Is undergrad research experience related to the undergrad field preferred, or can I do research on the area I plan to study in grad school instead?

4 Answers 4


Is undergrad research experience related to the undergrad field preferred, or can I do research on the area I plan to study in grad school instead?

It's actually just the opposite: research in the area you plan to study in grad school is preferred, because it sheds more light on your talent and preparation in this field and it demonstrates that you understand what's involved in this work. If your undergraduate research is not in the field you plan to study, then there's a risk that you won't do as well in that field or won't enjoy it.

  • What if you want to research in one field in graduate school but your home university (undergraduate) does not offer research in that field? your answer does not address this issue.
    – user62977
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 8:50
  • 2
    @user62977 The answer does not address this because this is a fairly different question than what has been asked. Here at SE the general policy is to ask one question per post only.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 13:03
  • This is a strange answer. The OP has not even started undergraduate and it is highly unlikely he/she has really discovered what he/she is passionate for. The OP should focus in undergraduate studies, choose undergraduates courses with a open mind and decide in his/her last year what is the most interesting field for her/him.
    – user67075
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 21:03
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    @ZeroTheHero: Your advice for the OP about how to approach college is good, but it doesn't contradict my answer. Graduate admissions committees will treat undergraduate research in their field as more meaningful and significant than research in another field. This is certainly inconvenient for undergraduates, who might not have discovered their long-term interests yet, but it makes sense. (It's easier to gauge someone's potential in neuroscience based on prior neuroscience research than based on prior CS research.) Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 4:42

Research in computer science reflects your field of "origin."

Research on the brain reflects your "destination" field.

It's easier for you to "prove" yourself in your field of "origin" (computer science).

But if you feel that your grades, test scores and other activities have already proved your capabilities, you may wish to get a "head start" on your graduate program by doing your research in your "target" field of neuroscience.

Most graduate programs would appreciate and understand this, because your interest is actually more believable this way.


Keeping in mind that although you feel sure right now of exactly what kind of master's you are going to do, that might change, nevertheless, I will go along with what you have planned, as a working hypothesis for now.

To succeed in interdisciplinary work, you need to get some very good intuition about the area of application, which in this case is neuroscience. In the bulk of your coursework, you will be doing a lot of programming and computer science. Doing hands on work in a neuroscience lab would be a great way of complementing that. However, you would need to make sure you have taken enough coursework in neuroscience to be comfortable in the lab. That might be a tall order. Also, you might find that the nitty gritty lab work is not your cup of tea. After all, presumably there are reasons you are not doing neuroscience for your Bachelor's!

So, those are my thoughts, coming from another interdisciplinary field, mathematical biology.

At this early stage, it might be wise to keep both options open.

  • I would love to do Neuroscience for my Bachelor's.But there are no such courses in my country and for abroad i would have go through a long procedure which will be requiring additional 2 years of formalities. Due to various reasons i already had my 2 years wasted so i do not want to waste more time in it.
    – user64831
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 7:07
  • @ManishYadav - I'm starting to get it. Okay, the answer is, you do not need to confine your undergraduate research involvement to computer science. Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 7:52

If you are hoping to get into a new area in grad school, doing research on that area while you are in undergrad will give you new perspective, and it will be better for you in the long term, since you have an idea whether or not you really want to do this field, or maybe even what you have originally been doing in undergrad, come grad school.

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