Note to Prospective Students

Please read below and then contact Dave [david.jenkins “at”] or Pedro [pedro.quintana-ascencio “at”], as appropriate, with the 4 items listed below. We are not actively seeking new students at this time, but if you can answer Yes to each of the Five Questions and you’re comfortable with the other two points, then please send:

  1. an explanation of your thoughts on each of the points below,
  2. your research interests and related experience,
  3. a brief summary of your academic credentials (GPA, GRE scores, etc.),
  4. and why you chose to contact us among your many academic options.

All of this is simply a way to help you think well about this important step before you contact us, because potential students who demonstrate careful thoughts about all this are better candidates. Consequently, we will be most interested in students who follow these suggestions, and to be honest, less interested in those who do not. We hope that helps your decision process,

– Dave & Pedro

Five Questions:

  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 7% of the US population earns a Master’s degree and 1% earns a PhD. Think about that for a minute. Those who complete grad school do so because they love to learn, despite the hurdles.
  2. Are you interested in some of the journal articles and other information available on this lab’s web page? You should understand the research topics we’ve been interested in, though we don’t have to work on the same subjects. Presumably, we can best advise you on research that is somewhat related to our experience.
  3. Do you like ecology because it is interwoven with math, statistics, and computing? You should, because it is. We’re 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 our job is advising student research projects, because its fun to help and watch students develop their own ideas and carry them through. We try to balance our responsibility to be actively engaged as advisors 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 us, and that means you should enjoy interactions with your colleagues.

You should also know that:

  • Entry to grad school is very competitive and is based on multiple features, such as your research experience, your ideas for a graduate research project, your application to be accepted, conversations we may have, openings in our lab, and availability of financial support, typically as a teaching assistant (TA) or research assistant (RA). Much of that list depends entirely on you, but other items depend on timing and opportunity here and – despite your credentials – may preclude your being a grad student in our lab. We recommend this article for great general advice and insight to the process.
  • You’re not an undergraduate anymore. Of course, you are expected to do well in your courses. But beyond that, you must also excel as a TA or RA and be an active member of the lab (i.e., fully participate in lab meetings, help others with their research, and carry your weight in shared lab jobs and as a member of the department). 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, a tolerance for stress, and a lot of work.