Information for Prospective Students
What you should do if you’re interested in joining my lab …. Please read some of my publications. I suggest that you look at some older ones to get a sense of the questions I ask, my philosophy, and the approaches that I take, without regard to the system [Osenberg et al. 1999 (Ecology), Osenberg et al. 2002 (Ecology Letters), Vonesh and Osenberg 2003 (Ecology Letters), Shima and Osenberg 2003 (Ecology), Osenberg et al. 2006 (Foundations of Restoration Ecology), Stier and Osenberg (2010)], as well as some newer ones to see what we’ve been up to recently. Also check out some of the posts on my webpage and the webpages of my current and past students. Although most of my recent work is in coral reef systems or involves meta-analysis, I’m particularly keen to recruit new students who are interested in aquatic systems, especially in the Athens region (coastal Georgia, SREL, streams, mosquito population/patch dynamics, etc.).
I’m confident you’ve been thinking a lot about the types of research questions that drive you intellectually and the type of graduate program that you’d like to be a part of. If you are interested in joining my lab, I’d appreciate it if you can contact me via e-mail with:
1) a copy of your CV;
2) copies of any papers, manuscripts, theses, or reports you’ve written based upon your prior research;
3) a statement that tells me what types of research questions you are interested in. Be specific — tell me what drives you to do science, what excites you intellectually, and what type of project you envision for your PhD. Ideally this would include a 1-2 page research proposal that articulates a compelling concept/question/problem, together with your approach to resolve that question (much like you might submit as a research statement in an NSF GRFP application). While I expect your ideas to evolve from this roadmap, it will facilitate our discussions and allow me to better see what interests you, your knowledge of the discipline, and your thinking process.
4) what experiences have prepared you for graduate school (who you’ve conducted research with, what you’ve done, resultant publications, etc.), if it’s not already obvious from your CV; and
5) (although I hate asking this)… your GPA (I use this as a crude way to see “flags” — the university also has certain minimum requirements, so it’s best that we deal with these issues up front).
My philosophy…. I expect my students to value critical interaction and to seek out diverse scientific input. I did not get into science to work in isolation, and I expect my students to share a spirit for interaction (e.g., over beers, bourbons, or cups of coffee, and certainly at a blackboard and in the field). I expect students to attend the departmental seminar as well as other seminars and reading groups. I don’t care about grades (they are irrelevant, although there will be some important courses you’ll need to take) — instead I value your growth as a scientist and colleague. I challenge my students to combine field, lab, observational, experimental, statistical, and mathematical approaches. The combination is far more powerful than any one alone.
My students are supported by my research grants, their own grants/fellowships, and by teaching assistantships. Many of my students have (or had) university or federal (e.g., EPA or NSF) fellowships, and all have received a variety of smaller grants (typically <$6,000) from a diversity of sources. Overall, they have succeeded in attracting over a million dollars in research funds and fellowships. I expect students to attempt to procure their own funding (grant writing is an important part of their training), based on the development of questions that are “independent” of my own — I rarely “hand” a student a project, although I expect that their questions will be similar to my own (or else they wouldn’t be working in my lab). In some cases, the students may work on the same system as I do. But in these cases, they still need to develop a research project in which they can independently develop their ideas (with support, but not too much interference, from me). I enjoy interacting and working with my students, and will offer them whatever help that I can (financial and intellectual), but my primary goal is to help them develop into, and succeed as, independent, creative scientists.
Some useful outside advice about graduate school.
To get a better sense of me, you might want to check out my favorite quotes.