We are recruiting talented individuals passionate about ecological research!
If you are looking for a lab for undergraduate research, go to graduate school and earn your PhD, or conduct Postdoctoral research, please contact me. We currently have openings for undergraduates and funding for both graduate students and a Postdoctoral Scholar.
If you're interested, please email Dr. Kevin C. Rose at email@example.com.
What does it take to succeed in graduate school?
Attending graduate school often requires undergoing a steep learning curve. But not necessarily in a way that a learning curve is typically used. Yes, I expect that graduate students to make cutting edge, theoretical advancements in ecology. This requires knowing the essential theory and state of the discipline, and keeping on top of peer-reviewed literature. But there is another learning curve that is equally, if not more, important.
A lesson many graduate students must learn is that traditional definitions of "smart" do not matter much in graduate school. In high school and undergraduate years, it's relatively easy to be successful and considered "smart". But in a PhD program, most people have the skills that set them apart in earlier years. If they didn't, they likely wouldn't be there. A key lesson to learn in graduate school is that you cannot stick to an outdated definition of academic success as being smarter or getting better grades than others. All that will do is undercut your happiness and mental health. Many graduate courses don't even include grades beyond a few initial courses. And, given the selection for successful students, it's fully possible that you are going to be below the class average. But guess what? Most times this doesn't matter. At all.
The point of getting a PhD is to move beyond a traditional academic definition of "smart". To move beyond the ability to do well regurgitating information and doing well on tests. Ultimately, the goal is to move beyond consuming knowledge and into producing it.
This can be a hard adjustment. It means that the traditional definition of "smart" doesn't matter much. What does matter? Attributes such as how determined, conscientious, open-minded, curious, passionate, welcoming, friendly, and collaborate you are become far more important. The 'dumbest' person in any PhD program is MORE than smart enough to have a world-class scientific career with these traits.
Be part of the team. I value teamwork and collaboration and I expect my students to be engaged and active members of the lab. This includes taking part in lab meetings, helping other lab members with analysis or field work, participating in lab extracurricular activities, assisting me with project management and logistics, valuing and respecting the time and skills of other lab members, and generally working to be an integral and important member of the lab.
Be productive. Graduate school and post-doctoral research positions are full time jobs. However, everyone in my lab needs to learn for themselves how to work their best and be their most productive. Being productive does not require working unreasonable hours. It’s about quality, not quantity. I place a high value on finding and maintaining a healthy work-life balance and I do not expect my students to be in the office all the time. However, if productively is not where I would like it to be, we will have a discussion about this, and develop a plan for improving productivity that might involve more physical time in the office or lab.
Meet objectives on time. I will try to be clear about my expectations and the objectives that each person in my lab must meet. Those objectives might relate to research progress, teaching, publishing, data collection, and more. I expect that lab members will meet these objectives in the agreed upon time frame. If there is some reason that objectives will not be met, I expect to know about this early in order to revise my expectations. Waiting until a deadline arrives to tell me that the deadline will not be met is the worst thing you can do.
Respond to emails/calls/requests in a timely manner. The definition of “timely” will vary depending on the nature of the request. I will try to include a specific timeline for response in requests, especially if they are complicated or require a significant time investment. Generally, I expect some kind of response to simple requests within 48 hours (excluding weekends). Note that I will sometimes send emails at odd hours, this does NOT mean that I expect an immediate response when I send an email at 11:00pm. It just means that is the time that works for me to send emails that day, so please do not panic if you get a bunch of correspondence from me outside of work hours.
Communicate. I expect my students to communicate with me on a regular basis. I will discuss the importance of this at the start of the program, and establish a system of face-to-face meetings, email, and project management that works for both of us. Communication includes (most importantly) keeping me in the loop on project development, but also around issues they are facing, complications with their work, and their schedules (e.g., if they will be away for extended periods of time). I need to know when things are not going well – otherwise things can go off the rails rather quickly – being proactive on communications is essential.
