I want to apply for a PhD in computer science. My end goal is to become a professor and teach at a university. I have interests in data structures, algorithms, networks and programming languages. I would love to apply for a PhD in algorithms but cannot figure out a research topic.

Can some one please suggest how should I go about it? I don't mind if I get into a PhD program in a field other than algorithms as the final goal is to teach.

Thanks a ton!

  • My end goal is to become a professor and teach at a university. You don't need a PhD to teach.
    – user2768
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 16:09
  • Most universities require you to have a PhD to consider a teaching application
    – coderGeek
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 16:11
  • @coderGeek Many don't
    – user2768
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 10:57

2 Answers 2


As far as I know, most research in CS involve some amount of data structures, algorithmics and programming, buy very little research is done exclusively about these.

I'd suggest you try to discover which most specific field you're interested in. In a very very very simplified picture, one can distinguish two very broad categories of research in CS:

  • About the systems: Computer architecture, Networks, Distributed computing, IoT, ...
  • About the content: Artificial intelligence, Machine Learning, Image/video/audio/text processing,...

Naturally there's a lot of overlap. And did I mention that it's also a very simplified categorization?


Nearly everywhere you first find an advisor, whether you have a topic in mind or not. In the US, at least, you first get accepted into a program and, only then, choose an advisor, and then a topic, with the advice and consent of the advisor.

In other places acceptance into a program begins with the advisor, but even then what you want to work on will most likely only be considered a suggestion to the advisor who may push you in some other direction.

I'd advise therefore that you find an advisor and explore what you want to do. They may have some specific things that align well with your hopes. But I'd also advise a bit of flexibility. Your dissertation has less effect on the trajectory of your career than you might suppose and you can easily change direction within a field after finishing a doctorate. A bit harder to switch fields, of course.

It is good, of course, to have some direction and to be able to express that desire. Choosing the final topic of research can be a bit of a dance with the advisor.

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