I am going to apply for a physics PhD in the fall of 2024.

I have trouble finalizing the main research area to mention in SOP because I am interested both in HEP experiments and theory.

Suppose I wrote my interest in hep experiment in SOP, but after being being admitted to grad school,, I got attracted to hep theory.. Can I choose a a hep theory group to research?

Or vice versa?

Do I have this freedom in grad school,, or should I think more carefully and write it in SOP?

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2 Answers 2


It’s Ok to mention two areas of interest in your SOP. But I will strongly recommend to start doing your research immediately in terms of the what you would want to do. Changing groups can lead to wastage of a semester in some cases. Some programs allow the first semester students to come in and try out different groups and then make their final decision. Other schools may not have this as an option. Beyond the research interest you might also want to investigate the job potential, group culture, advisors personality (as compared to your personality), kind of jobs that you will get after graduating. You are going to spend 4-5 years in the program and your life trajectory will depend partially on this choice. I will do my homework carefully and think beyond just the topic of choice but other factors as well. Good luck!


This will vary. If you are funded by one group it might be difficult to move to another. If you are funded generally by the department, say as a TA, then it is easier and requires the agreement of the leaders of both groups, though the one you are entering is most important.

Leaving a group and leaving essential work undone can also be limiting, so you want to avoid that.

Group PIs would much rather have enthusiastic members of course, so it is probably possible.

But yes, your SOP should be well thought out. It is (IMO) OK to list more than one interest, especially if the application is to the department and not directly to a PI. It can even be advantageous depending on whether different groups have different needs that you don't know about.

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