I have dropped out of 2 MSc in CSE programs because of my health issues and lack of proper math background.

You can check the full story from my previous question.

Now, I am facing a new decision dilemma.

One of the professors from the Faculty of Life Science of a university in eastern Europe just hired me to work with him on a project. The project I would be working on is related to data science and algorithm development. He is also interested in taking me as a Ph.D. student under him. I can start a Ph.D. under him in 2022 if I agree.

Suppose, I enroll and complete my Ph.D. under him. Would I be facing any kind of trouble in the future for leaving my 2 previous MScs incomplete? I have been having a lifelong ambition in working in academia in the USA. Would any problem arise in the future regarding these 2 incomplete MScs?

Another question is, how would it look like if I want to work as a teacher in the Faculty of Engineering in the USA, but have a Ph.D. from the Faculty of Life Science?

  • The usual consequence of unfinished degrees is inability to repay debt. Feb 18, 2021 at 1:23

4 Answers 4


If you face a problem at all, it is likely to be difficulty in gaining entry to a PhD program. If your professor has already decided to accept you as a student despite knowledge of your previous non-completion of studies then you appear to be "over the hump". Once you have entered the program the only problems will depend on your performance in that program rather than what came previously. If you were to enter and complete your PhD program then your non-completion of previous programs will be irrelevant.


A friend of mine did a PhD in biology with a focus on genetics and bioinformatics. A number of years later after various postdocs she ended up as a computer science professor.

A typical story? Frankly, I suspect not. But it does happen.

On the other hand, if your dream is to be an engineering professor, the surest and most direct route to doing that (which still is by no means certain to succeed, and leaves plenty of obstacles to overcome and potential points of failure along the way) is to pursue a PhD in engineering. My impression is you are trying to fit a round peg into a square hole with this life sciences PhD scheme. A PhD is hard enough for people who are doing it in the discipline they are actually passionate about. Doing it in a discipline you don’t care much about just because somebody is offering you a position will only compound the difficulty, and will potentially put you in a situation where your skills are mismatched with your responsibilities and likely career opportunities.

As for the degrees you didn’t complete: I don’t know what kind of trouble you are imagining this might cause so I can’t really address that question. But generally speaking, if you satisfy the formal requirements to be a PhD student, you can be a PhD student. So if you are concerned, check with the university you’ll be attending that those dropped degrees don’t disqualify you.

  • My potential supervisor proposed to get admission to the Interdisciplinary doctoral school. I am planning to do something by mixing CS and protein analysis algorithm simulator software.
    – user366312
    Feb 25, 2021 at 7:02
  • @user366312 sounds interesting. Good luck!
    – Dan Romik
    Feb 25, 2021 at 7:04
  • What do you think about the plan?
    – user366312
    Feb 25, 2021 at 7:09
  • @user366312 I don’t know enough to have an opinion. All I can say is if your goal is to teach engineering, the most likely way of achieving it is to pursue a PhD in an engineering related field. If the interdisciplinary PhD will be considered an engineering PhD and the papers you publish are focused on applications of engineering (even if it’s to biology), that’s probably good enough. But there are many other factors to consider that depend on your personal preferences and abilities, and other things. So as I said, I can’t really say much about your specific plan.
    – Dan Romik
    Feb 25, 2021 at 7:15

Leaving the masters unfinished isn't a huge problem. But moving from a Life Sciences Doctorate to Engineering is a big step and would need a lot of justification. You don't say which university in Europe so it is hard to guess at their reputation.

I won't predict that it is impossible, but I think you will have a hard time convincing people unless you have produces some substantial papers that are pretty technical.

Is getting an engineering doctorate in Europe an option for you instead of one in life sciences? Or some sort of joint degree.

Tough road. Uphill all the way, I think.

  • Not a place known to me. Some Polish institutions are quite high quality, I know. Maybe someone else can help.
    – Buffy
    Feb 17, 2021 at 23:58
  • I would be working on to data science and algorithm development.
    – user366312
    Feb 18, 2021 at 0:06
  • 1
    You really can’t switch fields easily. It will be hard enough to move across the world staying in the same field
    – Dawn
    Feb 18, 2021 at 0:54
  • 1
    Very few departments hire those with PhDs in areas not explicitly matching. Some of this is for accreditation reasons, some for reputations reasons. The departments that hire more loosely are considered interdisciplinary. So you would need to find a US department that is interdisciplinary between life sciences and engineering. Maybe biomedical engineering or chemical engineering could work but you would really need to be publishing at a high level to make a such a move. It is not about skills but about publications.
    – Dawn
    Feb 19, 2021 at 18:11
  • 1
    Okay, but do you agree that the publications need to be in journals valued by the desired end department, not just using skills valued by the desired end department? Like I could never get hired by an Econ department without an Econ degree even if I was using common Econ skills, unless my papers were in top Econ journals (and even then it would be an uphill climb).
    – Dawn
    Feb 19, 2021 at 19:28

Kind of a lot going on here. I read OP's other thread, and pulled this tidbit I'd like to address first:

due to my undiagnosed clinical depression and, apparently, insufficient math background, I dropped out of two Masters in CS programs from two different EU universities

I do not question your health issues (welcome to the academia club!), but it is striking that within the same breath you suggest its either depression or a lack of a mathematics background...in a CSE program. Isn't it possible that your (supposed) lack of maths backround did the heavy lifting here?

That said, to address your specific question of would you face any future difficulty after leaving two MSc programs? Not if you can explain the situational, academic, and life factors that led to this. But lets be clear, you won't be applying for faculty at Stanford. You're looking at 2nd/3rd tier universities, which I attended, loved, and led to lots of success - nothing wrong with that.

As for the agreement between Faculty of Engineering vs Faculty of Life Sciences, this might bring up some scrutiny, but I've found that this is less of an issue if you can demonstrate you are a good fit for the position.

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