I am a graduate student in Chemical Engineering at a good research university in the USA. I came for the master's program and started working with a professor from day one. It has been a year, I like the research I am doing, and am on my way to publish a paper. The research is challenging and impactful but is purely computational.

I am moving to the PhD program here. There is no issue with research problems or stipend—I am fully funded—but the idea of pure computational for the coming years is freaking me out. I am worried because I cannot run experiments anymore and I am wondering whether this limits my opportunities after my PhD. Am I going to narrow myself in research careers if I am going for a computational PhD?

  • I've removed the question at the end: "Is experimental research given more value than computational, even in the scientific community?" That's because it's a separate question, and SE questions should have only a single topic. It is also too subjective to be answered here.
    – aeismail
    Jul 22, 2016 at 4:55

1 Answer 1


Especially in chemical engineering, it is definitely possible for people to move back and forth between experimental and computational work, and even to combine the two in a single career (although this is much more difficult, obviously).

Both of my graduate co-advisors have made similar transitions during their careers—from a mainly computational focus to a primarily experimental focus. It is definitely feasible.

The main issue that you'd want to remember at the earlier stage of your career is that the further away you want to leap from your PhD research, the harder it is to find someone willing to sponsor you to do that. For instance, doing an experimental PhD related to the topic of your computational PhD should not be too difficult; moving from computational combustion to experimental biomedical engineering would be much more challenging.

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