changing disciplines after Phd


======= Date Modified 24 39 2010 22:39:21 =======
Hi everyone, need some advice please.

I recently finished my PhD which was on the genetics of cancer biology. But I now want to change disciplines, and get into psychology research. I found a good bridge, which is cognitive neuroscience, which marries biology and psychology. Obviously it will be hard to get my foot in the door for this type of research also, and I am happy to go in as a junior researcher so to speak! (RA etc)

I found this one job that sounds great, but i'm not directly qualified for it, as it requires a Bsc in psychology or related subject, or Msc in neuroscience.

But I checked out the PI's website and he is new to setting up his research team and says that potential postdocs or potential phd students with interests in his field can contact him directly.

But the good news is, that part of his research interest is looking at the genetics behind cognition. And my Phd was based on the genetics of cancer, so i might be able to work that angle! (even though the RA job does not require any genetic work).

So my question is:

a) Do I simply apply for the RA job (Even though not directly qualified for it, but work up the angle, have done a phd, have experience in researching, writing papers, being organised etc and fast learner ) and wait to hear if i get an interview or not - the deadline is end of august. (and no contact if you're unsuccessful - how long do you wait till you assume you've been rejected?)

Or b) do I apply for the RA job, AND also contact him directly, telling him i've applied for the RA job and also how i'm interested in his field of work and then mention something about genetics and psychology to show some common ground, and how i am now interested in moving into the field of psychology and whether there is any opportunity for me to do some voluntary research work in his lab to gain experience in psychology research.

before i email him, i will read his papers and study abit about the field so that i can write something interesting about it !

i guess my question is: how can i word it in the email to say,

" i've applied for the RA job, but if i dont get it, i would like to ask you if I can volunteer in your lab to gain some experience in psychology research, and my PhD background in genetics will come in valuable as you're interested in looking at the genetics of cognition". i am just not sure how to word it diplomatically and not to harm my RA application at the same time.

Any advice would be really appreciative. thanks so much!


You shouldn't offer to volunteer. You need to sell yourself as worth employing. Personally I would apply for the RA, but in your CV play up the wider angle, and see if he bites on either front.

My husband applied for an RA post after his PhD, but withdrew his application because it was a bit too far outside his area of technical expertise. But the team leader (who was growing his team at the time) invited hubby down for a tour of the lab, and offered him a post-doc on the spot. He's still there, 9 years later.


That's really good advice BB!! thanks so much :) you've given me food for thought, I didn't think about the other aspect of offering to volunteer. that is an interesting point. Thanks so much you've been really helpful! and thanks for sharing your husband's story :-)


I agree with Bilbo. In your case I think a mixed of academic and skill based CV would be good.


======= Date Modified 24 Jul 2010 23:46:12 =======
Thanks Blue! that's a good idea :)