I'm a first year masters student. Currently I'm doing coursework but I'll have research in second year. I find all subjects interesting. I feel better when I'm doing subjects including a bit of mathematics and rigorous thinking. Algorithms in particular. But I'm not really good at it. I try hard but it's just not happening. Still if I'm given opportunity I want to do research in Algorithms. This will obviously require mathematical thinking.

Is it good to pursue research career in a subject which I'm interested in ignoring the fact that I do not have strong base and understanding of it? Or should I choose something easier based on my abilities?


3 Answers 3


Doing research on a subject is the best way to get a good understanding of something. Presumably, if you do reasonably well in the parts of your coursework covering algorithms (in the eyes of the professors), you're doing well enough. Mathematics and rigour are hard, even for most people who are capable of doing good work in the area. Also bear in mind, humans are subject to the impostor syndrome. If you find a professor who knows you and is willing to guide you in research in this area, then I don't see a problem.


The question, as you formulated it, is practically impossible to answer with enough certainty to be useful. The difficulty lies in the fact that the problem has many specific factors, such as your personal and professional goals, family situation, mental toughness (perseverance) and others, and only you are aware of them. Thus, only you can figure this out or, rather, try. Therefore, I will address how I believe you could think about the problem, which is essentially common sense.

I think that, basically, you have two options, which, per your question, you seem to understand: 1) easier route, where you choose your research subject and/or topic, based on some arbitrary criteria (for example, based on research interests of a faculty member, which you would like to work with), but avoiding the tough ones; 2) more difficult route, where you choose your research subject and/or topic, based on essential criteria, such as your interests, even if the chosen subject/topic is challenging for you at the moment. In the latter case, you would make commitment to master the subject, despite obstacles, in other words, pushing yourself beyond your current limits. Based on such logical framework, the choice is always yours, and remember that you always have the freedom to re-evaluate your decisions at any moment, should changed circumstances, interests or needs warrant that. Best wishes for whatever route you decide on.

  • I think that the second option is good if one has a topic which makes one think "That's it!". If, however, the topic is merely a bit more interesting than the other (easier) topics, then the drive may not be sufficient to overcome the problems.
    – Nox
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 8:23
  • @Nox: It is very rarely, if ever, one has 100% of their interest focused on a single problem or topic and none on anything else. IMHO it is always a question of relative strength of some interests over others and, thus, a question of prioritizing, based on a state of a variety of factors (interest, gut feeling, perceived importance, relevance to work, academic and/or industry environment, interaction with other people, career prospects and many others) at a particular time frame. Commented May 26, 2015 at 17:05

This is something that happens a lot to students. I have seen some students coming from all over the place into the Computer Science department, which is a little heavy in terms of the Algorithms skills that is required. A great strategy to go about knowing if you will be okay is through Advisers. It is important that they know the skills you possess. They will normally have a plan for you.

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