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Hey all,

So basically this is my situation (sorry for the long post). I'm going to be applying next fall again (second time) and want to know what I am missing to get into a top tier clinical program (IVY league preferred or top tier in California). I've heard numerous things about what I need and what I don't need and a lot of the time it isn't the same advice. I just want to make sure I've crossed my T's and dotted my I's so that if I don't get in this time it wasn't because I left something out of my profile. I'm planning on applying to clinical PhD programs with an emphasis on neuropsychology ( I want to specialize in clinical neuropsych afterwards then pursue a career in academia). Do I need to apply to schools that are predominantly clinical psych with a focus on neuro or are there types of schools that are more known for the clinical neuropsych doctoral programs?

Undergrad: Went to top state school, majored in psychology, minored in cognitive science. Psych GPA: 3.9, cumulative is a 3.4 since I took all the premed courses and upper level neuroscience classes since I was thinking of medical school then. Got an F in orgo 2, which in my defense was a pretty hard class and had other things going on at the time. How much will this weigh against me? Was in the honors program and wrote an honors thesis, got a bunch of awards for research/scholarly awards. Member of Phi Beta Kappa and Psi Chi. Started and was president of a student organization on TBI and brain injury for 2 years. Helped to organize lectures on cognitive psychology as well.

Grad school: Doing a MS in experimental psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience. Received full funding to attend (full GA - only one from my cohort). I will have a 4.0 in the program when I'm applying (fall 2014) and am doing a thesis as well. Worked as a tutor, have given guest lectures to psych students on cognitive/clinical/and neurobiological topics. Most likely will be lecturing math courses for next year. Will probably work with stroke patients over the summer and do some fMRI work.

Skills: Programming (MatLab, Ruby, R), work with eye-tracking, statistical analysis (SPPS, R), well versed in linux, as well as audio/video product software (Sony Vegas Pro, Audacity, Cubase, etc). Have used/programmed arduino, raspberry pi, and have a lot of knowledge of electronics in general. fluent in multiple languages.

Research experience: 4 full-years (including summers) working at well known cognitive psych laboratory studying visual processing. 3 years working in a clinical laboratory with patients on the schizophrenia spectrum (bipolar/schizophrenics) and studying their cognitive and perceptual impairments. administered various clinical interviews and experiments to both clinical and normal populations. One first author publication in Perception, numerous abstract publications and presentations in peer-reviewed journals and national conferences. Have a couple acknowledgements in other papers and even textbooks but that's basically useless right? Worked as a lab manager as well for 2 years. Received over $10k in funding while I was in undergrad to pursue my research. Funded to attend an international vision research program.

LOR: Will receive two really high quality LOR from well respected people in their fields and in science at large. One lesser known prof as well. Would getting another LOR really make a difference for me or is 3 fine?

GRE: took the GRE to get into my masters program, not the greatest score though. V - 157 (73%), Q - 154 (60%), A - 4.5 (73%). How much will this hold me back? I plan on taking the GRE again so I want to know what kind of scores I would need to get into a program that focuses predominantly on research with a much lesser focus on applied psychology.

Besides the GRE score, should I be good to go at these top schools? I'm a good research fit at many of the places because they're doing the type of work that I really have a passion for. I just want to know how many schools I should be applying to that are "safety-ish" (since I know there's nothing like a true safety when you're at this point). I just want to go to the best school that I can since I've worked very hard to get to this point and any advice from you guys is HIGHLY appreciated! Thank you!
 
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"IVY league preferred"

Not really what you want to be focusing on for graduate schools.
 

erg923

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Agreed that you seem to be WAY too focused on status. Do you think this has come across in your interviews or other professional writings?
 
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I feel you guys on everything you're saying and honestly wished things were different but sadly the way things are today with funding, you get funded based on your pedigree and who you've worked with/where you went to school, amongst other things like what you're publishing and currently doing. I can understand that some of the best neuropsych schools aren't in regular top schools (if you would be so kind, please let me know what they are), but I've seen it countless times so far that it depends as much and possibly even more in life on where one has gone to school and the connections one has made, regardless of whether one wants to work in academia or in industry. Especially in industry, it is difficult to progress to higher levels unless your degree carries a certain status with it. I'm trying to bridge the gap between many of my interests, while still becoming a clinician, so that I can delve into things such as artificial intelligence/computational modeling and other research areas for my postgraduate studies. This is why I'm trying to go to the school with the highest prestige and pedigree as to make it easier for me to pursue future endeavors.

I thank you all for your opinions as I know that mine might not be the most popular one but I am just trying to be honest. Do you guys feel that it is a reach for me to get into top schools or that I might have a good chance?
 

WisNeuro

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You're right, it does matter who you work with. But, the top academic neuropsychologists aren't necessarily at the "top schools." US News rankings are worthless my friend. Look at how the rankings are compiled.

As for the top neuropsych, you're still doing this wrong. You need to look at match and fit with research interests. Go where you will get trained in what you want, not the place that has a fancy name. Once you get to the postdoc and job search level, your grad school name doesn't mean ****. In academia what matters is your publication and research history. In the clinical realm, more about connections and your references. I can tell you one way to get your rank dropped after internship/postdoc interviews, brag about where you come from.
 
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(IVY league preferred or top tier in California).
And that's where I stopped caring. There are 4 Ivy League schools with PhD programs (1 of which is radically different from all the others, and 1 of which is known for taking next-to-no students and is not very well established) and arguably 2-3 "top tier" programs in CA. 5 of those 7 schools could very well be the 5 most competitive in the country and the other 2 are also extraordinarily difficulty to get into due to location (and people like you). Limiting yourself to those schools is almost like saying you don't care if you get in. For somebody who has put a great deal of time and effort into the field it seems you don't really understand it very well at all. My advice would be to find a mentor somewhere who is actually familiar with the process.

