My research experiences have been in Information Theory and Computational Number Theory.

However, in my PhD in Computer Science, I want to do research with professors working with computer algorithms, computational complexity, graphs etc.

Will it be an issue for me, when I apply for the top 20 grad schools, that my research experience does not align well that closely with what I want to study?

1 Answer 1


Assuming that you will stay in the US, this change of field shouldn't be a problem. However, limiting your applications to the top 20 grad schools will be a problem and you risk finding no open slot in so narrow a field. You are naming at a very small target that has a lot of very highly qualified applicants.

If you start with a bachelors it will be easier to switch as you have more time to align with the new field. With a masters would be a bit tight, since you still need to pass qualifying exams in most places and these are usually broad based requiring some advanced coursework for most students.

But a lot of people starting with a bachelors make much broader jumps to the final research area.

Cast a broad net, top 50 at least. There are a lot of good R1 universities in US. Have a few backups at minimum.

  • Okay so to clarify, I am currently an undergradute senior in college. I have had two REUs in Information Theory and Number Theory, both of which can still be considered parts of the theory side of CS. I want to study theoretical computer science for my PhD also but I want to work with professors with expereince in computer algorithms, complexity, graphs etc. I am concerned because my undergrad research was not in algorithms. Aug 23, 2022 at 20:43
  • 2
    Not a problem, but cast a broader net than top 20. Seriously. I don't care how good you are.
    – Buffy
    Aug 23, 2022 at 20:48
  • Yes, of course, thanks! But my research experiences shouldn't be a problem right? I will be writing about number theory and all in my personal statement but I am just worried that the algorithm prof reading my SoP might not know a lot about my reseearch/what I did because of his potentially limited background in Number Theory. That is one part I am worried about. Aug 23, 2022 at 20:51
  • Presumably you have undergrad CS courses, including algorithms. I've been assuming that. But you'll have time before serious research begins. Pass those qualifiers.
    – Buffy
    Aug 23, 2022 at 20:54
  • Yes, those I do! Aug 23, 2022 at 20:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .