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How many POIs?


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I've seen a lot of posts recommending to apply to places where there are at least 2-3 people you could work with. That would be ideal but it seems a bit difficult, in Canada at least. At Canadian schools, it seems like there's usually only one person per department who studies each topic, yet some departments still recommend mentioning multiple potential supervisors. There are lots of people I'd like to work with, but they don't do the same type of research as my main POIs. Is it okay to list people who don't do research in the same area? Obviously I want to maximize my chances, but I also don't want to look like my interests are all over the place. It's also probably pretty clear from my past research experience who my top POIs are, so would the others even be interested? 

What did you guys do? 

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"Is it okay to list people who don't do research in the same area?"

I applied in the US and to cog neuro programs.  Clinical programs in Canada may be different, so take my advice with a pinch of salt.

I listed at least 2 and usually 3-4 POIs in my statement of purpose that I was interested in working with.  At a high level they all studied the same topic (memory), but their methods and exact subfield sometimes varied quite a bit.  This didn't seem to matter, however.  My intuition is that as long as the POIs are roughly researching the same thing then it's fine to list multiple.  You just wouldn't want to list people researching completely disparate topics (e.g., anxiety/depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia).  Also, while you might come across as too scattershot if you list diffuse research interests, on the flip side you might be perceived as too narrow minded if your research interests are hyperspecific.  It's definitely a bit of a balancing act knowing how broad vs. focused to be.  My advice would be to list the topics and POIs you are genuinely interested in and then let the chips fall where they may.

Edited by St0chastic
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Hi! I applied in Canada (and the US), but not to clinical.

The admissions committees get concerned if you only want to work with one person, because if that person moves/retires/something happens to them, they believe you wouldn't/can't work with anyone else. I chose a few different people around a common theme (and sometimes they weren't so close) and I had a lot of success.

Clinical might be different, but the issue of what you would do if your PI moved or left is always a concern.

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Hi, Canadian student currently in a Canadian clinical program here. I think this does depend on your particular research. Of the schools I applied to, only one school I had a particular difficulty in when it came to adding more than one. In that case, I included three names of faculty members that broadly looked at the topic of cognitive neuroscience/neuropsychology. Interestingly enough, after a conversation with one of the three (I assume the representative), he and I both agreed that my research interest fit one particular PI more than the other two. That's how I ended up speaking with the more closely aligned PI, and received an offer. 

If you do find it difficult to generalize a topic (e.g., Cognitive Neuroscience, Mood Disorders, Emotional/Affective, etc), take a look at the particular PI you are interested in working with. See whether they have collaborated with other people in the department in the past. If they have, indicate you may be interested in working with them too. Faculty members from the same department are often encouraged, and like, to work together (allows for more publications and productivity). This may help boost their interest in you as a student, because now, instead of just fitting well with one PI, you may be fitting well with more than one faculty member collectively, and, therefore, fit well with the department.

That's just one way of doing so, hope that helps!

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