I am a third-year PhD student at a US institution. I have been thinking of changing my research group basically for two reasons: 1) my research interests have become quite different from the interests of people within the group and 2) members of the group are working online so there is no way I can meet anyone in person. I have seen that my friends are able to meet with their advisors regularly in person to discuss research while I haven't been able to do so.

I've talked with my advisor about this and he basically told me that one has to be flexible and work on things even if he is not interested in them. I talked with a few other professors and they are only interested in taking incoming students, not students switching from other groups. My question is whether my advisor's advice (to be flexible and work on research one might not be interested in) is a sound advice. Also, I got a feeling that trying to switch out from my research group suggests failure and this will make potential new advisors hesitant to take me. I think I can seek advice from the head of the department on how to proceed with the switch, but I do not want to be in a situation in which I can't find new advisor and the only option left is to leave the program. Any advice will be appreciated.

  • 1
    Have you completed necessary coursework and comprehensive exams?
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 14:19
  • Yes, I finished all coursework and exams.
    – squarkk
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


Since you are pretty deep into the current path, I'd guess that your advisor is giving good advice. If you can finish, keeping the advisor as a supporter, then you can change your direction later. You aren't bound to a research direction for life.

But, if other professors aren't willing to take advanced students, your other option, to switch universities, will likely only delay your career and there is no guarantee that you will be happier in another situation. And you would probably have to redo comprehensives.

The standard advice here is "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Think long term here.

  • 2
    +1 for "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good". Sometimes we stress so much about taking the "best, right path" that we end up missing precious opportunities (and sometimes even empty-handed).
    – Amelian
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 16:49

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