Prospective Students

Our Lab Manual

I encourage prospective students to read over my webpage (especially the information below), the graduate program webpage, and also check out our lab manual.  The lab manual is written for current students, but as a prospective student, you will likely find it helpful to better understand the way our lab works and how we build our community of scientists.  

Information for Prospective Students

For Fall 2024, I will only consider MS students (I expect to retire by 2028, and I would like to have graduated all of my student by that time).  I am most keen to attract student(s) who are interested in mosquito population dynamics [applying ideas about propagule redirection (Stier and Osenberg 2010 and Briggs and Osenberg 2019) and cryptic density dependence (Shima and Osenberg 2003) which we’ve developed for reef fish],  marsh ecology [especially involving Littoraria and Spartina interactions, building on Rebecca’s research (Atkins et al. 2015, 2022)], or doing work that involves mathematical/simulation modeling or meta-analysis (i.e., not involving fieldwork).

What you should do if you’re interested in joining my lab ….

1) 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), Shima and Osenberg 2003 (Ecology),  Osenberg et al. 2006 (Foundations of Restoration Ecology), Stier and Osenberg (2010)], and those above, as well as recent ones to see what we’ve been up to.  Also check out some of the posts on my webpage and the webpages of my current and past students.

2) a copy of your CV.

3) copies of any papers, manuscripts, theses, or reports you’ve written based upon your prior research.

4) I expect that 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.   Thus, I’d appreciate you e-mailing 1-2 page 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 MS (or PhD).  Ideally this would be a short 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 (I don’t necessarily expect you to pursue this particular idea), it will facilitate our discussions and allow me to better see what interests you, your knowledge of the discipline, and your thinking process.  If you cannot articulate a possible project, it is unlikely that I’ll consider you for admission.

5) what experiences have prepared you for graduate school (who you’ve conducted research with, what you’ve done, research presentations, publications, etc.), if it’s not already obvious from your CV.

6) (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.  No student will be admitted without financial support.  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 — historically, I never “handed” a PhD student a project, although I expected that their questions will be similar to my own (or else they wouldn’t be working in my lab).  As I shift to mentoring MS students, that approach will change.  I expect to work more closely with a MS student to develop their research ideas, but even in those cases, I expect the student to lead — it’s important that they are happy with, and curious about, the thesis they complete. I enjoy interacting and working with my students, and 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.

You might also find it helpful to read these outside articles that provide advice about graduate school and suggestion for how to apply to graduate school.

My current grants are devoted to supporting my current students.  Thus, I primarily expect new students to be supported by TAships (unless they receive a fellowship).  I will be able to provide some research funds, and I will work with all of my students to procure additional funding.

To get a better sense of me, you might want to check out my favorite quotes.