I’m currently in my penultimate year of an undergraduate degree in mathematics. I’ve been thinking about changing fields completely. I love maths, so I intend to graduate with this degree and I’m certainly not considering switching subjects. However, I’ve always been drawn to biology and chemistry.

Note: I am currently studying in the UK. (I would be prepared to study in another country, e.g. in the US or somewhere in Europe)

I have two questions:

  1. How do I figure out whether this is really worth it and whether I’d be happy studying biology and related subjects?

I’ve read some biology undergraduate texts (and enjoyed every second), but is this enough? And chemistry was my favourite subject at A level (equivalent to the AP or SAT in the US I think).

  1. Now suppose I had decided to change careers. Suppose I wanted to become a biochemist and do research in say genetical engineering (pardon my lack of knowledge in this area if ‘a biochemist doing genetical engineering’ sounds like gibberish; I hope the overall meaning is clear). What steps would I have to take after I get my maths degree to achieve this goal?

I have thought about

  • Taking a gap year to learn the undergraduate biology/chemistry needed for a masters in these subjects
  • Explaining my situation to the university that I would want to attend (to study biology/chemistry) - perhaps they would let me attend some lecture courses.

I could try but I’d rather not attend biology & related lectures in my final year at uni (as the workload will already be huge).

What would you do?

  • I think you're in the UK, but could you explicitly put this in your question? Answers do depend on country. May 13, 2021 at 7:21
  • @AlexanderWoo thanks, just edited:^)
    – Vadim
    May 13, 2021 at 7:27
  • 3
    Have you thought about mathematical biology (or something similar)? You'd get to use maths (which you mentioned you enjoy) to understand biological systems (which you're also interested in). Also, do you have reasons to believe that you'd enjoy more being a researcher in say, biochemistry, than in maths?
    – mmm
    May 13, 2021 at 8:10
  • @mmm Yes, I have thought about mathematical biology and bioinformatics. I’ll have to explore these areas in more depth to see if I enjoy them – e.g. over the summer. Experimental work has always seemed appealing though. Also, wouldn’t my mathematical skills also be useful in a more hands on practical area? Do you think it’d be possible to combine experimental work with theoretical work and modelling? I’m more interested in what I would hypothetically have to go through to make this career switch (Question #2)
    – Vadim
    May 13, 2021 at 8:30
  • 1
    I think that asking right this to someone at your institution would be a good move.
    – Alchimista
    May 13, 2021 at 9:30


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