I am a CS and Mathematics double major going into my senior year at a very small liberal arts college. I aspire to get into a high ranking AI PhD program. The issue is that, due to the size of my school, I had no research opportunities in CS at my current institution. I was accepted into an REU at a very good college for the summer of 2020, but due to the pandemic it was cancelled.

I have been able to work on several mathematics research projects with a professor at my school, and one is published in an undergraduate journal. I have also been working on chemistry research with another professor, which may get published but it may not be before program decisions are out. I know that students from math background often do PhDs in AI, but I worry that since I specifically am a CS student, it will be expected that I have CS research.

I am in all other ways a good student, I just worry that my research will not be enough.

1 Answer 1


I'll assume you intend to study in the US. It might be a bit different elsewhere.

From the sound of it, you are a good and eager student, interested in opportunities. If your record is good, generally, and you get good letters of recommendation from professors, then you are competitive. However, there is a lot of competition, and the higher up you go in university rankings the fiercer it tends to get.

Only an admissions committee can really answer your question, and that would only be in how they treat your application. There are a lot of applicants for every slot in doctoral programs.

If you want to assure that you find something suitable, cast a wide, rather than a narrow net in making applications. Apply to a few "dream" universities, but also to some others that have good programs, but not necessarily in the top 25, or even 50 in the rankings. The worst case is that you will get a lot of offers with a wide net, but no offers at all with a narrow one. Stay flexible.

Some undergraduates going in to doctoral programs (in the US) have some research experience, but not all. The fact that you have some, even in chemistry, is a plus, but more for your overall likelihood of success.

  • I struggle to believe the last paragraph here. I just started a PhD last year and I don't know anyone who got in to the program without prior research experience (I am in a top 10 CS PhD program, maybe its true of lower ranked programs). However, I don't think that everyone necessarily had research experience in CS. Aug 6, 2020 at 17:33
  • @setholopolus, yes, I can easily believe that at UIUC entering students have research experience. But UIUC is anything but typical in CS.
    – Buffy
    Aug 6, 2020 at 17:44

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