Develop a research project. A core part of graduate school and post-doctoral positions is developing research questions. I expect my students to do this, with input, collaboration, and guidance from me. Your projects will very likely be a mix of my ideas and your ideas.
Interact with people outside of academia. Research in my lab has real world applications. In order to have any chance of making a difference in the world, our research needs to be conducted in collaboration with those who might use the results. This means more than just giving a presentation to stakeholders at the completion of a project. This means respecting the knowledge and expertise of managers, stakeholders, and citizens and incorporating this knowledge in the early stages of a project. It also means receiving and responding to feedback from these groups on research approaches, results, and applications. Finally, it means communicating results beyond publishing papers in scientific journals.
Be organized. I expect students and post-docs to be organized. Together we will develop objectives and timelines for their project, and I expect you to do the work of planning how you will achieve these objectives in the agreed upon time frame (or communicate with me early about roadblocks that might prevent you from doing so, see above!). I expect mentees to come to meetings with the appropriate documents (prepared ahead of time) and with questions prepared. Being organized is a key step towards effective time management and that is essential for success in graduate school (and beyond!).
Apply for funding when appropriate. I do my best to find funding for research. This includes supporting each student with summer salary and providing support for Research Assistantships (RAs) when possible. At the same time, I expect my students to be on the lookout for any funding opportunities relevant to their research, whether it’s applying to a fellowship to get them through their final year, or applying for funds to offset costs for attending conferences.
Be responsible for your PhD progress. It is the responsibility of students to know what deadlines they have to meet in our graduate program. This includes discussing with me what courses you want to take, and when to take them.
Finish on time. I expect MS students to finish in around 2-2.5 years, and PhD students finish in ~5 years. There may be exceptions to this, but these should be rare, and should be discussed well in advance. My role as academic guide is to help students through the program, and help design projects that are feasible within the time limits mentioned. Students are responsible for trying to reach these deadlines and communicating when they cannot.
Publish. I expect my post-docs to submit manuscripts within their first year. I expect my students to publish their main thesis chapters in peer-reviewed journals. Ideally, some of these publications should be submitted before the student graduates.I expect to be a co-author on papers that originate from a student’s thesis work, provided that I have earned that authorship.
Be responsible for data. I expect my students and post-docs to have good data management procedures and to generate reproducible results. I expect data-back up to be happening on a regular basis. I also expect all data files and associated code will be well organized and shared with me prior to a student or post-doc leaving the lab. I expect that data and code associated with publications will be archived on a suitable data repository. Cloud-based back up services are available for free to all students in my lab group.
Collaborate and mentor. I model a collaborative research approach and expect my lab members to share what they are doing with each other, and work collaboratively whenever possible. I expect my more senior members to mentor more junior members of the lab, and all students to participate in assisting with mentoring undergraduates who conduct research in our lab. However, I will not assign you to a mentorship role without first discussing it with you and getting your buy-in.
Read. Reading both deeply and broadly helps everyone become better scientists. I expect my graduate students to be aware of broader happenings in science, as well as the specifics related to their projects. I will do my best to share high priority papers with you, but it is everyone's job to stay on top of the literature.
Do #SciComm. Communicating science is a central skill for scientists. I will give students opportunities to go to conferences and I expect my students to present their work at these conferences, and to spend time and energy on developing effective science communication skills for citizens and policy makers.
Be independent. I expect my graduate students and post-docs to be independent. Mentoring is one of my top priorities, but I have a number of job duties that need my attention. I will set up regular meetings with each of my lab members, but I will not micro-manage. My preference is to be hands off, provided that the work is progressing well, although I will be available and accessible as needed. Part of this independence will mean that I expect students and post-docs to identify when they need additional help from me, and to communicate their needs clearly and directly.
Be creative, take risks, have fun. Graduate school and post-doctoral positions are both wonderful times in a career. I will do my best to create an interesting, inclusive, supportive, and fun work environment. I hope this is an environment that will allow for students to feel comfortable being creative and taking risks in order to develop more fully as scientists and people. I also hope that we can enjoy spending some non-work time together!
Adapted from an expectations list first articulated by Chris Buddle.