I am a 6-year PhD student in computer engineering in an Asian country. My research field is Bioinformatics which was really hard to me in the beginning, but now, I love it and I have much experience at it.

Last year I was an intern in the bioinformatics department at a high-quality university in the United States. Since then, I have become disinterested in pursuing my PhD in computer engineering. Actually, most of the times I think of leaving my PhD and applying to a bioinformatics PhD program in the United States. However, I am worried if leaving my current PhD program in the 6th year will appear as a negative point on my CV when I am applying for a new PhD in bioinformatics.

If I leave my PhD, do I have any chance of getting admitted to a new PhD program in bioinformatics?

EDIT: Also, I am worried about the letters of recommendation. If I leave my current PhD program, of course I can't get any recommendation from my PhD supervisor.

  • 4
    How far are you from getting the PhD from your current university? Six years is a long period of time to throw away.
    – Nobody
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 6:59
  • 5
    Why "of course I can't have recommendation of my PhD supervisor"? Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 7:57
  • 1
    Are you sure leaving for your reason would make her angry? You developing an increased interest in bioinformatics is in no way a negative reflection on her. Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 8:05
  • 6
    I'd suggest to hang on for two years, and maybe apply for a postdoc in the US.
    – gefei
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 8:35
  • 3
    8 years sounds like an unusually long time to do a PhD in STEM. My gut feeling is that you may find everything easier if you finish your current PhD first. It sounds strange that you've been doing bioinformatics work but somehow it hasn't counted towards your current PhD. Are you having other issues with your current PhD or problems with your current adviser which particularly make you want to make the switch sooner rather than later? it it likely that your current PhD would drag on far more than 2 more years?
    – Murphy
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 14:34

3 Answers 3


Two years ago I asked this question and some persons tried to help me. Now, I would like to share that what happened to me and where I am now. Maybe this story can help someone that feels like me in previous.

As I had written in my first post, I did not like the position that I had and I knew that I would not make any progress when I do not like the situation. Thus, I dropped out the school and then started to find a job position in Canada, USA, and even Europe, with my master's degree.

I got several interviews and one of them that was in a prestigious university did well. The professor accepted me as a researcher in his lab and also offered a PhD position to me. At the time, I was tired of being a PhD student and I did not accept his PhD offer. A few weeks later, it turned out that the university does not allow the professor to hire a person with MSc degree from out of the university, so the professor again offered a PhD position to me. In that point, since everything seemed good to me, I accepted his offer. Now, there you go, I am again a PhD student!

I just wrote my story maybe it can inspire someone to pursue own dream and do not stay in a position that does not like.


You don't give us much to go with. What you are proposing sounds pretty dramatic, and it potentially has a lot of factors going against you: Based on your description, it seems that 1) you are abandoning a Ph.D. very deeply into it; 2) you are parting ways with your adviser unamicably; 3) you are applying to a highly competitive program in the United States; 4) you may not have publications. The one thing potentially weighing in your favor is the fact that you've interned at that university: If your adviser-to-be is willing to commit to advising you and supporting you financially, it may override the other concerns in the eyes of the department.

Someone above suggests applying yourself to completing your Ph.D. and then seeking a postdoc in your dream area; that could well have better odds of success in the long term. Ultimately, of course, there's no way we can predict what the outcome will be. I'd suggest that you be sure you are being completely honest with yourself about the reasons for the situation you find yourself in, and what it is you are trying to accomplish by starting anew.

  • Thank you. "I am not with my supervisor!" must be "I am not good with my supervisor!", it was a typos mistake, sorry. I meant our interests are not similar anymore, she does not like the trend of my research in publications and I do not like what she likes! Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 15:41
  • It should be noted that I have published 2 journal papers and 1 conference paper in PhD duration and also I have 3 under review papers. My main problem is about the rules in my university which expect us to publish pure computer science papers while all of my papers are in bioinformatics field. Indeed, I am just desperate about publishing pure computer science papers!! Unfortunately, in this situation, my advisor does not support me and just blames me!! Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 15:42
  • 1
    Tough predicament... Have you approached the potential adviser-to-be about this? He/she should be able to give you some guidance. If you're indeed being productive in the area you are hoping to move into, you may be in a better position. Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 16:56
  • Sorry, I do not know what is the meaning of "adviser-to-be". However, unfortunately, after my general exam I have not got any guidance from her. It has two reasons: 1) Bioinformatics is a new field for her and she has not enough knowledge/experience, 2) she is so busy, so she has not enough time to study. And must be noted, she was who encouraged me to work in bioinformatics field! Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 17:02
  • I've been involved in interviewing students applying for PhD positions (though In the EU) and having held a PhD position elsewhere usually is a red flag. It will almost certainly trigger a question during the interview about the reason for applying elsewhere. If there is a good reason for changing within the first two years it wouldn't be much of an issue (actually in one interview this candidate was ranked highest). However six years into one program is a very different situation, that would certainly be perceived as negative.
    – SePro
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 18:39

I would say go with your gut feeling. If you always feel like leaving then leave sooner rather than later. Do another phd; you can always quit if you don't like it.

  • You think I can be admitted for another PhD? Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 13:46
  • 1
    Doesn't answer the question, moreover the answer is lacks objective analysis without the answered giving any evidence for his claim. I think this is highly misleading.
    – Sathyam
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 13:48

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