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I'm currently getting ready to apply to graduate programs in Chemistry, and am beginning to contact potential advisors. My problem is that until recently, I was planning to focus on field X, but have realized that I cannot see myself doing a PhD in this field.

After reading some papers in field Y, I am really excited about the possibility of doing research in this field, and have identified some potential advisors in field Y.

The problem is that all of my previous experience is in field X, and I don't really have any experience in field Y. Should I address my reasons for deciding not to pursue field X? And how do I demonstrate my sincere interest in field Y?

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  • To demonstrate your interest in field Y, you can start by learning it, considering reviews, books, papers. If X and Y and not so separated, then it is not any problem, it depends also on the required background. – Nikey Mike Jul 21 '16 at 7:24
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Some of the other students in my lab came from different fields. They always showed an interest in what we were working on even if they didn't have the technical knowledge just yet. I think if you let your potential advisor know that you are interested in their area of research, that you have some skills that they are looking for or can be just as useful in the new area, then you should be fine. Just let them know your desire to work in the field and the skills that you can bring to the lab. I don't think its necessary to specifically talk about why you are not interested in field X, but it is important to show that you can contribute to field Y. Do your homework on the lab and talk about specific projects that they have worked on. You don't need to be an expert, but if you ask intelligent questions about their projects, they tend to take that as a sign of interest. Also be ready to relate what you have done in field X to what they are doing in field Y. Often, students coming in from other fields provide a different prospective that ultimately makes the lab better and the research being produced stronger. Good luck.

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I don't see much of a problem here. You've had a change of heart. It happens all of the time to many people. I had a change of heart no less than 5 times when I was an undergraduate.

You can demonstrate your interest in Field Y by approaching these potential advisors and telling them about your predicament. Tell them you've been in Field X long enough and want to go the route of Field Y. Tell them you're at a turning point and it's time to make a change sooner rather than later. I suspect they'd be happy to have you tag along with them.

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