I did an internship with a professor at the university, which I enjoyed and I was offered an opportunity to do a PhD with her. However, I'm having some doubts because it seems her team are working on a few projects which are not so related. The field is biomedical engineering, and the team currently has projects that are quite disparate, for example:

  1. Modeling and designing scaffolds for tissue culture
  2. Biomarker identification for certain cancer through transcriptomics data
  3. Machine learning on medical imaging

It does seem interesting that I may get the opportunity to explore and work on many different and interesting problems. But at the same time, I feel that she and the team that she is leading doesn't have a clear research focus or hasn't build up strong expertise in any one area.

Firstly, is what I've described common? Secondly, if anyone have experiences working with supervisors that are similar, do you think it's good to do a PhD in this type of lab, or would a supervisor that is more 'specialized' be better?

  • 1
    There is too little information for a good answer. It depends on you and how much freedom you'd like to have in your studies. But there is nothing inherently wrong with such a lab. Lots of ideas floating about, perhaps.
    – Buffy
    Aug 6, 2022 at 12:41

1 Answer 1


It's fairly common for research areas to grow as a career progresses:


Doesn't seem like a problem to me, but if your interest is narrow to a particular area the lab works on, make sure your discussion of funding and projects in the lab are focused on that area. Don't pretend you would work on any of them if you wouldn't, and be explicit in asking whether you'll have funding available during your whole PhD to work on that project.

It's possible, too, that you'll find the lab is not really actively doing all those things but may have more of a "consulting" role on a side aspect of one of the projects, with a different lab taking the lead. I'd avoid this sort of project as a PhD student because it puts your work too far into the hands of an additional advisor: work with the person who is most central to the work if it's a collaborative project.

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