I am in my first year at grad school, and I am thinking about changing from EE/CS to BME. My supervisor is the professor in both departments (actually, full professor of the first and joint appointed of the second).

I have taken some modules that are required by both departments, and my project is related to biomedical science. I wonder if there are any possibilities that I can switch? Should I go and talk to the BME administrative before I mention it to my supervisor?

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    I think it's good to talk to your supervisor first. He might have funding issues or other issues you have no idea about. – scaaahu Mar 1 '14 at 4:29
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    You meant, sometimes his sources of funding are from EE/CS, not BME. If that is the case, then I may be in trouble switching? – Silentio Mar 1 '14 at 4:34
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    Yes, that's a possibility. – scaaahu Mar 1 '14 at 4:36
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    Is the reason you want to change because your topic is multidisciplinary? Given your prof is in both, I'd submit there's no need since s/he is already in both. Definitely talk to your supervisor first. – Fuhrmanator Mar 1 '14 at 7:11
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    Given that your advisor is jointly appointed, I would imagine many of those formal training opportunities would be available if you go speak to the advisor about the situation. Changing departments seems pretty drastic, unless your advisor thinks it's important. – chmullig Mar 13 '14 at 23:00

Definitely talk to your advisor first. While I doubt that continuity of funding will be an issue, there could be other ones:

  • your advisor should be allowed to advise students in BME (sometimes 'joint appointments don't by default come with the ability to be the advisor for a student). You may need to get a co-advisor in BME (or not: it depends on the rules)
  • you may need to formally reapply. There might even be the possibility that you are rejected (but I'd be very surprised if that happened). It's usually never the case that you can just switch between departments. This also means that there will be deadlines, paperwork and possibly even some fees.
  • since you're in the first year in grad school, committee composition is not an issue, but for someone later on in the program that could be a problem as well.

Your advisor will/should know the answer to some of these questions and the BME administrative staff (graduate advisor or equivalent) will know the rest.

  • Hi Suresh, if I successfully "switch", the one I would probably upset the most is the EECS, right? (since my fellowship comes from it). But, will it damage my relationship with my supervisor? – Silentio Mar 1 '14 at 8:33
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    I doubt your advisor would care strongly if it didn't affect your work. But if you have a department fellowship, you might lose it. And then your advisor would need to support you. And THEN they might start caring more :) – Suresh Mar 1 '14 at 17:52

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