I am currently an undergraduate student at a large state university.

I have good grades (>3.90 GPA) in Biochemistry and I am now adding computer science courses. I am doing equally well in those (>3.80 GPA). But the majority of my research is in biochemistry. I did my honors thesis, worked in a wet lab for two years, and have two research publications. But these all have nothing to do with computer science.

I am really happy with the people in biochemistry and molecular biology, but not with the field itself. My biology advisors tell me I can probably do very well for myself in biochemistry. But I want to do computer science, since that is where my interests really lie. I like making algorithms out of strange algebras that don't exist and really fancy statistics that pretend they can think, and that is almost non-existent in my field of molecular genetics. I am not a fan of bioinformatics.

I already have research experience. But it might not be the right type of research experience. Nor do I have CS internships. Just lots of biology. Should I apply for those phd programs now, or should I wait until I have more research in computer science before I apply for Ph.D. programs?

Now suppose I apply for these top ten Ph.D. programs and I am rejected. How are reapplicants viewed within the academic cs community? Can I try again after a stint in your average brand-name company?

  • Why not just apply to a mix of top and middle ranked PhD programs as well as a few MS programs? May 15, 2015 at 19:03
  • That's a really good point. But I also want to know about the higher phd places
    – lkadjfao
    May 15, 2015 at 19:17

2 Answers 2


In navigating my own applications over the years, I'm led to believe that the most important thing they want to know about you is are you going to be a good researcher. That you have publications in a technical field helps you a lot, it demonstrates you know the process one must go through in pursuing original work.

I will say that going straight to a PhD at a top 10 university in the field is somewhat of a leap without having much CS background, they won't have much evidence that your research interests are well-developed and that you are really serious about sticking with studying computer science at that level for 5+ years. But if they like what they see from your research and undergraduate coursework and recommendation letters (VERY IMPORTANT), then they will often just have you take a handful of pre-requisite courses at the beginning to get you caught up to where they think a beginning PhD student should be, e.g. taking some upper-level undergraduate classes that give you a good breadth of CS knowledge.

You would have a much better shot at getting into a Masters program in CS coming from your position, if you are willing to fund it yourself or take out loans. Oftentimes your PhD funding comes from a member of the faculty and so they need adequate convincing that you're worth the money.

My advice would be: apply to a few top 10 PhD programs you think you'd be a good fit for, apply to a few middle-tier PhD programs to give you some options, and then apply to a few MS programs if you think you'd be willing to go that route. You'll probably get an MS acceptance somewhere, you have a good shot at getting into a middle tier school, and you never know! They may just really like your application bundle and you might land a golden seat at a top 10.

And if you don't like the results, spend a year or two doing things to improve your application (CS research, online classes, work through problems in well-known textbooks, get a MS degree, read A LOT of papers and develop very specific research interests, etc.)


I actually see that you need to revaluate your Priorities about the so called Top 10 Universities.

I now see that the so called Top Schools are just Ranking Junkies.

Apply to lesser Known Schools in the USA Canada or Europe because the Top Schools attract too many Applicants for just 1000 Spots.

In 2002 Harvard Attracted 22.000 Applicants and now in 2020 it attracts 39.000 Applicants just for BA Degree Levels.

Top Colleges are now behaving like Corporations making money or mining their Students instead of Giving formal Education to their Patrons.

Hence Lies the Tragedy of College and University Education in the Western World.

So many students graduate with huge Student Loans worth averagely 45.000 US Dollars in the Grand Scheme of affairs.

College more important especially when it comes to Medecine Engineering and the Law.

Other subjects are just taking up land and Campus Space.

Besides one can also learn in the library and do Online Courses to add to the University Diploma Gained. Less Known Colleges and Varsities have time for you and will enable you to become Outstanding at your Pace.

You see College must go at the Pace of your Intellectual Ability

Loren Pope said there is life beyond the Ivy League so do not at all disregard the State Schools and Universities in the USA Canada and Europe.

Be humble and get into a lesser Known to avoid Wasting Dollars and Precious Time in So Called Elite Schools.

Think about it we are the all the same humans no matter the School we attend for a Diploma or a Certificate.

The Editors who create Rankings assume that creating a Social Class will get People a sense of Ego Snobbery and Nepotism.

If one can write and understand Good English then one has a leg up un the World of Academia and Graduate Schools.

  • Why not stay in Biochemistry than Join the Queue for Computing. Mar 26, 2020 at 17:55
  • In Africa we suffer from Power Cuts on a regular Basis and Getting a PhD in Computing will not really help us a lot. Mar 26, 2020 at 17:56
  • African Universitis are granting Masters and PhD under Conditions that most Wwestrn Students cannot imagine as some Schools do not even have enough Libraries and Computer Centres for EditING and Thesis and Dissertation Submission in the year 2020. Mar 26, 2020 at 17:58

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