I'm a PhD student in theoretical Physics and there is one particular field in which I'm extremely interested in for a while. This field of research is somewhat new, but seems to be very promising, with lots of relevant researchers directing their efforts towards it.

I'm very interested in doing research on this field, but as I'm a beginner I'm not sure on how to do so. I believe I have the necessary background, but I really don't yet know how to find out what has to be done or something concrete on which I can start to work. One particular issue that I have is that I feel that being able to discuss the subject with other people would be nice, but I don't know about anyone who works on this field (to be honest I think no one in my country works on it, which is really a shame, given the attention this field is having internationally).

That said, I think my whole issue is lack of experience and getting started in some new field is a particular skill that I consider I must have. After all I don't want to be forever bound to what I have done in my PhD. Say tomorrow something promising appears and I'm interested in it, I would certainly like to be able to switch my effort towards it if I judge it worth it.

So my question here is: how do I get started doing research in some field I'm new to, considering I don't know anyone working on it to discuss the subject?

Addendum: Considering the discussion in comments, let me clarify that what I'm looking here is exactly on how to start threading a path that will lead me to do serious work on the subject. I'm certainly not considering to start doing things at the same level of the experienced people working in the field for the last few years. I just want to find the right entry point, in order to start doing something simple and gradually get better in the field.

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    While it's obviously a good thing to be intellectually/scientifically flexible and inquisitive, one should also realize that people who've thought about a family of issues for 10 or 20 years have a huge head start (on you). That is, you cannot reasonably expect to "be competitive" in a given field upon your own volition. You can certainly start to learn things to become relatively-more competent in a new field... but it would be unreasonable to imagine that by a mere effort of will you can catch up to more-experienced people... especially if you don't have an advisor/mentor who can help... Jun 7, 2021 at 23:45
  • @paulgarrett but then would it be possible to get such kind of advice? Lots of people in this field seem to be quite approachable and to encourage people to get involved, I just don't know what is the correct way to approach them on the subject. As I said, I really want to move my research into this field, so whatever I have to do I'm willing to do so. I think it can't be impossible to do so, I just need to know the correct way to approach this. Jun 7, 2021 at 23:54
  • Intellectually/scientifically, sure, there's no obstacle. But in terms of "making a living" (for example funding, and, more fundamentally, getting a job based on other peoples' perceptions of ... your competitiveness... perhaps exactly for getting funding...) you are at a disadvantage. Not to say that you shouldn't try to do this change, but that you'll need to do it gradually, "proving" all along the way that you can make or are making excellent contributions ... in areas that gradually verge into the new thing you want. Merely expressing enthusiasm is certainly not enough... Jun 8, 2021 at 0:27
  • @paulgarrett doing it gradually would be very nice already. In fact it was what I had in mind when writing the question. There's no rush here. In fact the question is all about how to get started on this gradual process. Jun 8, 2021 at 0:45
  • What @paulgarrett says is a bit misleading. All successful scientists started out with the "disadvantage" of having less experience. Jun 8, 2021 at 1:18

2 Answers 2


I'd echo my brief answer to another question, though it was more about base knowledge rather than research output, the start to doing research in any field is to learn about it: https://academia.stackexchange.com/a/133079/63475

mid- and later-career academics don't tend to move from field to field arbitrarily (whereas it's not uncommon to make a big jump between undergrad and grad school: you simply aren't that committed to a field at that point): they usually have some adjacent knowledge that's taking them into that area, so they aren't starting completely from scratch

The best way to go is to have some sort of collaboration with someone more familiar to a target field, to which you can bring some outside skill that they need. I've seen this happen several times, and eventually the people shifting fields become newly expert in that area (though this can take years and several publications). Eventually the result is a graph like this: http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=2031

I know you say you don't know anyone in the field, but then that's really your step zero: you'll somehow need to expand your network to include these people if you want to move into that field. I'm not sure it's a great idea to be doing too much of this during your PhD, because that's typically a time when you need a bit of laser focus on your specific research, but you can start to reach out and make contacts for the future.


I'm a PhD student

This makes things simple. Ask your supervisor - they will either be able to help you, or be able to point you to someone who can help you.

If it's true that nobody in your country is working on this, you might have to transfer to another university.

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