I am in the process of applying to PhD programs in Computer Science. A professor with whom I'm interested in working is moving from university A to university B. While he is not super well-known, his research interests and mine align very well, and I am quite sure I would have been admitted to university A had he remained there.

He will not moving to B until latter half of 2015, which means that he will not be able to give input into PhD applications to university B for the 2015 admissions cycle.

I will be applying to university B (with the hope that I can work with him), but is there anything that I can (or should) do with regard to my application? Or just mention it in SoP?

(B is slightly more competitive than A, and both are top 15 schools)

  • Faculty are mobile. You shouldn't apply to a school for the sole purpose of working with a single faculty member. Depending on how desirable they are on the job market, they may move yet again. Instead, you should choose a program based on its overall profile. – RoboKaren Oct 6 '14 at 12:39

which means that he will not be able to give input into PhD applications to university B

This is incorrect. He certainly can, if he chooses, e-mail the director of graduate admissions at B, say that he's interested in working with you, and ask him/her to consider your application favorably. They don't have to admit you, but that would be true even if he were at B now and had been there a long time.

I'd recommend mentioning this in your SOP, and perhaps also e-mailing him and letting him know that you are applying to B with the idea of working with him. (If you have not done so already.)

That said, "I am quite sure I would have been admitted to university A had he remained there" sounds possibly a bit presumptuous, although I don't know your circumstances. In any case, do what you would have done if this professor wasn't moving: apply to the graduate program where he'll be, let him know, and hope for the best. Good luck.

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    I re-read what I wrote and that does sound presumptuous--wasn't my intention, sorry! Thank you for your suggestion--I'll email the professor. – d3r3 Oct 5 '14 at 22:16
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    It's possible that this situation will actually help your chances of getting admitted to university B. With a new faculty member, they'll want to help that faculty member get started working with graduate students as soon as possible. – Brian Borchers Oct 5 '14 at 22:46

Usually it's presumptuous to plan the professor you'll be working with in years 3+ of your Ph.D. before completing the first couple. There are many reasons you might not want to work with a professor, but either you will not want to (your interests or goals change) or they will not want to or be otherwise unavailable.

Therefore, first and foremost, you need to demonstrate to a school you belong at the school. Specific interest in a professor may very well be a major factor in your decision, but from the stance of your application it will be supplemental. If the target professor can vouch for you, remember they are vouching for you to be admitted to the school, and that they would be very interested in working with you in the future.

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  • You do say usually, but in my program (minimal coursework) it was expected that applicants would be matched with specific professors. – Tim Oct 6 '14 at 8:03

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