Changing fields in grad school
lesley at legs.gps.caltech.edu
Thu Apr 3 14:24:51 EST 1997
Susan Hogarth (sjhogart at unity.ncsu.edu) wrote:
: Lesley Perg wrote:
: > As an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, I chose geology over
: > biology because of the differences I perceived in research style between
: > them. I saw biology as a large group endevor, with the PI's acting as
: > managers. In geology the PI's were engaged in their own research, as well
: > as overseeing a small group of one to about seven students. I also saw
: > the geosciences as being more integrated than biology, since many lines of
: > evidence from geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and other fields of
: > science are neccessary to support a theory. I had the impression that
: > biology had diverged into specialized subfields that did not have as much
: > communication with each other.
: Sorry I don't have anything constructive to offer, but what you wrote
: above seems contradictory. First you say "I saw biology as a large group
: endeavor...," but then you say "I had the impression that biology had
: diverged into specialized subfields that did not have as much
: communication with each other." I'm a bit puzzled by this.
: My "take" on the subject is that biology is exactly as you described
: "the geosciences" - perhaps things were set up differently in your
Let me clarify: I saw the individual research labs in biology as large
groups managed by a PI, who did not do any benchwork.
My experience as an undergraduate was initially with the Molecular Biology
Department (one of three biology departments at the U of Arizona), where
there was a lot of 'big group' science. Also, my perspective of
non-interacting sub-fields was influenced because there are three
separate departments at the U of A, and the interdisciplinary Genetics
program between them suffered from a lack of funding (which I took also
as a lack of interest).
I had no intention to unfavorably compare biology to geology, or even
slight the way research is conducted in some labs (it's just not for me!).
I was outlining what I found attractive about geology to illustrate what I
would be looking for in a biology program: PI's conducting their own work
as well as mentoring a small number of students, and a large system
approach drawing together research in many fields. (I would love to hear
about your experiences with smaller, interdisciplinary labs).
I knew what type of research environment I wanted and as an undergraduate
found it in geology, so it seemed logical to choose it. I am very
interested in some aspects of geology, but I feel an additional spark when
I read and think about evolutionary systems. It seems that there are some
areas of biology, such as evolutionary biology, that have the type of
research environment I want, so I am reexamining my career choice.
The main concerns I have are identifying people I would want to work with,
being accepted by these research groups / institutions, and catching up on
background material. I would like to know how common it is for people to
switch into biology at the graduate or post-doc level, and what the
specific challenges are.
| | Lesley A Perg lesley at gps.caltech.edu
| /\ | Division of Geological & Planetary Sciences
|--/--\--/ | California Institute of Technology 100-23
/ \/ | Pasadena, CA 91125
\ | 818-395-2293
More information about the Womenbio