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One POI - how dangerous?


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I am told that a huge mistake would be to choose a PhD program where I can only see myself working under one adviser.

 

I got an extremely good vibe from the adviser and the students within the group during the visit. I can easily imagine myself succeeding in the group.

 

How risky is this decision if the POI has guaranteed a place for me in the group? 

 

Thanks!

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The OP might be referring to the dangers of the POI transferring schools, retiring, or dying leaving the student with no one to work with if there are no other faculty members he or she can work with. If that's the case, there are scenarios when professors ask their grad students to transfer schools with them. Anything else you can't prevent, so no use worrying about it.

 

In my opinion, if there is a professor you really want to work with, then apply/attend that school. I personally wouldn't consider the POI my only factor for decision, however. If funding isn't that great (or in the worst case scenario, there is none), then I wouldn't go. If there isn't a real sense of community or it seems to be a cutthroat environment, I wouldn't go, etc. But these are all factors you need to consider on your own.

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I am currently in a PhD program for Chemistry right now. I don't think is a good idea to attend a program just for a specific group.

After you entered the program, you will have to submit another application to join the research group of your choice. However, this is where a lot of students (some of my peers) got screwed over and some of them ended up either

(1) switched to another division

(2) joined a different research group

(3) left the program

Do you consider yourself as a top/competitive student in comparison to your cohort class?

Edited by Quantum Buckyball
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Thanks for the input.

 

I was admitted to this program. It is a top program; however, this POI is in a different department which is not well known. In other words, there aren't many others aiming to join this group. 

 

The department I got into has a fantastic, collaborative community. There is plenty of funding for me at this institution. The school, as far as I know, has no problem with me working for an adviser in a different department.

 

The choice between schools for me is at this point solely based on the adviser/group. Everything else is relatively equal. In one program there are multiple advisers I could see myself working for, yet they may not be entirely ideal. In this program that I'm talking about, there is only one extremely ideal adviser.

 

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I'd consider myself fairly competitive since I have been doing very similar work that this POI does, which comes with a personal recommendation from my current adviser (they know each other).

Edited by DropTheBase
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I am doing this right now actually - choosing my school based off of one lab. It is risky, and I don't like risky, so here's what I did. After the visiting weekend I emailed my POI and several members of his lab that I spoke with.

 

In the email to the students, I sent a simple "thanks for talking to me" and then brought up some of the topics we discussed that I found interesting. I also mentioned to them that I would love to join their group in the fall.

 

In the email to the POI, I also thanked him for talking to me and then brought up some of the topics we discussed. I made sure my excitement about his work was conveyed in my email and told him it was precisely where I needed to be. I told him also that I enjoyed talking to his students to further show my interest in his group and brought up some topics I discussed with them. I then mentioned that if I could know for certain that I could join his lab, that I would accept the school's acceptance offer immediately. It was my ultimate dream lab - after speaking with him and his group, I knew I would never be happy in any other lab at any other school - so I laid it all on the line. And it worked! I have a guarantee from him that I will be in his lab for my graduate studies. POIs want to find students that are excited and passionate about their work so make sure they know that you are. I read somewhere once that often times students won't get in their top choice lab because they came off too casual about joining the lab and so the POI didn't think they were sincere. If you want it, let them know! :D

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I can't say how dangerous it is, since it's a risk with completely unknown probability.  Basically, if your advisor leaves, for whatever reason, you will be in a tough spot.  In addition, if your interests change (which I understand is VERY common in graduate school), you want other labs you are interested in.  

 

I had a similar decision, and I went with the place that had more researchers doing the work I am interested in.  Now, I didn't exactly have one "ideal" advisor at another school, but I did place a lot of importance on the high number of people doing work I wanted to do.  At one school where there was really only one, and no one else's research I was interested in, I declined.

 

It really depends on the magnitude of the difference in fit.  If the multiple advisors at one school really aren't doing work that you love, while you are completely set on the one advisor at the other school, then you could consider that.  Otherwise, I would go with the place with multiple advisors, all else being equal.

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That seems risky as others have mentioned. I chose a very large program that has several people I wouldn't mind working for. I don't have a locked in POI or lab group for the Fall though. I'm preferring to feel out the situation and get some experience as a TA first. That might be the safer route.

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