I am a PhD student that has just started my third year in a scientific field. Since I have started my program, my mother has been diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. It has recently gotten worse and I am worried sick. I am considering applying to another PhD program that would be much closer to home.
This other department would also meet my research interests better than the current one. I have not been super excited about my current research so that is a factor in my consideration too (although I was not seriously considering leaving before this happened). I am much better aware of my research interests now than when I first applied to graduate school, since my undergraduate degree was in a different field.
I should mention that the program that I would be applying to is generally higher ranked, although my current one is respectable too. I have not applied to that department before. I have four publications, two first-author papers in good journals and one in Science (not first author). My advisor is very well-known and is very sympathetic to my situation. I have not discussed the possible transfer yet and although they would be saddened if I left, I'm sure they would write a great reference letter. My grades in the PhD program are not outstanding since I was mostly focused on research. I will likely have my master's degree by the time I would be applying in the winter.
I know transferring PhD programs is generally not easy, especially when it's to a more prestigious department, and given that by the time I would start I will have completed 3 years at my current department. But considering my situation and my publication record, how understanding would an admissions committee be? Does anyone have any experience with a similar situation or advice?
Thank you so much.