The Parasitic Behavioral Manipulation Lab at the University of Central Florida supports postdoctoral, doctoral and undergraduate research. The integrative nature of our research makes for a vibrant lab with researchers from various backgrounds and with a variety of research interests. Our lab is an inclusive workplace where everyone can feel comfortable being their authentic selves. We value our differences and believe that learning and sharing ideas across race, gender, age, religion, identity, nationality, and experiences makes us all better scientists and human beings. If you are interested in becoming part of our research team, please, carefully read the information below.
Infected animals often behave differently from healthy animals. These changes can involve precise manipulations caused by parasites to increase that parasite’s chances to spread. How exactly manipulative parasites can alter host behavior is largely unknown. The behaviorally tractable “zombie ant system” has the potential to expose the mechanisms underlying parasitic behavioral manipulation and fundamentally transform perceptions of parasite-host interactions and their behavioral ecology effects. Our lab uses these fungus-infected “zombie ants” as a model to study disease progression, related behavioral phenotypes, and the mechanisms underlying those phenotypes. We love to push the boundaries when it comes to available techniques for this novel model system so we often find ourselves adopting and creating new tools to answer our research questions. Does that sound like an exciting way to do science to you? Then, keep on reading!
Prospective Graduate Researchers
Prospective students who fit well within our lab are passionate about science, creative, motivated to participate in scientific outreach, and work well within a team as well as independently. It also works in your favor if you have already developed good working knowledge in experimental design and statistics, and have great oral and written communication skills.
To be considered for a graduate position, you should have a strong interest in at least some of the following:
- the molecular workings of parasite-host interactions and parasitic manipulations,
- ant behavior
- fungal biology
- circadian biology
- quantitative behavioral analyses and programming (i.e., behavioral tracking and coding to analyze data),
- genomics, transcriptomics and bioinformatics
- molecular biology (e.g., gene-editing technology, molecular microbiology, microscopy)
How to apply?
Space for graduate students in the Parasitic Behavioral Manipulation Lab is limited. The number of students joining the lab in any given year is directly dependent on lab funding, the number of current students, and project needs. Before applying to the UCF Integrative and Conservation Biology Program to join Dr. de Bekker’s lab, please, first confirm if space is available for new students. In fact, reaching out to PIs of labs that you are interested in well before the graduate program application deadline is the norm! Do not skip this step (also if you plan on applying elsewhere)!
Some tips and information for prospective students:
- Application deadlines for the graduate program in the UCF Biology Department are December 1st for students who want to start in the Fall (August) of the following year.
- For the graduate program in the Biology Department, you MUST contact a faculty member to develop a rapport and eventually obtain a commitment from that advisor to supervise you.
- The UCF Biology Department’s graduate selection committee determines acceptance. However, it is vital for your application that a faculty member wants you to join their lab. Otherwise, you will be not be considered.
- To find out if Dr. de Bekker is considering taking new students for the next academic year, email her in the Fall prior to the application deadline (~August – November).
- In your email, attach a CV or resume and include a short synopsis of your research interests.
- Be patient. Dr. de Bekker receives a large number of emails from prospective students and may not be able to respond to everyone.
- For more information on the application process, please see the UCF Biology website.