Your second post here makes it even clearer you do not understand (and I get the impression you are not interested in understanding). I think your GRE will hold you back from getting into these places but so will your attitude and a lack of fit that is inevitable in trying to apply in this manner.
 

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I'd you want to get into a top program:

1. Get solid research experience.
2. Find a solid research match at each prospective program.
3. See #2.
4. See #3.
5. .....
6. Success!
 

WisNeuro

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Also, I can't imagine that there is a clinical program out there doing research in AI/computational modeling. That's more an experimental neuroscience thing. You need to do a little more research and think this through lad.
 

erg923

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I feel you guys on everything you're saying and honestly wished things were different but sadly the way things are today with funding, you get funded based on your pedigree and who you've worked with/where you went to school, amongst other things like what you're publishing and currently doing. I can understand that some of the best neuropsych schools aren't in regular top schools (if you would be so kind, please let me know what they are), but I've seen it countless times so far that it depends as much and possibly even more in life on where one has gone to school and the connections one has made, regardless of whether one wants to work in academia or in industry. Especially in industry, it is difficult to progress to higher levels unless your degree carries a certain status with it. I'm trying to bridge the gap between many of my interests, while still becoming a clinician, so that I can delve into things such as artificial intelligence/computational modeling and other research areas for my postgraduate studies. This is why I'm trying to go to the school with the highest prestige and pedigree as to make it easier for me to pursue future endeavors.

I thank you all for your opinions as I know that mine might not be the most popular one but I am just trying to be honest. Do you guys feel that it is a reach for me to get into top schools or that I might have a good chance?
I got into a ph.d program with about a quarter of the CV you have currently. I am but a lowly VA psychologist (but I have ties with small-time academia still), but some of my fellow cohort have done just fine in academia. One thing you might need to understand is that academia is almost always downwardly mobile from grad school.

Sure, you will get your name on alot of junk if you go to Pittsburgh and it may even funnel you into a post-doc, but you shouldnt be limiting your entrance because of such far off "maybes." One step at a time. Find a program with a good match and good opportunities and go. Priorities change from the mid twenties to the mid thirties, so you may end up being happy with a much different, or perhaps somwhat toned down, academic career 8 years from now anyway. Right now, you are heading into the most competitive job market there is...a world of soft money, egos, and working weekends. Will this be consistent with your values and priorities 10 years from now? I woudn't be so sure...
 
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maybe I'm explaining this wrong. I'm looking for schools in california because they are doing the most cutting edge research blending the gap between neurology/computer science/AI and applying it all towards helping clinical populations. I literally want to be at the forefront of my field otherwise I rather choose another path that I can do my best to become the best in. i want to get a degree in clinical neuropsychology because i know it will give me the flexibility to either work with patients in the future or pursue things from a more experimental neuroscience background. again I am not trying to step on any toes or cause any conflict, I've been doing research for 5+ years now, I feel like I have a good understanding how things work, I just wanted to ask you all for your advice on whether I was competitive for into these top programs as I had mentioned earlier.

Thank you all for your comments, I will definitely think about everything more, I'm just still wondering about what you guys think my chances are for the top programs for clinical neuropsych in california and country-wide and whether or not you guys can let me know what other schools to consider, what I should try to focus on between now and applications, and anything else.

Basically my focus on California/ivy league/east coast stems from the fact that these are the locations I most want to live for the next foreseeable future. I have nothing against the mid-western states or the south, it's just a personal preference. Thanks again for the help.
 

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OP, are you completely clear on the distinction between neuroscience (including clinical neuroscience) and neuropsychology? Echoing WisNeuro's comment above, and given your experience, it seems possible that you have mistranslated your prior neurology interests (per your prior posts) into something that is not what you think it is. Or I could be mistaken :).

About the prestige thing, I agree that you might not quite be tracking how doctoral programs and doctoral "pedigrees" work. Unlike medical schools, what's important is the quality of the mentor's lab, and many labs are at institutions that wouldn't resonate with a person who thinks general rankings (which usually are rankings of the reputation of undergraduate education, not specific doctoral programs) are valid.

Also, I am currently taking a break from a fun afternoon of reading doctoral applications, and I can unequivocally tell you that a strong letter (i.e., one that provides lots of detail about an applicant's performance in behavioral terms and based on personal interaction) from a less-famous letter writer is far, far more impressive than a generic letter from a famous one.
 
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OP, are you completely clear on the distinction between neuroscience (including clinical neuroscience) and neuropsychology? Echoing WisNeuro's comment above, and given your experience, it seems possible that you have mistranslated your prior neurology interests (per your prior posts) into something that is not what you think it is. Or I could be mistaken :).

About the prestige thing, I agree that you might not quite be tracking how doctoral programs and doctoral "pedigrees" work. Unlike medical schools, what's important is the quality of the mentor's lab, and many labs are at institutions that wouldn't resonate with a person who thinks general rankings (which usually are rankings of the reputation of undergraduate education, not specific doctoral programs) are valid.

Also, I am currently taking a break from a fun afternoon of reading doctoral applications, and I can unequivocally tell you that a strong letter (i.e., one that provides lots of detail about an applicant's performance in behavioral terms and based on personal interaction) from a less-famous letter writer is far, far more impressive than a generic letter from a famous one.
Thank you for your advice. I do understand that the rankings are different for undergraduate/graduate school. However, more often than not, many of the researchers in psychology from any of the top ivy league schools/california schools (harvard, princeton, MIT, stanford, berkeley, etc) all are leaders in their respective fields. Additionally, those schools often have plenty of endowment and funding for their programs and many of their research interests align with mine. What I probably did not convey as well with my previous posts is that I plan on applying to other schools as well, however, I just wanted to know what my chances were for these top programs. I understand your sentiment regarding clinical neuropsychology and neuroscience and truly feel that my future lies in developing new methods and clinical interventions for a variety of psychiatric illnesses. I am also very interested in computer science and AI and believe that I can find a happy medium entertaining all of these future endeavours.

