Even though title itself seems quite similar to other questions asked here, my question is a bit different from other similar questions. I know it's a bit long, but I do appreciate anyone who has a read through it.

I am a Ph.D. student in UK and it has been 5 months since I started. My topic was something completely new (to me) so as one might guess, I've spent these 5 months reviewing the literature and covering what I didn't know. Problems started right here.

I am working at a Research Institute that has expertise on something totally different than my Ph.D. (let's name it field A, and name my Ph.D. field B). Simply, A and B have nothing in common (except both are engineering topics, but sub-fields are different). As a result, this laboratory doesn't have the required equipment or facilities that I need for my Ph.D. most importantly, there is not a single person around me in the lab who has a single bit of knowledge about my topic, thus no practical help or chances of hands on experience. Speaking of the good parts; I am getting a proper work experience (since this research institute has industrial focus), my scholarship is a substantial amount and my supervisor (even though he is sort of clueless about my topic, he is a huge figure in field A) is quite impressed with my progress.

But, as always, I have an alternative. There is another lab in my university which has expertise on field B (my Ph.D.). In this lab, there are people who have expertise in field B and of course, director of the lab is a powerful figure in field B. I know it sounds good so far, but here are the cons of this alternative: Lab director can't give any sort of guarantees regarding a scholarship (which means I have to pay tuition fees as well, good old UK) and wants me to work in a new project(a new field, field C). This field C, again completely different from A and B, is a newer topic compared to B and there are lots of research going on in this field. Field B is sort of an established field, I am just trying to squeeze whatever's left out it.

So on one side, I have a good working experience, Ph.D. in field B, an impressed supervisor, yet no practical help about field B or collaboration whatsoever. On the other side, I have a group of people who have expertise in field B and C, yet no money. I personally don't have any problems about changing my Ph.D. from B to C, the only disadvantage will be losing 6 months of work and naturally, getting 6 months of extension in the end. On the plus side, I already have a paper waiting to be published (in field A though, not in my Ph.D. topic field B). Therefore, these 6 months won't be "that" lost.

So, both sides are waiting to hear from me as soon as possible. I have to make a decision by this Friday. Last thing that should be mentioned is my current lab is located in city 1, whereas the other one is located in city 2. I hate city 1 (current city), whereas I am in love with city 2.

Financially, I am promised by the other professor that depending on my performance, I can get funding. I do know I can't trust this, though I believe I can cover my expenses throughout my Ph.D. including tuition fees. So, money is not a big problem right now.

If I go to the other lab, field C will be my Ph.D. as well as my work, hence shielding me from dividing into two as I do right now for field A and B.

My question is simple, what would you do if you were me? I have exhausted my friends and my family about this issue and I need a fresh pair of eyes and neurons to help me out. I do appreciate any questions and comments.

  • 1
    I havne't read the question in full, but I have to say that you should try to reformulate the question title as it is extremely vague, it is not very clear (from the title) what you are asking about
    – posdef
    Oct 15, 2013 at 15:10
  • 3
    Reading the tone of your question, it sounds like you've already made up your mind. I suggest flipping a coin; while it's in the air, which side do you hope lands up?
    – JeffE
    Oct 15, 2013 at 18:24
  • @JeffE Addendum - I actually do the coin toss; but I see which side it lands on, and if I do not like it - I know the response :-) Mar 28, 2016 at 7:47

2 Answers 2


I would move to another lab if I were you. The reason is, I want to do my PhD and the research in the field I like. Otherwise, why would I do it?

After reading your question a few times, my impression is that you like field B the most, field C the next, field A the last. Please correct me if I am wrong.

If you stay in your current lab, everything will be the same as the past 5 months. You have the money alright. What else do you have? You don't have experts in B around you. You don't have equipments/facilities to do research in B. It looks like there is no way to finish PhD in B in that lab.

On the other hand, you'll have experts in B to talk to you and equipments available if you move to the other lab. There is a good chance for you to finish the PhD in B if you have a choice to do B.

Field B is probably a dead end, you are trying to squeeze something out of it. What if you find nothing after 2 years of squeezing with or without help from other experts in B? What are you going to do? Do you want to do A? I would not if I were you because I don't like A. But, you can choose to do C if you move.

I think the lab director says he can't give any sort of guarantees regarding a scholarship because he wants you to do C. The scholarship is the incentive. If you don't have problem changing from B to C, I think you will get some sort of financial help after you move there (no guarantee, of course). If my interpretation of your question is correct, C is acceptable to you, at least it's better than A.

This is what I would do if I were you, I would ask the other lab if there is some chance to get some financial help if I move there. If the answer is not 100% negative, I would move. (I must be able to get some food to eat while I am doing research.)

If the answer is an absolute no, I would stay and look for other opportunities to move later on.


Whichever makes you a happier person. Life is short and not worth spending 5 years in a condition you don't like. If you have the money, go for it. If not, here is my longer answer.

The work experience you are getting in field A should not be a priority because you are there to do research, to contribute to science. Work experience in that field should be just a tool so that you can earn money and live properly. The excellency of people in field A are also irrelevant, as your research is in field B.

But, life does not always present us the best options. If you cannot get a scholarship when you switch to field B, then I would definitely stay at where you are now. You say you can cover expenses, but if you don't get a scholarship, how much will you lose in 5 years? That's a big number and imo not worth it (unless you have a million in some account)

I would stay there and from time to time, consult professors that work in field B. After some time, as you dig deeper, you will know more than those guys anyway.

It really depends on your budget I guess. I am not rich so I don't like the idea of Ph.D. level scientists' paying for it.

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