I have been told by other grad students that it is a good idea to take the Ph.D. course given by a professor who you would want to be advised by in the future and even joining their lab.

In my case, there is a course given by a professor who I would want as a graduate advisor and possibly having him on my committee. This is an applied machine learning course in the PSYC department (I'm a social science Ph.D. student). However, there is also a graduate machine learning course given in the CS department that is more advanced, and I would obviously get more out of it.

So, should I take the course given by the potential advisor, or the more "interesting" course risking the lack of exposure?

  • 2
    Have you asked your potential advisor? If they don't know you want them to be your advisor, you can always ask the difference between the two courses.
    – Nathan S.
    Aug 12, 2020 at 2:03
  • @NathanS. I'm not sure what you mean. The difference between both courses is that one is applied in social science and given by a Prof. that I might want as advisor, while the other is more "true" to machine learning because it's meant for a CS audience. For example, the applied course is given in R, while the CS course is in python. Also, the CS course will go in deeper into details, so I will get more out of it. So, is it a must to gain exposure to potential advisor in order to "impress" him or such. Or, is that a misbelief and simply emailing him my intentions is good enough?
    – juanjedi
    Aug 12, 2020 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


It is certainly worthwhile to get to know your potential advisor, and get noticed back. Taking the course might help you explore common interests, even hint at potential thesis thema.

Taking a more advanced course can get you faster to the bleeding edge where your thesis will presumably move, if it is primarily in the area. Then again, you'll soon have to move beyond coursework. Perhaps somebody teaching the other courses is a better match?

Knowing nothing about your background, the involved courses, your interests and the ones of potential advisors, it is impossible to give real advise.

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