Regarding the letters, all 3 will be very strong since all 3 professors were my advisers for my theses. Is there any other area that my application is lacking (besides my GRE) and what sort of numbers should I aim for on the GRE to be very competitive for these programs? Should I take the psych GRE as well?

Thank you all for the help and sorry if any of my posts offended you as this was not my intention.
 

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If I was reading your application to a CLINICAL program, I would be a little concerned that you seem to have such little interest in...patients. Perhaps this comes across in your application materials/interviews?
 
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If I was reading your application to a CLINICAL program, I would be a little concerned that you seem to have such little interest in...patients. Perhaps this comes across in your application materials/interviews?
Honestly, I'm trying to find a program that is more focused on research than applied psychology. I want to work with patients on the SZ spectrum, autism spectrum, stroke, and severe dementia.

I've heard from some colleagues that completed clinical degrees that their schools did not have much focus on treatment. Is this the case for most of the research oriented ones or no?
 

erg923

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Well, its called "clinical" psychology for a reason, right? Applied is part of the name of the field.

If you are reffering to the clinical science model training programs, there continues to be practica requirment that of course requires learning psychotherapy and other emprically-based treatments (in addition of program eval/development, etc.). Is it going to be a priority for you or for your major professor? No. But you better have some sincere interest and committment to serving patients during your training.
 

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However, more often than not, many of the researchers in psychology from any of the top ivy league schools/california schools (harvard, princeton, MIT, stanford, berkeley, etc) all are leaders in their respective fields.
But, for example, Princeton, MIT, and Stanford do not have clinical programs. Meanwhile some of the best clinical programs in the country (recognized by all in clinical psych) are programs such as the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

My doctoral program was a clinical science program. We didn't get a very large quantity of clinical training pre-internship, but the quality of the training and supervision was outstanding. Some of the faculty did treatment research and others did basic mechanism research. I know that my clinical training and interaction with clients/patients has definitely enhanced the quality of my (basic mechanism) research, and I am always a little put off when researchers who have never encountered real clients/patients purport to study disorders. Not saying it can't happen, but as usual I agree with erg :).

No worries about offending! We're all here to help, even when the feedback might feel a little harsh.
 
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But, for example, Princeton, MIT, and Stanford do not have clinical programs. Meanwhile some of the best clinical programs in the country (recognized by all in clinical psych) are programs such as the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

My doctoral program was a clinical science program. We didn't get a very large quantity of clinical training pre-internship, but the quality of the training and supervision was outstanding. Some of the faculty did treatment research and others did basic mechanism research. I know that my clinical training and interaction with clients/patients has definitely enhanced the quality of my (basic mechanism) research, and I am am always a little put off when researchers who have never encountered real clients/patients purport to study disorders. Not saying it can't happen, but as usual I agree with erg :).

No worries about offending! We're all here to help, even when the feedback might feel a little harsh.
This. Many of the schools you've named aren't known to be powerhouses in the world of clinical psychology, regardless of specialty; they seem more suited toward your stated interests of integrating technology with neuroscience, which may be more in line with what you want to ultimately do than clinical neuropsychology.

As was mentioned, programs such as UW-Madison and the University of Florida are known to be powerhouses for neuropsych, but of course don't spring to mind when people think "Ivy League." In general, the large public/state schools--because of their R1 status and grant funding--are where you're going to find some of the better researchers and better-known labs. UCLA of course fits in there as well, and certainly is on the forefront of neuroscience-related research, but they're a beast to get into.

In terms of competitiveness, given how your CV looks currently, I'd say you should just really buckle down and focus on improving your GRE scores, as that's your single weakest area.
 
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Basically my focus on California/ivy league/east coast stems from the fact that these are the locations I most want to live for the next foreseeable future. I have nothing against the mid-western states or the south, it's just a personal preference. Thanks again for the help.
You and everybody else, which is part of why these particular programs are so hard to get into, having little to do with their quality or reputation in the field specifically (and I'm always amused when somebody says "nothing against the midwest and south, I just wouldn't want to live there"). You have some pretty strongly ingrained biases about where the best work is being done, which is not really accurate across fields. Not one of the programs you named have a single well-regarded person in my specialties, because that is not how it works.

Also, it just doesn't sound like you want to do clinical psychology; you want to do neuroscience research that relates to certain clinical populations. You would probably be happier in a program that does research in your preferred area, which as you have laid out here is clearly not something done in clinical psychology programs. Those schools may do AI research, but it is unlikely you are going to be able to bridge over into their AI research as a student in a clinical psych program (which if the people on these boards are to be believed are pretty all-consuming anyway). You are better off applying to work directly under professors who do this type of work, which would likely mean a degree in a related but different field.
 

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I'm just as confused as everyone else here - I don't think your stats will be the issue with getting in as they are quite good, I think the barrier will be your understanding of the system and willingness to apply to appropriate programs. Its like you are asking us to tell you how to become competitive for the world's best molecular biology programs because you think it will help you become a sociologist...something is just fundamentally wrong here. At that level, there are no amount of qualifications that will make you competitive for a program where you are not a good fit. Prestige of the school is definitely important for certain paths...but the degree has to be appropriate. Most of the psych departments at the schools you listed are not going to provide substantive neuropsych training. Some don't even provide clinical training! If you apply saying these things, chances are your application is going in the trash regardless of how good your qualifications happen to be.

I get being research-focused. I am an extremely research-focused student in a clinical program. However, I want to do research that is similar to what my graduate advisors are doing. If I wanted to do something completely irrelevant to their work, they simply would not have accepted me regardless of what my other credentials were.

