To Prospective Graduate Students

Please read below if you are interested in a graduate student position with Dave Jenkins.

This was written in the hope that it will help you find and succeed in a grad program. If you can demonstrate careful thoughts about the following you will be a better candidate here or elsewhere. And to be honest, I will be most interested in students who read below and follow these suggestions, but less interested in those who do not.

  1. Do you see grad school as your best opportunity to immerse yourself in a subject that fascinates you? To be a grad student is to value ideas and learning more highly than material wealth. Grad school is not just a ticket to a job or a means to delay paying student loans. About 8% of the US population earns a Master’s degree and only 2% earns a PhD. Think about that for a minute. And even after a Ph.D., the job opportunities will be limited – you gotta want this for the intangibles.
  2. Are you interested in some of the journal articles and other information available on this lab’s web page? Why? You should understand the research topics I’ve been interested in, though we don’t have to work on the same subjects. Presumably, I can best advise you on research that is somewhat related to my experience.
  3. Do you like ecology because it is interwoven with math, statistics, and computing? You should, because it is. I’m interested in students who are adept in all these skills, or who want to become so.
  4. Do you think of yourself as independent and responsible? The best part of my job is advising student research projects, because its fun to help and watch students develop their own ideas and carry them through. I try to balance my responsibility to be actively engaged as an advisor with the need for students to learn on their own and emerge the richer for the experience.
  5. Do you enjoy working with people from a variety of backgrounds? Our lab and department includes grad students who are varied in experience and backgrounds, and are quite interactive. You are likely to learn more from other grad students than from me, and that means you should enjoy interactions with your colleagues. I hope you will enjoy helping other grad students – you will learn a lot and get help in return.

You should also know that:

  • Entry to grad school is very competitive and is based on (a) your GRE exam scores, (b) strong letters of recommendation, (c) grade point average, (d) openings in my lab, and (e) availability of financial support, typically as a teaching assistant (TA) or research assistant (RA). Items (a-c) depend entirely on you: items (d, e) depend on timing and opportunity here, and thus may preclude your being a grad student in my lab, despite your credentials. In other words, you may be very ready and well prepared for grad school but it may not happen at any one school. I recommend this article for great advice and insight.
  • You’re not an undergraduate anymore. Of course, you are expected to do well in your courses. Beyond that, you must also excel as a TA or RA and be an active member of the lab (i.e., fully participate, help others with their research, and carry your weight). Most importantly, you’re expected to make steady progress on high-quality research. The goal from the outset is to publish that research, which imposes stringent criteria and demands excellence throughout. To accomplish all that requires strong motivation, stress tolerance, and a lot of work.

Finally! – I am most interested in students who have relevant experience/expertise for the following research (but I’m open to other cool ideas, too):

  • Many spatially isolated wetlands exist at the MacArthur Agro-ecology Research Center (MAERC) and Archbold Biological Station (ABS). We have multiple years’ insect data at MAERC and a year’s zooplankton samples collected from ABS. And Betsey Boughton at MAERC has even more vegetation data. “Isolated” wetlands serve as great study systems for metapopulation / metacommunity ecology, including invasive species and phylogenetic community analyses. Projects there may include funded summer internships.
  • Metapopulation & metacommunity modeling: Simulation and statistical models can be developed to evaluate and test the above empirical work, where modeling could build on existing platforms or be new.

So… If you answered Yes to each of the questions; you’re comfortable with the other two points; and the research topics above interest you (or you have other cool ideas you want to explain), then please contact me by email (david.jenkins [AT] with:

  1. your thoughts on each of the questions and points above,
  2. your general career goals, research interests and related experience,
  3. a brief summary of your academic credentials (research experience, GRE scores, etc.),
  4. why the specific projects above (or your own cool ideas) interest you
  5. and why you chose to contact me among your many academic options.

Thanks for reading all the way through,

Dave Jenkins