Thank you for your interest in graduate training in my laboratory. I will be considering applications for a new PhD student to join my lab this year (i.e., someone who would start in Fall of 2020). I do not anticipate considering applications for MSc degrees, because the projects currently underway are better suited for the multi-year efforts of a PhD program.
The funding climate for graduate students has become increasingly tight. Thus, to accept a new student, I want to have a plan for funding that student clearly in mind. Funding can come from a variety of sources (the campus provides competitive fellowships; the UCDavis graduate groups can offer support; sometimes I have grant support for students interested in one of my current areas of funded research; and some students come with national or international fellowships). This year, I expect to have support specifically in the area of agricultural ecology/ecoinformatics and also potentially for research in predator-prey and host-parasitoid interactions within biological control systems. Ecoinformatics is a branch of study that integrates ecology and statistics to address a broad range of questions in agricultural entomology. Our main focus now is on citrus entomology, with questions ranging across plant-insect interactions, biological control, and landscape ecology.
I accept graduate students through three graduate programs on campus: the Ecology Graduate Group, the Population Biology Graduate Group, and the Entomology Graduate Program. Each of these programs has a different focus and provides subtly different training, and it’s worth taking a little time to check each program’s web site and try to find the best match with your interests and career goals. It is possible to apply simultaneously to more than one program, which can be the right thing to do if you are interested in coming to the official recruitment periods for each of the groups to get more information in person.
My philosophy of working with students has evolved to emphasize flexibility – different models work best with different students. Some students in my lab work on questions and systems that are very close to my own research interests; these students may be supported by research grants that I have authored. Other students work on topics that are farther from my own research, and are funded by fellowships or by research grants that they take the lead in writing (often with my help, but with me playing only a supporting role). In either case, I think it is essential that students have the intellectual freedom to develop their own plan of research.
I try to provide constructive feedback on all aspects of a student’s research and professional development. I also encourage my students to capitalize on the tremendous intellectual community of the Davis campus; this is a great place to study ecology and evolutionary biology.
Finally, I am proud to have trained students with diverse career goals. Of the 31 students or postdoctoral researchers who have worked in my laboratory group, 13 are currently in professorial positions, 7 are in the private sector (most doing research, but 2 recent PhD recipients have founded their own companies), one is working for a non-profit conservation agency, one is working for the State of California as a scientific advisor focused on invasive species, one is working as a researcher at an international agricultural research institute, and 7 are currently in postdoctoral researcher positions. Thus, while academia is still the commonest career goal, my lab members have also thrived in other diverse career paths. I think this is a positive aspect of work on insect ecology: it is relevant beyond the Ivory Tower.