I think you need to weigh the costs/benefits of different things. You can lie about your research interests to make them more appropriate for individual faculty and have a chance at getting into the clinical programs at these schools...but that seems a recipe for disaster in many ways and will likely not set you up for your intended career path. I'd suggest finding programs at those schools that will properly prepare you for the type of work you want to do...right now you seem to be thinking about the "school" that will provide you the best opportunities but picked the actual program at random. It seems you have contacts in the field. Where did they get their training?
 
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I'm just as confused as everyone else here - I don't think your stats will be the issue with getting in as they are quite good, I think the barrier will be your understanding of the system and willingness to apply to appropriate programs. Its like you are asking us to tell you how to become competitive for the world's best molecular biology programs because you think it will help you become a sociologist...something is just fundamentally wrong here. At that level, there are no amount of qualifications that will make you competitive for a program where you are not a good fit. Prestige of the school is definitely important for certain paths...but the degree has to be appropriate. Most of the psych departments at the schools you listed are not going to provide substantive neuropsych training. Some don't even provide clinical training! If you apply saying these things, chances are your application is going in the trash regardless of how good your qualifications happen to be.

I get being research-focused. I am an extremely research-focused student in a clinical program. However, I want to do research that is similar to what my graduate advisors are doing. If I wanted to do something completely irrelevant to their work, they simply would not have accepted me regardless of what my other credentials were.

I think you need to weigh the costs/benefits of different things. You can lie about your research interests to make them more appropriate for individual faculty and have a chance at getting into the clinical programs at these schools...but that seems a recipe for disaster in many ways and will likely not set you up for your intended career path. I'd suggest finding programs at those schools that will properly prepare you for the type of work you want to do...right now you seem to be thinking about the "school" that will provide you the best opportunities but picked the actual program at random. It seems you have contacts in the field. Where did they get their training?
I guess I should widen my search into other programs, possibly cognitive neuroscience? I am just worried about how much I will be able to do research with patients in those types of programs, wouldn't it be easier to be a clinician and then attract patients myself instead of having to collaborate with someone who is a clinician? And my advisers went to Columbia (engineering), U of Illinois Urbana–Campaign (clinical), MIT (cognitive). if you think I would be able to work with patients as well if I graduate from a cognitive neuroscience/experimental program than maybe that is the better direction for me.

Thanks again for all the advice!
 

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I guess I should widen my search into other programs, possibly cognitive neuroscience? I am just worried about how much I will be able to do research with patients in those types of programs, wouldn't it be easier to be a clinician and then attract patients myself instead of having to collaborate with someone who is a clinician? And my advisers went to Columbia (engineering), U of Illinois Urbana–Campaign (clinical), MIT (cognitive). if you think I would be able to work with patients as well if I graduate from a cognitive neuroscience/experimental program than maybe that is the better direction for me.

Thanks again for all the advice!
I don't see why you wouldn't be able to work with patients, although like you've said, you'd probably need to collaborate with a clinician in that respect (both to tackle diagnostic issues and to appease IRBs). The issue is mainly that your research interests seem very, very heavily geared toward cognitive neuroscience rather than neuropsychology, and so it may be exceedingly difficult if not impossible to find potential neuropsych advisors whose labs are doing the kind of work you want to be doing. Conversely, finding neuropsychologists who'd be interested in consulting on neuroscience research projects shouldn't be hard at all.
 

erg923

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I would advise staying out of clinical programs. When you say "work with" you actually mean study their disorder/pathology, not conduct interventions, or apparently even research or supervise interventions specifically, right?
 

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I do think it would be easier to be a clinician. Not enormously so, but it would be easier. Without a clinical background you would need to pair with someone who has one (MD or PhD), but the research world today is not like that of 30-40 years ago. Collaboration is huge for everyone and many people are actively looking for collaborators.

The problem is that you have already narrowed your list of schools down enormously and eliminated most of the clinical programs that actually train people for what you want to do. To my knowledge, several of the schools on your list do not even have a neuropsychologist on faculty...if you apply there saying you want to be one, chances of acceptance are slim to nil (what everyone else is saying). If you apply to MIT saying you want to be a neuropsychologist they will think you didn't bother to research programs because they don't train clinicians.

There are several faculty at these schools who do neuroscience work. They may be an appropriate fit, but still quite a bit of a stretch from AI/computational modeling. To my knowledge, none are neuropsychologists so would be unlikely to accept someone who stated that as a career goal regardless of their qualifications. You won't get any training in AI/computational modeling in these programs and those are tough areas to "break into" without any actual training. If your interest is in those topics I think it makes sense to go to graduate school to study THAT, rather than getting a clinical degree. Otherwise, you'll likely find yourself needing collaborators to help with AI because you lack sufficient training to do THAT despite it being your primary interest.
 

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I guess what stands out for me reading what you wrote is that you seem to be going about this the wrong way. If it were me (and this is what I'm doing), I would read academic papers in the area of your interest and start to look for potential professors, and therefor potential schools that way. Your perfect match could be, and most likely is, at a school you hadn't considered.

Trying to work from the school you want to apply to and then the professor is backwards, I think. If you get to interview this will likely show through..
 
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I would advise staying out of clinical programs. When you say "work with" you actually mean study their disorder/pathology, not conduct interventions, or apparently even research or supervise interventions specifically, right?
I do think it would be easier to be a clinician. Not enormously so, but it would be easier. Without a clinical background you would need to pair with someone who has one (MD or PhD), but the research world today is not like that of 30-40 years ago. Collaboration is huge for everyone and many people are actively looking for collaborators.

The problem is that you have already narrowed your list of schools down enormously and eliminated most of the clinical programs that actually train people for what you want to do. To my knowledge, several of the schools on your list do not even have a neuropsychologist on faculty...if you apply there saying you want to be one, chances of acceptance are slim to nil (what everyone else is saying). If you apply to MIT saying you want to be a neuropsychologist they will think you didn't bother to research programs because they don't train clinicians.

