Changing fields in grad school

Diana Wolf dewolf at
Mon Mar 31 19:31:58 EST 1997

In article <5hke3t$g4v at>, lesley at
(Lesley Perg) wrote:

> Subject: Changing fields in grad school
> Newsgroups: bionet.women-in-bio
> Summary: 
> Keywords: 
>    I am a second year graduate student in geology at Caltech, and I have
> been seriously considering switching fields to biology.  I would like to
> hear people's experiences who have changed into biology at the graduate
> level and at the post-doc level or later.  I would also like to hear
> opinions about the way research is done in various fields of biology.
>    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. 

Biology has diverged into alot of subfields, and research styles seem to
vary among subfields.  I am a 4th yr grad student in Evolutionary
biology.  All of the labs in the Evolution program here at Indiana
University work as you see geology labs working.  A professor acts as a
mentor for 1-7 grad students and perhaps some post docs.  the students
choose their own projects with advice from their professor.  However there
are evolutionists (they happen to be in the molecular/genetics/development
program here) that have factory labs, and the professor is more like a
manager.  I'm sure you will find out the professor's style when you
As far as integration is concerned, you can be as integrative as you
want.  I consider our lab to be quite integrative.  we study evolution,
using molecular techniques, computer simulations, mathematics,
systematics, and ecology.  I think that evolutionists that are willing to
learn about other fields tend to be more successful than evolutionists
that are not integrative.
I think that your geology background will be quite useful in an
evolutionary biology program - just look at Darwin!

Diana Wolf
Biology Department
Indiana University

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