What to expect as part of doing research in our group
The first requirement of joining our group is that you must be someone who is fascinated about behavior and evolution, wondering about why and
how animals do certain things in a certain way. You should also be primarily driven by the theoretical basis of behavior and be excited about
designing clever and controlled experiments to test your ideas. If your idea of doing behavioral research is largely doing "field work" in
pretty places, my lab is not the right place for you. I am an experimentalist and reductionist to the extreme, so the "field" is rarely a
place for me or my students.
If you join our group, you will either do experimental work that is rooted in behavior, physiology, neuroethology, or modeling using computer simulations. Although experience in any of these skills is always a plus, it is not a must. You have to be receptive about engaging in whatever it takes, and this would include handling and taking care of bees, designing and building equipment for experiments, learning how to program, etc.
While I practice a mentoring policy where I am always available for you to provide ideas and guidance, I expect you to develop a research question that is as much yours as it is mine, and even push the envelope to completely new directions. This means that I will not give you an "all worked-out" project idea, you will need to put in a lot of sincere, hard work - thinking, reading, discussing, and ultimately doing stuff. My students generally publish one paper a year and this requires you to be on the top of your game all the time. The general work schedule will look something like this: You start working in the lab the summer before your official fall admission date and learn what we do and how we do it. You then spend your first spring developing a solid (though not set in stone) research proposal for the next few summers and from then on, you do a project each summer and work in the fall to analyze the data and send out a manuscript for publication. In this way, I expect you to graduate in 5 years with 4-5 papers behind you if you are a Ph.D. student and in 2.5 years with 1-2 papers if you're a Master's student, an expectation all my past students have met. I expect my graduate students to be independent-minded who can run their projects largely on their own without an army of undergraduate helpers (because my undergraduate students are largely busy doing their own projects). My expectations from my students are quite high - so you need to be prepared for giving your absolute best - intense is the word some people have used describing while describing how it is feels to work in our group.
For undergraduates looking for research experience:
If you do not want to be a mere helper in a lab but want to do some actual independent research, my lab could be the right place for you. I have very few undergraduates in the lab but each of them does a small independent project. You will begin by being an apprentice in the lab for a summer, helping on an ongoing project and learning about what we do. By the end of this time if you like what we do, you are going to be put in charge of a small project which you will run largely on your own or with another undergraduate student, with some inputs from me. Every undergraduate who has decided to do an independent project in the lab has a peer-reviewed publication to boast of and I intend to maintain this tradition.
If this philosophy is what you are looking for in a program and you would like to discuss working in the lab, contact me by email and tell me about:
1. What are your broad research interests? What are the SPECIFIC research questions in our research that interest you?
2. What kind of skills do you have? Do you have actual experience with any of the research I do?
3. Why do you want to pursue graduate studies? What kind of career are you seeking?
4. How's your academic record? What courses have you taken?
I would also encourage you to contact my current and former students and ask them about their experience (to get the lowdown on me).