There are several faculty at these schools who do neuroscience work. They may be an appropriate fit, but still quite a bit of a stretch from AI/computational modeling. To my knowledge, none are neuropsychologists so would be unlikely to accept someone who stated that as a career goal regardless of their qualifications. You won't get any training in AI/computational modeling in these programs and those are tough areas to "break into" without any actual training. If your interest is in those topics I think it makes sense to go to graduate school to study THAT, rather than getting a clinical degree. Otherwise, you'll likely find yourself needing collaborators to help with AI because you lack sufficient training to do THAT despite it being your primary interest.
Yeah that makes more sense, I definitely want to study more neurological/genetic components of psychopathologies (and even other disorders) much more than conduct interventions or surprise them because I don't think that's the way things are going to be going with the field, IMHO. And I know that most of those schools don't have neuropsychologists, I was just listening them to give an example of the standard that I was referring to. So many it's best to skip the clinical psychology path and do something more neuroscience-heavy I presume? I just thought becoming a neuropsychologist would give me the clinical neurology background that I would need to further understand the disorders and then do a post-doc in something that even more narrows down my field of interest even more.

I am more interested in studying their disorders and elucidating what's going on since this is the only way we can hope to find a preventative mechanism for halting the progression of their disorders rather than just continuing to treat them when they already have it. Am I really that off the rocker with how I see things? I'm just want my research to impact as many people as possible and I feel that going through this method (attending top schools and R1 only), I'll receive the funding and collaborations that I need to truly be at the forefront of my field. I might be wrong about whether clinical neuropsychology is the best fit for me but I can't see the logic of the counterarguments regarding not pursuing a top well-respected school.
 

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Also, I think you're conceptualizing things a little unrealistically. Many people think that research is made up of breakthroughs and miracles. In reality, it gets by on little baby steps. Everyone wants to change the world with their research. The "attending top schools and R1 only" mentality is just going to lead to disappointment. The top researchers aren't top researchers simply because they "went to an R1."

The fact that your main factor for choice is "R1" rather than a specific researcher or school doing the methods that you want to learn is concerning. It makes you look like you have no idea of what this process entails. Also, if your answer to a POI's question of "why here?" is "because this is an R1 and I'm looking for prestige," good luck getting in somewhere.

People here aren't trying to be mean, they're just trying to get you to look at things a little realistically and pragmatically.
 

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I guess what stands out for me reading what you wrote is that you seem to be going about this the wrong way. If it were me (and this is what I'm doing), I would read academic papers in the area of your interest and start to look for potential professors, and therefor potential schools that way. Your perfect match could be, and most likely is, at a school you hadn't considered.

Trying to work from the school you want to apply to and then the professor is backwards, I think. If you get to interview this will likely show through..
+1 here. Think of grad school as an apprenticeship. Find mentors with whom you'd like to work and apply to those programs.
 
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I might be wrong about whether clinical neuropsychology is the best fit for me but I can't see the logic of the counterarguments regarding not pursuing a top well-respected school.
Because the people you will need to work with to get to where you want to go may not be at those schools. In psychology - clinical, quant, cognitive, etc. - the name of the school doesn't matter nearly so much as research fit. Put another way, if your research interests do not match up with a specific POI at the programs to which you are applying, you can apply with a 4.0GPA and offer to pay the bill in cash, and you will not be admitted.
 

InNae

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This exchange is rather similar to many I've had with undergrads who were formerly pre-med and decided for whatever reason to go for clinical psychology instead. My favorites are the ones who think admissions will be easier... (no, OP, I don't mean you :).

OP, you have misunderstood the posts if you think people are suggesting that you not try to attend a "top well-respected school". We are trying to explain that the "top well-respected schools" in clinical psychology/neuropsychology are not the ones you seem to think. Also, clinical neuropsychology is not clinical neurology is not neuroscience.

First, you might get this: http://www.amazon.com/Insiders-Graduate-Programs-Counseling-Psychology/dp/1462512046/ref=dp_ob_title_bk. Read about what clinical psychology is, as well as the application process and the steps to enhance competitiveness. Also use the convenient listings to look for clinical programs that (1) are listed as very research-oriented, and (2) have neuro faculty. Note that the highly research-oriented programs, which are virtually ALL at R1 institutions and are ALL extremely highly regarded and very well-funded, often are not in the institutions that are "most prestigious" based on undergraduate rankings (or med school rankings).

Then, get your GRE score up. It is currently well below the mean for all of the most research-oriented programs. Use the Insider's Guide to identify programs. Go to the program websites and find their student data, which usually will report the GRE means for incoming classes.

Finally, ditto WisNeuro above: "The top researchers aren't top researchers simply because they "went to an R1.""

Edit to add: Yes, other posters, I agree that the strategy of reading papers to identify potential mentors and then looking up the programs is the best strategy for identifying potential research fit, but sometimes you have to meet people where they are :).
 
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erg923

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I'll receive the funding and collaborations that I need to truly be at the forefront of my field. I might be wrong about whether clinical neuropsychology is the best fit for me but I can't see the logic of the counterarguments regarding not pursuing a top well-respected school.
Your goal is the first sentence, am I right?

Then...you go where you can do that. That could be UCLA or Yale. It could be Duke. It could be Wisconsin. It could be Indiana. It could be Appalachian State (but probably not)! Who cares, bro? At some point you need to ask yourself who you are fighting this battle for....

I think Andy Saykin went to Drexel.
https://geiselmed.dartmouth.edu/faculty/facultydb/view.php?uid=1710
 
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erg923

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I echo that you need to come down from the idealist clouds and start being a little more pragmatic about this. Remember what I said about academia? Its downwardly mobile the vast majority of the time. If you go to Yale, you are still going to end up being faculty at the Purdue's of the world. If you belive in statistics, you will accept the reality (or at least probability) of this.

