I have an offer from an elite German institute (option A) for a PhD in particle physics and artificial intelligence.

I love the project but it is not in my first choice subject: the intersection of AI and cosmology (astrophysics).

At this stage of my career; my expertise is in AI but my training is in physics/astrophysics.

I think the project and institution of option A seriously warrants considering it regardless of this. The research facility and supercomputing infrastructure are unique (the project is great also).

I will not hear back from the institutions I have applied to for other PhDs and I have already asked for an extension to the deadline of my response to option A.

I'm a good enough student, but I can't really believe I got option A and I don't think it is likely that I will get any of my other options.

This is a very stressful decision for me and I worry about whether it is possible to leave option A should I obtain another offer.

What can I do? Decline and risk missing the other opportunities to be left with nothing, or accept and always wonder what could have happened?

Thank you for any advice you might have.

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    Some of us might consider cosmology to be physics, so you seem to be saying the project is far from astronomy/cosmology/particle physics. But, are you more interested in the AI and applications to physics, or using physics with the assistance of AI? – Jon Custer Nov 18 at 21:14
  • Great point, thanks. I have edited my question. The project is rooted in particle physics (it is using data from the LHC, CERN to help understand the next phase of the LHC). Truthfully I am interested in AI being used in physical sciences, but cosmology is just where I have entered this pursuit from initially. I would say the latter of your ideas suits me best. – Homer Nov 18 at 21:30
  • Sorry, but this is something you have to work out on your own with your own value system and tolerance for risk. You are probably a good candidate for many programs, but times are hard. You have laid out the dilemma. You need to decide how to resolve it. Asking for a delay was a good move and flexibility is your friend here. But my value structure probably doesn't match yours very well and certainly not in all aspects. – Buffy Nov 18 at 21:34
  • You're right and I understand - it's just a multidimensional problem with which someone could outline some of the more important factors or recount their own personal experiences to guide my decision. – Homer Nov 18 at 22:43

You are getting an offer from an elite institution in the middle of a pandemic. The job market right now is absolutely awful. I can appreciate that you want only the absolute best for your future, but the way you sketch this situation hardly sounds like a dilemma at all.

Additionally, as soon as you manage to publish a paper or two on the project on which you are hired, it may very well happen that your supervisor rewards your performance by letting you seek out further research directions yourself. Then, you can always steer your trajectory more towards the intersection of AI and cosmology.

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  • There is little worse in life than having a job that you don't really want and " always wonder(ing) what could have happened". Definite advice here is probably going to be wrong. – Buffy Nov 18 at 21:31
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    The OP does not fill me with confidence that the poster does not really want the job. The distance between "a PhD in particle physics and AI" and "a PhD in AI and cosmology" does not seem that big. My answer, however, is not formulated as definite advice, and that is very deliberate. – Wetenschaap Nov 18 at 21:34
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    Thanks for your answer, this is a good point as I don't know what would happen next year or in the near future even. My post comes from a place of worry mostly, but if PhDs were assigned randomly across the world, I would certainly be very happy that I was given this one. – Homer Nov 18 at 21:43

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