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I am in my last semester of a double degrees in the bachelor of electrical engineering (honours) and bachelor of mathematics in Australia. During my studies, I watched a series of video lectures about convex optimization by Stephen Boyd from Stanford university and I got very interested in control theory however my university does not offer research in control theory. As a result, my honor thesis is about signal processing and not control theory.

I am thinking of doing research in control theory for my PhD in the US. Will the graduate admission committee look down at my application because all my research experience is in signal processing but I wish to study control theory as a graduate student?

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Will the graduate admission committee look down at my application because all my research experience is in signal processing but I wish to study control theory as a graduate student?

No. Many undergraduate students in the US don't have an opportunity to be involved in research. Those who do don't necessarily write a thesis or a journal article.

So in that sense, having written a thesis at all will strengthen your application.

If you had studied biology and wished to switch gears completely, with a jump over to engineering, then an admissions committee might be concerned about you.

Looking at it from their point of view -- they want to be pretty darn sure their incoming grad students have the necessary mathematical background to be successful in their beginning level graduate coursework. With your background it is clear that this will not be a concern.

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1) Bachelor's degrees in the US are generally less specialized than those in other countries (though this is less true in engineering). It is quite common for people to enter graduate school without well-defined research interests at all and to make decisions only after a year or two of coursework and trying out different labs.

2) Any large department at a large major research university in the US (such as the University of Michigan) will have experience with graduate students from Australia and may very well have faculty who were undergraduates in Australia. They will evaluate the University of Wollongong as comparable to similar caliber universities in the US. It is true that, because some (but not all) funding streams and accounting mechanisms give priority to domestic students, that US citizens or permanent residents may have an advantage in admissions, but that has nothing to do with where you were an undergraduate. (In particular, if you are a US citizen, having gone to the University of Wollongong wouldn't hurt you.)

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