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SoP quick answers on structure!

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My most desired University gave me the same recommendation to really showcase what I want to research in my SoP. 

Question: I want to research new ideas of my own but also assist on all of their amazing research coming up. How many "new ideas" for my dissertation and research in general is a good number with elaboration? I have LIMITED space (most of us I think do), and want to really show them that I have a depth of interests, but don't want to skimp on the main ones.

Another question: How can I say that I have a strong desire to work with one faculty member when there are quite a few in the department who would also be amazing?

Everything in my application is done except for this SoP which is causing major anxiety because it's really (been told from this University twice now) that it's make or break with this SoP since everything else looks good. Gah!!!

Good luck everyone!

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I am not familiar with public health programs or anything really not relating to ecology/marine biology/oceanography for that matter.  I will offer only what I would do based on a: my own past experiences, and b:  what you wrote above.  

"New ideas".  Here, I would do at least two but no more than three.  I would also avoid pinpointing any niches as to not appear too narrow.  Keep in mind that between the time you hit "submit" and the time you begin working on your dissertation your own ideas likely will change.  Besides, the more specific you are the more you potentially alienate yourself from PIs/labs ("I want to study patterns of disease spread through a community" vs. "I want to study how the Antarctic fruit fly spreads disease in the Tasmanian low-lands during the summer monsoons", for example).  

"Who to work with".  I am convinced this is only another way for the program to vet out those who actually researched the program from those who are only applying willy-nilly.  I would spend one or two sentences with this, writing something such as, "I am interested in the research of Profs. Joe Blow (communal disease), Jane Smith (epidemiology) and Jerry Pam (Antarctic fruit flies in Tasmanian low-lands).  When considering my own areas of interests, I find I am most aligned with those three labs."  

As for showcasing, that is what your CV is for.  

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I think you want to discuss ideas that you are interested in pursuing in general, but not think of it (or present it) as ideas for your dissertation. Research interests change with time, and you grow and mature as a researcher. You may end up asking similar questions to what you have now in your dissertation, but you don't want to appear like you've already picked a topic and questions because that makes you close-minded and not open to learning what the program has to teach you. So, I would say discuss 2 or 3 (I would go for 2, definitely not more than 3) of your current interests in depth: why are they important? what do you want to know? any thoughts about how to get started. 

As for working with faculty, again, be careful with how you think about it and how you talk about it. The goal of a PhD program is to generate independent researchers, not clones of the advisors. So while it's totally fine to say "I want to work with Prof X, whose work on A is highly relevant to my work" and to expect to both learn from them and perhaps collaborate on papers with them (if this is a program where professors co-author papers with students), I would not say you want to go to a school to co-author papers with any professor. If you go to a school where that's the culture, it'll happen just by you working with the prof. And if not, then saying that both makes you sound out of touch, and makes you probably not as good fit because they won't be able to give you what you want. (And in fact the school may not be as good a fit, if that is what you want, so think about that too.)

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