Everyone wants to change the world. Good for you. I worked a soup kitchen at the Archdiocese this morning. My wife and I fed 200 people. Drop in the bucket, no? Multiple that by our entire Parish...thats how things get done. See what Im saying?
 
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cara susanna

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I am more interested in studying their disorders and elucidating what's going on since this is the only way we can hope to find a preventative mechanism for halting the progression of their disorders rather than just continuing to treat them when they already have it. Am I really that off the rocker with how I see things? I'm just want my research to impact as many people as possible and I feel that going through this method (attending top schools and R1 only), I'll receive the funding and collaborations that I need to truly be at the forefront of my field. I might be wrong about whether clinical neuropsychology is the best fit for me but I can't see the logic of the counterarguments regarding not pursuing a top well-respected school.
Well, I would argue that we need both. The biological model for psychopathology isn't that clean-cut and pretty, so tackling the problem from different angles might be necessary.
 
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SZ spectrum, autism spectrum, stroke, and severe dementia.
I'm just an undergrad, but…

1) All
of these? In one lifetime?

2) Sorry man, but for real, are you actually interested in e.g. synaptic pruning or plaque, or are you more interested in saying you're interested in this stuff?
 
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I'm just an undergrad, but…
1) All of these? In one lifetime?

2) Sorry man, but for real, are you actually interested in e.g. synaptic pruning or plaque, or are you more interested in saying you're interested in this stuff?
Sigh not all of them in one life time. I'm just saying these are the areas I'd be MOST interested in working in (also left epilepsy out of it). I'm not saying that I want to do ALL of them, I'm saying I want to do one of these versus depression/anxiety for example. And I'm only in my master's program but ive already worked with SZ, stroke, and epilepsy patients as well as done tissue engineering (worked in a biomedical engineering lab for a year and a half) so yes I think it's possible to dabble in all of them. What's stopping you? Aim high, my friend. Synaptic pruning is a normal biological process whereas plaque formation leads to things such as MS and Alzheimers so I don't know what you're getting at. Put it in this perspective, would I have graduated with 185 credits from undergrad and have taken upper level neuroscience courses for s%&ts and giggles? The only way you're going to tackle any of these more difficult problems in science (and anything really) is to approach it from as many angles as possible. By receiving training in as many related fields as possible, you'll have a better chance of understanding the complexity of the problem.

I echo that you need to come down from the idealist clouds and start being a little more pragmatic about this. Remember what I said about academia? Its downwardly mobile the vast majority of the time. If you go to Yale, you are still going to end up being faculty at the Purdue's of the world. If you belive in statistics, you will accept the reality (or at least probability) of this.

Everyone wants to change the world. Good for you. I worked a soup kitchen at the Archdiocese this morning. My wife and I fed 200 people. Drop in the bucket, no? Multiple that by our entire Parish...thats how things get done. See what Im saying?
I do agree with what you are saying regarding the downward mobility of academia, but no one says I need to stay in that for the rest of my career. If I do not like the powers that be in my program or feel that my research can flourish better in industry, then I don't have a problem switching careers. I'm trying to be as flexible as possible while pursuing the road less chosen. But I guess I understand your argument about clinical psychology not necessarily being the place for me because I see that I want to approach it from a more biological perspective that might not be too popular in the field. I guess I'll have to do my best to find programs that are more suited for neuroscience and clinical disorders. It's just hard to find many that work with people and not some sort of animal model. And the thing I am most afraid of is lets say the PI I am looking at currently has a collaboration going with a clinician, but what if a year after I get there, the collaboration falls apart and I cannot pursue any more work with clinical populations? I feel like this is less likely to happen if I pursue a clinical psychology degree...is this something worth worrying about?

To respond to what the majority of everyone else is saying, I understand what you are saying regarding where you go to school is not as important as who you worked under. I guess my goal to pursue the top schools is more in regards to upward mobility if I decide to work in industry, where I think that prestige of the University is more important than who you worked with (but I could be wrong).

Well, I would argue that we need both. The biological model for psychopathology isn't that clean-cut and pretty, so tackling the problem from different angles might be necessary.
I understand what you're saying, but regardless of what field of psychology you're in, you have to admit that most of these more difficult neurological/neurodegenerative disorders are most likely to be "cured" due to biological/genetic breakthroughs rather than a new form of CBT.

As always, thank you all for the advice. I truly appreciate it.
 

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Well, I would argue that we need both. The biological model for psychopathology isn't that clean-cut and pretty, so tackling the problem from different angles might be necessary.
In my opinion, psychologically-based interventions aren't going anywhere anytime soon, even if we completely figure out the biological/genetic origins and mechanisms of all of our current slate of diseases and conditions (which we won't, at least in my lifetime). Take mTBI for example--we perhaps understand more about it now than we did 10 years ago, sure, and there's some more info available on the "metabololic cascade" and secondary injury mechanisms that occur subsequent to TBI, but whether someone's symptoms are due to a history of concussion, their PTSD/other psychiatric distress, or something else, we're going to end up treating it (and relieving the associated distress) the same way. People will always experience emotional distress, and people will always have difficulty interacting with and understanding themselves, the world, and others.

And I'll end my digression there. To get back to the OP, as InNae mentioned, grabbing the Insider's Guide could go a long way to answering many of your questions about clinical psych. And like Ollie mentioned, with AI specifically, I feel you'd be better-served focusing your graduate research on that and collaborating with others for the clinical stuff rather than the other way around (given what you've said are your primary interests) in light of how hard it'd be to break into that field of study otherwise. The emphasis on biology isn't going to be unpopular in clinical psych, no; there are plenty of folks who come from backgrounds of bench/wet lab work, and who still focus on some of those aspects. It's your other interests (e.g., the AI aspect in particular) that might be hard to come by as far as advisors and labs go. But hey, I don't pretend to know what every psychologist out there is studying.

