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In the past days I was accepted in two PhD programmes about biomedical imaging processing and I have a big dilemma about which one to choose. Both of them are in similar biomedical imaging fields but the mathematical and computational techniques to develop are not the same. Lets call them Phd program A and B.

I find PhD programme A really motivating, fits my interests and I like the mathematics involved in it. Although, the institution where it is done is a good place to do research the supervisor has just ten years of research experience, not big amount of citations and the journals in which he publishes have not a big impact factor.

About PhD programme B, I do not find it so interesting and I guess that after some time I could loose some motivation but it is also fine (in fact, if programme A would not exist I would accept programme B without too much hesitation). Nevertheless, the supervisor has a huge experience, he publishes in good journals (like PNAS) and has contributed to the writing of some books in the field. Moreover, the research centre is quite tough/challenging (there would be more pressure but I find it necessary for doing good research) and students there are motivated and enthusiastic.

About other aspects of the programmes, like country or funding both of them are more or less the same, good public funding but perhaps I prefer the country of project A but it is just a guess.

Has anyone faced the same situation? What would you do? Perhaps I am missing some important point?

Thanks in advance for the answers.

1 Answer 1

Here are some good things to think about.

  1. Research topics look very different when you dig deep into them. Right now A's work might look sexy, but you can get 3 months in and realize details that make you understand why it's not "hight impact". The reverse can happen with B: when you actually start doing it you may find it more interesting than you thought (this is quite common!). The fact that B's research generates so much buzz means I think it's likely that when you learn more you'd find it more interesting, or you might not.
  2. Your Ph.D is a long hard process where you will have plenty of doubts. I personally believe the only way to keep your sanity is to be working on a project you truly love. I am saying that as a current student where right now things are tough but I'd never leave because this is the only thing I want to be doing, while I hear others who are almost ready to quit because it's a lot of work and the reward is quite far away. I know I'd be reconsidering what I am doing if I didn't love my projects.
  3. You will do much better work and put more time into what you find interesting.
  4. When you say the research centre is tough/challenging, did you get any bad vibes from the students? Trust your gut instincts. They won't say anything bad about their boss when he's around. The only thing you'd hear on a visit is little sour notes dropped around. Pick them up and understand them. Look at the professor's CV. Are his/her students doing well after graduation? If they aren't, that's a big warning sign.
  5. Have you asked B to explain to you why his/her work is interesting? Sounds silly, but that's probably the most common thing B has to do. It may totally change your perspective.