Prospective Graduate Students
Thinking of joining our lab as a graduate student? (Click above)
If you are fascinated by evolution and driven to understand it and communicate what you learn to the world, you might be in the right place!
Our lab is focused on the evolutionary origins of bioluminescence, vision, eyes, and light-mediated behaviors in invertebrates (mostly marine inverts). My main strengths are in phylogenetic analyses and applying molecular tools to organismal questions. Our lab is quite integrative, using tools from behavior, biochemistry, development, genomics, etc. My own main interests are the evolutionary origins of novel features; convergent evolution; and connecting genotype and phenotype during evolution. If these are the types of questions that interest you too, you could be in the right place!
Our lab conducts research using computers (bioinformatics), lab experiments, and field expeditions. One way that helps me get to know you as a scientist is to understand which of those techniques (defintely not mutually exclusive) you might most want to use in your science.
***In my mind, top applicants can communicate to me interesting directions in biology that they want to pursue in my lab. My goal is to harness the enthusiasm you have for biology and help you channel that into fun, impactful, rigorous, and ethical science.***
The Application Process
My goal is for graduate students to learn how to start their own research programs that interface with broad outline of research topics above. Therefore, having overlapping research interests is fundamental. In addition, I like to have a diversity of different people in the lab - different perspectives help us discover new ideas and communicate our science to broader audiences. I want to always have a safe and welcoming lab environment, which I believe starts with communication.
In the end, if you are comfortable with all this, I encourage you to apply to UCSB, and I welcome questions you might have. Please note that if applying is financially difficult for you, there are fee wavers available from UCSB for you to apply - I am happy to help you find how to get one of those.
1. Before application deadline
Reach out and let me know your research interests -- especially if you want to try for the NSF GRFP or other fellowships. These fellowships take quite a few weeks to prepare, so best to start early! If you have questions about the application process, I will try to respond as soon as I can - but be persistent - it is easy for me to lose track of emails. Also please note that most years quite a few people contact me at this stage of the process, so be patient. The easiest and fairest way for me to evaluate everyone with interest in our lab at UCSB is to wait for the full applications to be submitted (see below).
2. Application deadline (December)
Even if you don't apply for outside fellowships, you can apply to UCSB and that application can be used to compete for central fellowships (see below). You will need written statements of research interests, and background. You will also need 3 letters of recommendation, usually best if these can come from professors who know you, but there are other possibilities too (reach out if you want some advice).
3. Just after Application deadline
I try to read all the applications for our lab in late December, and reach out to a few students that seem most promising for our lab in terms of research interest, diversity, and funding opportunities. Once I see full applications with letters of recommendation and research interests, I will interview who I think are the most promising applicants. My goal is to communicate with top applicants by Zoom or phone, probably shortly after you'd officially apply to UCSB.
4. Longer after application deadline
As a department, we often invite top applicants for a "recruitment weekend" where they attend our annual graduate student symposium (usually in Febrary). At the symposium, current grad students from the department present a 15-minute talk on their research. This gives prospective students a good idea of the research in the department.
There will be many uncertainties, including admission decisions to UCSB, funding decisions, etc. So this time will take some patience. The decision deadline is April 15, so you will find out about admission sometime in March.
Graduate school is not like undergrad - we get paid to do research and teach! That said, where the funding for this comes from is a bit complicated, because there are so many possibilities. But I like to be upfront about all the possibilities, and so I will try to explain it here. I do not fully fund graduate students from my own grants (except for summer support and occasional quarters during the school year). This increases their freedom, because their research is not tied to the goals of my own grants, and acts as a good introduction to real world science (finding support is a major requirement of being a scientist). The bottom line is that if you apply for and receive a fellowship like the NSF GRFP Fellowship or one of the very small number of UCSB-wide fellowships- this would provide you with the most flexibility in pursuing your studies. There are also a few other options for funding besides fellowships too, but the best way is to win a fellowship. Here, are some of the most common options for funding in our lab.
Tier 1 - Fellowships
The NSF GRFP deadline is in fall each year. To get this fellowship requires writing a research proposal and fellowship application. Of particular importance are the Broader Impacts. One strong approach is that if you have overcome obstacles to higher education and you use that as fuel to help others, this will dramatically improve your fellowship proposal! Our lab has good success with that fellowship. If you do apply, our lab could provide feedback, given enough lead time with the writing -- contact us!
Each year, I nominate to the department one student for UCSB fellowships. These are also very competitive and mostly rely on your previous scholarly activities, and your potential. Some of the fellowships weigh contributions to diversity very highly, in addition to scholarship/merit. If you would like to share with me your contributions in this area of broadening diversity in science, and/or if you have faced serious obstacles to higher education, those are things I could highlight in a diversity nomination. The best way for me to select the most competitive person for the UCSB fellowships is to wait until all applications are in, and then I look at the applications. At that time (December or January), I interview some students by phone/teleconference, and then we invite 1 or 2 for a campus visit, usually in February. We usually get about 10-15 applicants per year for our lab. Based on my nomination, and those of other EEMB professors, our department selects 3-5 candidates and they are judged by UCSB's graduate division.
For students outside the US - you can still qualify for UCSB fellowships. However, the federal fellowships like NSF GFRP is only for US citizens. Many countries have fellowships that would allow a student to study abroad. Those are certainly worth looking into.
Tier 2 - TAships
(updated September, 2023)
Besides the full-ride NSF or UCSB-wide fellowships, students are also supported by TAships. My students can serve as TAs Invertebrate Zoology Labs and my course on Macroevolution (phylogenetics and fossil record). There are often TA positions available in introductory biology lab classes, other evolution classes, and another invertebrate class as well. There has never been a problem with my students finding support. But beyond the classes I teach, TAships are determined by the department, so you will usually not know what you will be teaching until a few months before that class starts. This is a main reason why getting fellowships is key!
As of 2023, the EEMB department instituted a ranking system for the admission of new graduate students that is strongly influenced by how many graduate students are already in our lab funded by TAships. Note this does not affect continuing support, but affects whether a new student without their own funding will be accepted into the department. In 2023, the demographics of the lab means we have a fairly low priority (13/17) for recuriting a new graduate student who needs TA support. For this reason students applying this year will likely only be admitted if they obtain their own funding.