For short-term goals, again, working on upping the GRE if possible would be my #1 suggestion to boost your credentials. In the course of doing that, take some time (as has been said) to read some articles that're doing the kind of work you want to be doing (or at least something similar). Find out who and where those folks are. Narrow your program list down accordingly.
 
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In my opinion, psychologically-based interventions aren't going anywhere anytime soon, even if we completely figure out the biological/genetic origins and mechanisms of all of our current slate of diseases and conditions (which we won't, at least in my lifetime). Take mTBI for example--we perhaps understand more about it now than we did 10 years ago, sure, and there's some more info available on the "metabololic cascade" and secondary injury mechanisms that occur subsequent to TBI, but whether someone's symptoms are due to a history of concussion, their PTSD/other psychiatric distress, or something else, we're going to end up treating it (and relieving the associated distress) the same way. People will always experience emotional distress, and people will always have difficulty interacting with and understanding themselves, the world, and others.

And I'll end my digression there. To get back to the OP, as InNae mentioned, grabbing the Insider's Guide could go a long way to answering many of your questions about clinical psych. And like Ollie mentioned, with AI specifically, I feel you'd be better-served focusing your graduate research on that and collaborating with others for the clinical stuff rather than the other way around (given what you've said are your primary interests) in light of how hard it'd be to break into that field of study otherwise. The emphasis on biology isn't going to be unpopular in clinical psych, no; there are plenty of folks who come from backgrounds of bench/wet lab work, and who still focus on some of those aspects. It's your other interests (e.g., the AI aspect in particular) that might be hard to come by as far as advisors and labs go. But hey, I don't pretend to know what every psychologist out there is studying.

For short-term goals, again, working on upping the GRE if possible would be my #1 suggestion to boost your credentials. In the course of doing that, take some time (as has been said) to read some articles that're doing the kind of work you want to be doing (or at least something similar). Find out who and where those folks are. Narrow your program list down accordingly.
Thank you I really appreciate it your post. Do you think that taking the psych GRE is something I should do as well?
 

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Thank you I really appreciate it your post. Do you think that taking the psych GRE is something I should do as well?
Personally, I'd hold off on that until you have a more well-defined list of programs, assuming you aren't under a serious time crunch. Not all programs will require it (I applied to ~12, none of which did), so if all the places you're eyeing don't ask for it, then the prep time and money would be better spent elsewhere. And if you go the cog neurosci route, it might be an entirely moot point.

That's just my take, though.
 

erg923

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Doesn't the University of Maryland-CP have a "clinical neuroscience" program. Have you looked into it? Also, their clinical program has a speciality track for Schiz research. Its still a clinical program though, so clincial training and a full year of clinical work (internship) is still required. I am having a hardtime picturing you being very interested in anything that you cant write-up in a journal though....;)
 
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Doesn't the University of Maryland-CP have a "clinical neuroscience" program. Have you looked into it? Also, their clinical program has a speciality track for Schiz research. Its still a clinical program though, so clincial training and a full year of clinical work (internship) is still required. I am having a hardtime picturing you being very interested in anything that you cant write-up in a journal though....;)
:) haha looks like you know me well, brother. it's not that its just that I know that no one cares for you much unless you publish often and in well-cited/prestigious journals. and actually I have and plan on applying to U of MD since one of my PIs collaborates with them. thank you for the reminder! Since for a long time I was planning on attending medical school, I don't think the year internship for clinical work will be difficult for me to stomach, honestly I think I'll enjoy it assuming the patients are interesting :) haha. can the year for your clinical internship all be focused on one/two types of disorder or do you have to work with patients with various types of psychopathologies?
 

erg923

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:) haha looks like you know me well, brother. it's not that its just that I know that no one cares for you much unless you publish often and in well-cited/prestigious journals. and actually I have and plan on applying to U of MD since one of my PIs collaborates with them. thank you for the reminder! Since for a long time I was planning on attending medical school, I don't think the year internship for clinical work will be difficult for me to stomach, honestly I think I'll enjoy it assuming the patients are interesting :) haha. can the year for your clinical internship all be focused on one/two types of disorder or do you have to work with patients with various types of psychopathologies?
No, you can't be that picky. You treat what walks in.

Have you given thought, at least thought, to how this dream career will interact with, ya know....life? Life is what happens when you are bsuy making plans for big things, right?

I love my VA job just fine, but their are many other things I would be interested in doing too, but children, family, friends, tailgating, church, and golf make those other things take a back seat. And thats the reality of being an adult my friend. I would encourage you to consider the future of your non-professional life (what are those values, what are those goals) in addition to your profesonal life.
 
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modestmousktr

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There are 4 Ivy League schools with PhD programs (1 of which is radically different from all the others, and 1 of which is known for taking next-to-no students and is not very well established) and arguably 2-3 "top tier" programs in CA. 5 of those 7 schools could very well be the 5 most competitive in the country and the other 2 are also extraordinarily difficulty to get into due to location (and people like you).
Totally off topic, but have been wondering for quite some time... is the one known for taking next-to-no students and not well established Harvard? I'm not interested in Ivy League, prestiga, yada yada, not applying to Yale or anything like that, and Boston would actually be an inconvenient location for me to relocate to, but I am completely obsessed with the work of one professor there, I have been following their publications for about two years and have read everything available through my university library. Anyway, I ask because I am so excited to apply and love this work, but notice on SDN and GradCafe that there are never acceptances... do they not take students every year? I know it's Harvard, and I see the match rate is 100%, but do they not have that many resources or something? Also, if you're not referring to Harvard, sorry about this, haha.
 
