For Prospective Graduate Students

A quick look at our Research page will show that, although common themes run throughout, students in my lab are independent researchers who are expected to develop their own projects, not cogs in a single-project machine. I’m interested in students who are excited about using mechanistic approaches to understanding behavior and ecology, who have their own ideas, and who welcome the challenge of developing intellectually and professionally. I’ll consider any student who I think I have the expertise to advise, and the ability to help grow personally; you, in turn, have to have a fairly strong, and fairly specific idea, about what you’re interested in.  “I have always loved birds” and “I am interested in your research” are not statements of sufficient specificity for me to judge whether I can effectively serve as your graduate advisor.  In general I am far more interested in students with life experience that indicates curiosity, inventiveness, and independence than I am in recently-graduated undergraduates with excellent grades alone.

Most funding for graduate students in our department is in the form of teaching assistantships. Along with other aspects of professional development, I push my students to develop their own fund-raising and grant writing skills; I encourage new students to start out by applying for graduate fellowships (such as NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, or Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships). Winning such a fellowship improves your chances for admittance, as well as giving you autonomy and the freedom to concentrate on your research.

If you think you’d like to join our lab, consult the department web page for prospective grad students on programs and how to apply. Then email me, and include in your message:

  • A description of what you think you’d like to study; the more specific you can be, the better.
  • Why you think our lab is the place for you to study it.
  • M.S. or Ph.D?
  • A description of your research/field/life experience so far as it relates to graduate work. Do you have bird banding or winter camping experience? Do you know how to fix an outboard motor, or a computer? Do you know how to skin a bird? How much experience do you have with statistical analysis? Tell me about the skills you have that you are most proud of, that are most unusual or most useful! In short: Who ARE You?
  • A copy of your CV
  • Your college grades (an unofficial transcript is fine).
  • Your GRE (and TOEFL, if relevant) scores
  • A writing sample: an undergraduate honors thesis, a chapter from your M.S. thesis, even a blog post about science.

I’ll respond to inquiries as quickly as I can. If you don’t follow the instructions above, or it’s obvious you aren’t a good fit for our lab, you’ll get a “No” back quickly. If you’re among those I have to consider seriously, it will take me some time to look at and digest your materials; expect to wait at least a few days or as much as a week for a response!