to transfer to a biological sciences Ph.D. in the same college that will be able to take some of my credits. I’ve looked deeply into it and I believe that is where I would be most happy. I truly believe it. It took me 2 years, but I think this is the right choice.
However, the transfer has been difficult. I need to get my departments approval to transfer to the other department. I thought my transfer would be guaranteed according to the new department’s head, but after some emails back and forth she has to “consider my application” and so now I’m not sure if I’ll definitely get in. The issue is I need this paperwork done before she can consider it. If I get it done, I’m out of my math program. And if she doesn’t allow me in to her program, I’ll be stuck not enrolled in anything. This is a major issue as most of the jobs and internships I’ve been applying to require me to be an enrolled student. I’ll lose these possibilities (I’ve applied to 18 positions all requiring student status).
To top it off, I feel so disheartened by all of this. I feel like I’ve set myself so behind, and that I’ve really screwed myself. I feel like I can’t climb out of this. Funding is near a 0 chance in this new program and I’m even willing to take that chance because of how miserable I am in my current program. I’d rather go unfunded than stay here. But it feels so hopeless. Can I recover from this? Is it even worth the risk of losing it all? My grades have gone from perfect to below average and I’m worried this will also be a huge stain in my records putting people off. I don’t even know how I’ll tell my current advisor who helped me transfer in that I’m leaving. It feels as if I’m letting her down after she helped me so much to get in. This past year my mental health has deteriorated exponentially. I have 0 motivation. I’m barely able to get the minimum done. I used to be a near perfect student. But I’m so unhappy with what I’m doing that I’m suffering. I’m trying to make a change and do something I’d enjoy but I’m not sure if I can make it happen.
My main questions -
- Is it worth giving up most of my credits to transfer to a program to be happier even though I would be setting myself behind and losing funding most likely?
- How do I attempt to explain to my current advisor that has done a lot for me to get into my current program that I’ll be leaving?
- I’m not sure what I can do if somehow I leave and my transfer isn’t accepted and I’m stuck without being enrolled in anything, losing the possibility of a lot of paid internships I’ve applied to.
- Is this situation salvageable? I’ve done poorly these past two semesters and I feel like it will be a major stain on my records.
My biggest concern right now is the fact that I'm doing horribly right now. I have fallen very behind. I do not think I can pass my courses this semester at this rate and I will most likely fail out. The first year in my biology based program I got a 4.0. This year, I will most likely do very, very badly. I'm hoping that when I apply to the new biology based program they consider how well I did in that field, and not how badly I did in the math field.