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Sigh not all of them in one life time. I'm just saying these are the areas I'd be MOST interested in working in (also left epilepsy out of it). I'm not saying that I want to do ALL of them, I'm saying I want to do one of these versus depression/anxiety for example. And I'm only in my master's program but ive already worked with SZ, stroke, and epilepsy patients as well as done tissue engineering (worked in a biomedical engineering lab for a year and a half) so yes I think it's possible to dabble in all of them. What's stopping you? Aim high, my friend. Synaptic pruning is a normal biological process whereas plaque formation leads to things such as MS and Alzheimers so I don't know what you're getting at. Put it in this perspective, would I have graduated with 185 credits from undergrad and have taken upper level neuroscience courses for s%&ts and giggles? The only way you're going to tackle any of these more difficult problems in science (and anything really) is to approach it from as many angles as possible. By receiving training in as many related fields as possible, you'll have a better chance of understanding the complexity of the problem..
Ok, I get it, no neurotics ;)

Sure, I can see how exposure to a broad range of research (or even general experience and knowledge) could spark insights, and obviously it’d be good for a clinician to know about more than one disorder or dysfunction… Idk, most of the researchers whose work I’ve read have seemed to focus on one itty bitty corner of a thing, for a good while. Like you look at a CV, and there’ll be 5-8 years on a teeny corner, and then a move three degrees to the right for another 5-8 years. (re [failed] synaptic pruning, was thinking of its puted relationship to autism, and my [unstated] question was, are you or could you be coo-coo-for-coco-puffs coo-coo over one itty bitty corner of a thing, like that, or like plaque formation, or whatever, the way the owners of those CVs might have to be to endure their careers.)
 
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No, you can't be that picky. You treat what walks in.

Have you given thought, at least thought, to how this dream career will interact with, ya know....life? Life is what happens when you are bsuy making plans for big things, right?

I love my VA job just fine, but their are many other things I would be interested in doing too, but children, family, friends, tailgating, church, and golf make those other things take a back seat. And thats the reality of being an adult my friend. I would encourage you to consider the future of your non-professional life (what are those values, what are those goals) in addition to your profesonal life.
I feel you man and that makes sense in your position. You have to provide for not only yourself, but your family as well. I don't have any of those concerns right now so I want to push as far as I can career wise while letting everything fall into place. No rush to get married, not planning on having kids, I'm an atheist so no worries about church =P. Sky is the limit at the moment :)
 
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Ok, I get it, no neurotics ;)

Sure, I can see how exposure to a broad range of research (or even general experience and knowledge) could spark insights, and obviously it’d be good for a clinician to know about more than one disorder or dysfunction… Idk, most of the researchers whose work I’ve read have seemed to focus on one itty bitty corner of a thing, for a good while. Like you look at a CV, and there’ll be 5-8 years on a teeny corner, and then a move three degrees to the right for another 5-8 years. (re [failed] synaptic pruning, was thinking of its puted relationship to autism, and my [unstated] question was, are you or could you be coo-coo-for-coco-puffs coo-coo over one itty bitty corner of a thing, like that, or like plaque formation, or whatever, the way the owners of those CVs might have to be to endure their careers.)
From what I've been told from previous PIs (and also it makes sense) is to have as much on your CV as possible to stand out. The more things you know how to do, the more jobs that are available to you, and the better you look to a potential employer. Now I'm not saying bounce around and do nonsensical things, but if it's easy to spot a common motif throughout your academic career and pursuits, and you stand out from everyone else, then you're golden my friend.

Don't pick from the tree everyone else is picking from, try to find a new one with all the apples on it and start picking from there ~ that leads to gold.
 
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Just to summarize everything from earlier, if I just up my GRE scores, I should be very competitive for the top neuropsych programs (regardless of what school they're at)?
 

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No.

If you can't demonstrate fit (not just broad topics, but actual fit with a specific mentor or program), it doesn't matter what your GRE scores are. Faculty in my program don't even interview, much less admit, lots of applicants with very high GRE scores and lots of research experience. No PI wants a grad student who can't demonstrate an understanding of the field, the topic, and the approach. There's no reason we should, given there are so many applicants who have the whole package.
 
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No.

If you can't demonstrate fit (not just broad topics, but actual fit with a specific mentor or program), it doesn't matter what your GRE scores are. Faculty in my program don't even interview, much less admit, lots of applicants with very high GRE scores and lots of research experience. No PI wants a grad student who can't demonstrate an understanding of the field, the topic, and the approach. There's no reason we should, given there are so many applicants who have the whole package.
Well I guess lucky for me that I have broad research interests then lol
 

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Agreed. And, with all due respect, kinda suprised this is still what you thought after everything we have said in this thread. Quantitatively you would be, but I am at a loss for how you thinking about neuropsychology? Generally speaking, this actually a VERY applied subdicipline of clinical psychology that certainly uses neuroscience/neurology, biology, etc....but it is just as much about psychology, psychometrics, assessment, and other applied procedure which you express absolutely NO interest in. Although your interests overlap, you are not really a fit. At least, I dont see it.

I have little doubt that the mismatch that we have picked up on in this thread is conveyed in your previous application materials and in your interviews with program professors. You HAVE to start thinking: 1. on a smaller and more focused scale. 2. that focus has to be in-line with that that labs/professor does and where its going. Period. I would approach this like plumbers do. Novice, Journeyman, etc.

On a more idiosycratic level, even professors who might like you or think you to be a good fit for their lab are likley to get questioning/kickback from someone like me, as I simply do not pick up any real interest or passion in working "for patients" but simply an interest in working with the pathology. This is fine, but bounces you to the experiemental side of the things in my mind.
 
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WisNeuro

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Well I guess lucky for me that I have broad research interests then lol
Not what she was talking about. When applicants come in and say they want to do everything. It's a red flag and it's seen as undisciplined. POI's generally want someone with a coherent plan, a story they can tell. Otherwise they think someone is just blowing smoke and they get shifted to the bottom of the list.