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Help with POI question


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I'll be applying to grad school this coming fall and have found quite a few schools that I'm interested in.  However, I have the problem that my area of interest isn't exactly a large field.  I am wanting to do Roman bioarchaeology, but I'm also interested in studying human remains from the medieval, especially the Black Death.  I have found the schools that have faculty members with specialization in these fields, but I wanted to cast my net wide with applying to schools.  When choosing schools, how important is it to find a POI that has the same regional area of interest?  For instance, I have found schools that have faculty interested in bioarchaeology, but they are interested in Asian or Near Eastern bioarchaeology.  Is it important to have the same region as your POI?

 

Thanks for any help you all can give me!!!

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I think it's really important to have a good fit with your advisor, but that doesn't necessarily mean regionally. I think shared interest in infectious disease in archaeology, for example, would be a strong fit. In fact, many of the bioarchaeologists I know seem to have either multiple regional specialities or none at all, but rather their specialty is a technique (e.g. growth and nutrition from tooth enamel).

 

Definitely contact POI's you're interested in working with, if they think your interests and their don't align, they'll let you know and they may even point you towards POIs whose interests do align with yours!

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I agree with NoSleep: I think anyone in paleopathology would be able to work with your interests, and if they can't they'll let you know after your email. My chair studies in a different region and this was clear from the beginning of my application process, and there haven't been any issues at all.

You could try applying to researchers with the same regional interest that don't have a paleopath or bioarch background, but this may be more of a stretch unless you can line up another person to help along the way.

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Thank you both for your comments.  This is something I've been thinking of for a while now.  There aren't really that many Roman bioarchaeologists in the United States, really there's only one that I know of for sure and she's only at a MA school, and there's a school in Canada that has 2 bioarchaeologists specializing in ancient Rome.  So I was trying to think of other possibilities for after the MA if I went there.  Also, is it strange to go to a MA school with a different area of interest than where you go to get your PhD?  For instance, if accepted to the MA school I could do Roman bioarchaeology with her, but I'm also interested in the Black Death and I know another school that has a PhD program that has a professor specializing in that.  Would it be more difficult to get into the PhD program if I had a different area of interest for my MA?

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The last thing you want to do is treat a PhD as a continuation of an MA by just increasing the dataset or adding a few sites and a little more theory. If you focus more on theoretical backgrounds and specialties and applying these to different regions, I think you could be a good applicant for a lot of schools. You won't be (and don't want to be) a mirror-image of your advisor, so I don't think getting an MA in bioarchaeology will pigeon-hole you into studying Rome for the rest of your academic career. You just need to focus on technique and method rather than the time period. There is a limit, though: be wary of applying to a school that specializes in, say... Andean archaeology when you have in interest in Europe, unless there is someone there that specializes in infectious disease or paleoepidemiology. 

 

Remember that you form a committee for both your MA and PhD, and you can always add a person or two from other departments with specific interests to make up for any shortcomings in your own department. In fact, most schools require at least one person from outside your department on your committee, and you can always take courses outside of the department.

 

Work with someone who specializes in infectious diseases, and add someone to your committee from the history department who specializes in Roman history. Study under someone who specializes in growth issues or interpersonal violence or any number of other bioarchaeological topics, and supplement your committee and coursework with professors from other departments to strengthen your research. 

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Thank you Powder for your advice.  I didn't think about the idea of having to add scholars from outside of the department to make up for any shortcomings that the department might have.  That actually helps me a lot with my search.  While most of the schools I am looking at have at least a bioarchaeology professor on staff, most of them are either Andean or Incan bioarchaeologists, with a couple South Asian ones added into the mix.  So adding a professor from history, classics, or biology would help me a lot.  Gotta get back to the search now.  :)

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