A (top) professor in her field advised me to look at the Santa Fe Institute. I look at it, and wow, it is perfectly match my interests. I love to research, but I don't want to focus only in the niche of the niche of my field. I also want to explore things outside my discipline, and I want to collaborate with people from other fields.
The point is, should I go to there instead of going to grad school? As far as I know, because it isn't a grad school, so I can't receive a PhD from it. I want to research; if a PhD is a ticket for me to be a full time researcher, then I want a PhD. However, looks like that without a PhD, I can't be considered to be serious in my career path. From its About page:
Researchers come to the Santa Fe Institute from universities, government agencies, research institutes, and private industry to collaborate across disciplines, merging ideas and principles of many fields
The Institute consists of a small number of resident faculty and postdoctoral researchers, a large group of external faculty whose primary appointments are at other institutions, and a number of visiting scholars.
Looks like I'm not a person who it has interest with.
But how about its researchers? Say I send an email to Researcher X, from University Y, who works for the institute (part time? full time?) to join their lab. If I get admitted, which organization am I in? X's lab as a worker, or Y school as a X's student, or something else? Is there any difference from applying to school Y and join X's lab as usual? And what does my career, in long-term, look like after that?