I consider myself a Software Engineer. However, I recently accepted a PhD position in Data Science domain (i.e. which I barely know). I am slightly motivated because I believe that data can have a tremendous impact for the society. Despite of that, I still have some doubt. How do I cope with the doubt? Is it normal for every PhD student?

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    Presumably if you were offered the PhD position it was because you demonstrated sufficient knowledge of Data Science to convince someone you were familiar with the domain?
    – Ian_Fin
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 9:35
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  • @Ian_Fin used to work with data migration before commencing the PhD
    – Saber Alex
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 9:39
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    @SaberAlex My question was perhaps more rhetorical. If the decision-makers for the PhD program have deemed your knowledge of Data Science sufficient to begin the PhD then perhaps you know enough to begin the PhD. A PhD is a learning experience. You're not expected to be an expert on any topic on day one. You have 3 (or maybe 6) years to learn what you need to know.
    – Ian_Fin
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 9:45
  • @SaberAlex It depends on the country you are in. In the UK it is not uncommon for people ending up working on far related subjects during their PhD. In other countries this is possibly less common from what I can see. Having said that, software engineering and data science are more closely connected than mathematics and (computational) chemistry...
    – DetlevCM
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 8:14

1 Answer 1


It's totally OK!

When it comes to PhD, enthusiasm, dedication and perseverance worth far more than prior knowledge and intelligence.

In fact, many of the people I know started their PhD without even knowing the slightest basics of their topic, but they excelled nonetheless.

This includes me. Since were in similar fields I suppose I could share my experience. I chose machine learning (ML) out of impulse because I was passionate about AI. I didn't even know the definition of ML when I started my PhD. Now, I'm recoding ML algorithms twisting them to my research needs. Moreover, I'm even teaching my students and colleagues to do the same. It's truly a magnificent experience.

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