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I have a quick and interesting question (hope not a stupid one). Are these abbreviations, such as POI and SoP, only Gradcafe (or similar forum) lingos used among graduate applicants or common sense terms known in the entire academic world? I've never seen them on any department website or personal CV (PI is a well-known abbr. in science I believe). My history folks, what's the history of these abbreviations??:huh: I mean If I use"POI" in the email sent to my POI, will he understand and not feel weird? (I'm not really doing it). My best bet: young faculty who received the PhD in the last ten years have a better chance of understanding them.

Edited by VAZ
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Nope.  Spell out those lingos when you're communicating with people off GradCafe and other internet forums.

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In addition, I think the usage of some of these terms here has evolved beyond what typically people say. So treat them mostly like GradCafe jargon rather than standard academic vocabulary.

For example, I don't think I have seen POI in short or long form ever outside of the grad cafe. Almost everyone I know would say something like "potential advisor" or "a person I would like to work with". No one says, "Prof. X is a person of interest" etc. And saying that to Prof X would be super awkward! (imagine writing to a prof and telling them that they are a "person of interest" to you).

Another example is PI. Here, PI is almost synonymous with "the professor who is in charge of your research group". Maybe this is common usage in some fields, but in my field, PI has a similar but specific/distinct meaning. We don't generally say the prof in charge of a research group is the PI, we just say it's "Prof X's group" or "Prof X's lab". PI is a title that is used to refer to the science lead on a big project/mission, an instrument, a grant, a proposal etc. Usually PIs are professors, sometimes postdocs and very rarely graduate students. For example, there is one telescope at my grad school where students can propose for telescope time and take the lead on the proposal, i.e. they would be listed as the PI. But most other telescopes that we have access to require either a postdoc or faculty member to be the PI. And since the term PI has a scope / is a title in a specific context, we generally include the context when using the term, e.g. "Dr. Stern is the PI of the New Horizons mission" since Dr. Stern might be a co-I on other missions too.

SOP and LOR are more common abbreviations and you'll see them on many graduate websites. But as with most professional emails, probably better to spell these out.

Finally, there are certainly some abbreviations that you could (and should) use. These are the terms that you would never hear the long form spoken out. e.g. "CV" is a fine abbreviation. In my field, it would be quite silly to spell out things like NASA, NSF, PhD, GPA, GRE etc.

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