I am interested in problems typically tackled in theoretical computer science departments as well as seperate problems found in mathematics departments. Both would be more proof based. Is it easy to move from one to the other?

Example: Say I would like to work on proofs under the theory of computation (on the CS side) as well as geometric and topological proofs coming from problems in particle theory (maybe more on the mathematical physics side). Should I be in TCS or a math department, or would I be free enough to move around? Might I have more room to move in a mathematics department versus a TCS department?

  • $\begingroup$ related: cstheory.stackexchange.com/q/8780/4896 $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2014 at 1:02
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    $\begingroup$ Why not work on geometrical or topological proofs under theory of computation on the CS side? I hear some people do that. $\endgroup$
    – Jeffε
    Dec 6, 2014 at 5:17
  • $\begingroup$ I think these questions can be very situation-specific and depend mainly on: advisor, location, and funding. If those work in your favor (along with having people to collaborate with) then you can work on just about anything while sitting just about anywhere. $\endgroup$
    – usul
    Dec 7, 2014 at 7:21

1 Answer 1


It's very common to move from maths to CS: for example, in my office of four people in CS, one is doing a PhD in CS after doing an undergraduate maths degree and another is a postdoc who just finished a PhD in maths. Moving from CS to maths seems much less common.

When you say "graduate student" it's unclear whether you mean master's or PhD. It sounds like you're interested in lots of areas of mathematics (you've mentioned geometry, topology, quantum mechanics and string theory in this and your other question), which doesn't seem focused enough for a PhD: for that, you need to pick one, fairly narrow area. From what little I know about you, it seems that a master's in maths would be more appropriate, perhaps followed by a PhD in either maths or computer science if you find a particular subject whose computational aspects interest you.

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    $\begingroup$ Moving from CS to maths seems much less common. — I know at least as many people who have moved from CS to math as the opposite. $\endgroup$
    – Jeffε
    Dec 7, 2014 at 4:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JɛffE Interesting -- thanks for pointing that out. Maybe it's subfield dependent? There don't seem to be many combinatorialists who've come from CS. Or maybe it's more common in the US than the UK? $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2014 at 10:28

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