Jan 13, 2010
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In graduate school, can you join a department that has nothing to do your PI’s departmental affiliations? For example, say I want to join the Neuroscience Department but my PI is in the Chemistry Department. I am looking into the Neuroscience department because I think it will prove to be useful later on when I pursue a postdoc/position in academia…but I specifically want to work with this PI.

Can I not do this if my PI does not have joint appointment in Neuroscience and chemistry? Will I have problems with forming a committee group? Or does it depend from school to school, department to department? From what I can glean, seems like all the neuroscience graduate students have PIs who have appointments in neuroscience (whether joint or not).
 

RxnMan

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In graduate school, can you join a department that has nothing to do your PI’s departmental affiliations? For example, say I want to join the Neuroscience Department but my PI is in the Chemistry Department. I am looking into the Neuroscience department because I think it will prove to be useful later on when I pursue a postdoc/position in academia…but I specifically want to work with this PI.

Can I not do this if my PI does not have joint appointment in Neuroscience and chemistry? Will I have problems with forming a committee group? Or does it depend from school to school, department to department? From what I can glean, seems like all the neuroscience graduate students have PIs who have appointments in neuroscience (whether joint or not).
You can, but generally you need a sponsor collaborator in the other department. The sponsor would guide your efforts in their area of expertise and would have to work with your PI. How you get funded complicates matters. From personal experience, having two mentors/PIs is a pain, but having members on your committee from different departments generally adds scientific rigor to your work and makes it more interesting to a wider audience. Graduate students who have interesting ideas that cross departmental boundaries can lead to fruitful collaborations. Just watch that you aren't serving too many masters with divergent interests and that everyone plays well with each other.