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I have a question about research careers, or rather PhD programmes but I'm not sure if it is on or off topic. From several threads here on meta I gathered that there is no general consensus on these sort of questions yet and that the chat is a good place to ask first before posting a possibly off-topic question. Since however the chat is rather slow at the moment and the academia proposal had not launched yet, I repost my question here. I would suggest posting answers to the question itself in the chat and answers as to wether my question is on or off topic in this thread. (This is my first question on meta. I hope I'm doing this right.)

I'm currently working on my Master's thesis in the field of Heavy Ion Physics. I did some work on a statistical model and am now learning about parton distribution functions, fragmentation functions and a tiny bit about the Color Glass Condensate framework. The goal is to try and apply that knowledge to Pb-Pb collisions.

I am very much interested in doing a PhD after I finnish. I would like to do my PhD in a country where I would be required to pay tuition and thus need a specific scholarship. I would be unable to do a PhD in that country without said (or equivalent) scholarship.

My question is: how common it is for physicists to 'change fields' (within physics) between their Master's degree and their PhD degree? I am of course looking for positions where I could do something similar to what I'm doing now. However, I'm open to alternatives. Would it be weird (read: would it look weird on my application) to apply for a scholarship for a PhD in e.g. early universe cosmology? I have heard a lecture on GR and one on basic cosmology, but nothing deeper than that. The topic sounds interesting however and I would certainly be willing to learn the required methods.

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We have a number of career related questions on the site already, mostly in and . They are a bit of mixed bag in terms of being open/closed.

I'm of mixed mind about them. I've answered several of them myself, but I would not like to see them become a regular feature of the site.

Towards you question, if your country of interest is the USA then many (most?) positions in Ph.D. programs come with tuition support and/or a stipend of some kind or another. (Mind you, I didn't have any support for the first year of my graduate studies, but that's on account of my undergrad GPA...) I think much of Europe is similar, though there seems to be considerable variation from country to country.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I feel the same way. As career-related questions go, this one is probably one of the better ones seeing as how it's reasonably specific to physics. $\endgroup$ – David Z Sep 17 '11 at 20:24

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