I graduated both my undergraduate and master's degree in Computer Science and currently working in academia. I am applying for a PhD call (Finland) focusing on AI and data science. I didn't realize until the last minute that the faculty will be the Faculty of Medicine and the degree will be PhD in Neuroscience. I have several concerns regarding this :

  1. In my country, you can't make a career in academia if your PhD field is strongly deviated (not linear) from your master's degree. It's within the tenure-track rule & regulations by the Ministry of Higher Education. So, uni recruitment also requires master's and PhD degree in a linear field. I don't mind looking for opportunities abroad, however if nothing works out, I want to at least still be able to go back home and find a job in academia, since PhD graduates for academia are in demand here. So, choosing a different PhD field will be basically eliminating one major job opportunity for me.
  2. We collaborated in writing the proposal so I know the research plan very well. I've discussed it many times with my prospective supervisor and it's evident that my role will be coding. This makes a degree in Neuroscience feels like a mismatch because it wouldn't hold any relevance to my work. I'm not interested in graduating with a Neuroscience degree when my entire PhD work revolves around coding. I am afraid that this mismatch will undervalue my real expertise in the academic job market and causing misunderstanding .
  3. Neuroscience in academia is not in demand in my country and most neighboring countries around mine. And even if I want to look for opportunities abroad, I suspect not having bachelor's and master's degree in it will make it tricky.
  4. The call is a short 3 year call with two papers output, I suspect that I won't have time for job hunting before graduation and the supervisor isn't a faculty member at the university (I didn't know initially, I found his name on the faculty website and reached out). He is a medical doctor with teaching permit in the university. So, it's not like I could potentially do some postdocs in his lab after graduation. He doesn't lead / associated with any lab, and if this call is granted I will be his only student. This is really concerning to me, I see my future as vague here.

It's a promising PhD opportunity and I love the topic ! But my concerns are weighing on me. "Ask yourself, what do you want to do after a PhD ?" : I want to stay in academia. Any fellow with an interdisciplinary degree willing to share some insights on this ? Maybe some perspectives that I miss ? How has an interdisciplinary degree worked out for you ?

tl;dr. I am contemplating to go through a 3 years of PhD, for a Neuroscience degree without gaining relevant neuroscience knowledge since my role will be coding-related and the fact that I won't get a job in academia back home because both my master's & bachelor's are in Computer Science.

update : I forgot to mention that I mentioned my concerns to my supervisor, but he doesn't see it as an issue, not realizing it's a problem in my country, not Finland. He suggested discussing it later. Since he's not a faculty, I'm worried he might overlook this issue and be unable to offer reliable academic support. Honestly, I don't mind with the interdisciplinary education, I am looking forward to learn new things ! But the degree won't work out in my country.

  • what is your country?
    – Dr. Snoopy
    Commented Apr 28 at 23:09

1 Answer 1


I don't know which home country you're referencing, but I have an interdisciplinary PhD and a situation similar to yours.

Brief Summary of My Background

My undergraduate degree is in computer science, and my PhD is in Genetics and Computational Biology.

I had almost no undergraduate biology experience, and at first, no interest in acquiring any. I fell into my PhD program almost accidentally while working on a coding-related contract for my future advisor.

During that contract, I realized I enjoyed the application of computer science to biological problems, and he encouraged me to apply for the program, so I did.

Since I lacked foundational knowledge of most of undergraduate biology, after starting the PhD program, my advisor had me take and teach* courses in undergraduate biology and genetics in addition to my regular research work.

During my PhD program, I published in the interdisciplinary field of computational biology.

After completing my PhD, I landed a fantastic 3-year academic research position in the UK, and it was the fact that I had an interdisciplinary PhD combining computational work and genetics research that made that possible.

Even though I loved that experience and learned a lot, it also helped me to see that I didn't love research-focused positions, and what I really enjoyed was teaching.

So after that appointment ended, I taught computer science and data science courses at a couple of four-year universities in the US.


So, relating this back to your story:

  • I would be skeptical of the assumption that your undergraduate and graduate work have to be in the same field, or that a strong computational background would be considered too divergent from neuroscience in a tenure conversation.

    Though admittedly, this could be country specific, interdisciplinary research (especially when computation and life sciences are involved) is increasingly the norm.

    If you're concerned about it though, reach out to a department chair of a university you're considering working for one day to find the exact ruling for your specific situation.

  • I wouldn't write off the doors that a PhD in neuroscience might open for you, even if most of your work is computational in nature.

  • Having a strong computational background combined with a graduate-level degree in a life science is a huge differentiator in both fields.

  • If you move forward, I would speak with your prospective PhD supervisor about ways to fill in the gaps in your neuroscience knowledge, possibly by taking (or teaching!) undergraduate courses during your PhD program.

  • "Staying in academia" is a broad target. I stayed in academia for a while, doing interdisciplinary research for a research institute and later less interdisciplinary teaching at a university. These were very different "academic" experiences, with different requirements.

  • I learned a great deal more from teaching undergraduate courses in biology than I did from taking them.
  • Thanks for sharing your detailed experience. Can I ask if your PhD and later academic position were in the same country ? Because it just make sense then. You mentioned the UK and the US, so maybe it is doable in some countries. It's true that the rules vary by country, and in my country it just happened that the Minister required us to have a linear field for a tenure-track. I'm just worried and seeking reassurance that if things don't work out, I can still return home and get a job academia. I had been in the industry quite a few times and always ended up resigned, so I know it's not for me.
    – raisa_
    Commented Apr 27 at 14:12
  • I find myself in a similar situation as you were. I have no interest in neuroscience (at the moment) and the project is an ongoing project, so it's hard to "feel" invested in it, since it's not my own project nor my study field. I don't even know what the future prospects of this project might be. However, who knows what it could develop into over time. About staying in academia, I don't mind teaching (because it's also required here in academia), but my passion lies more in research. I've been teaching for the past 4-5 years, and I'm nearly hopeless with today's generation.
    – raisa_
    Commented Apr 27 at 14:13
  • I forgot to mention that I mentioned my concerns to my supervisor, but he doesn't see it as an issue, not realizing it's a problem in my country, not Finland. He suggested discussing it later. Since he's not a faculty, I'm worried he might overlook this issue and be unable to offer reliable academic support. I guess I'll go with your advice to seek information from the department, just to see if there's anything I can do. I don't mind the interdisciplinary education, I am looking forward to it. But it won't work out even in my own country.
    – raisa_
    Commented Apr 27 at 14:16

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