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Prospective graduate studentsNIU's deadline for fall 2021 applicants is 1 January 2021. I am recruiting a PhD student to work on a NSF-funded project manipulating plant functional diversity in prairie mesocosms and simulating bison grazing. See more about the position here. If you have a MSc degree and this sounds like something you're interested in, please read on. Apply by 15 October for full consideration.

Training Philosophy

I take training graduate students very seriously and I expect to commit a significant amount of time to ensuring my graduate students are quality scientists and communicators.  As a teacher and mentor, I try to inspire students to be good scientists – to be curious about the natural world, to critically analyze what they are taught, and to be creative in their approach. Our lab fosters an open, inquisitive research environment that encourages learning, understanding, and collaboration. We create multi-way exchanges of information where students learn from each other and me and where I learn from my students. Please see our lab's manual for more specific information.

Students in my lab should have a passion and dedication to learn and be good scientists.  Students coming out of my lab will be trained in how to effectively communicate scientific findings, how to establish and foster collaborations, and how to choose and pursue scientific research questions. I will mentor students while they are here and continue to invest in them as they pursue their careers. I am looking for students with a passion for scientific discovery and a strong work ethic to help them pursue research questions that are important to advancing restoration and conservation management. It is equally important for potential students to assess me as a potential advisor to ensure my advising style will match with their learning style. I encourage potential students to talk to students in my lab to discuss my advising style and learning in the lab.

Students in my lab will receive specific mentoring from me.  My goal is to create a supportive, stimulating, challenging environment that helps students navigate graduate school and prepares them for the careers of their choice. I will set aside time to help students choose research topics and questions, design experiments or monitoring to pursue those questions, and help them pursue extramural funding to help fund their research projects. I will provide career-related advice and, if asked, other types of advice. I will visit students’ field sites, talk about their career goals, and identify potential collaborators to help them achieve their research objectives and career goals. I will invest heavily into providing constructive feedback on manuscripts, posters, and presentations about their research.  I strive to conduct productive lab meetings where students get feedback from other lab members and me on research and job application materials.  My goal is to foster an open, honest lab environment where people are respectful, conscientious, and productive members of a lab community.


So I expect a lot out of my graduate students in turn.  I expect graduate students to contribute significant time and energy into producing quality research and theses.  Graduate students are expected to seek extramural funding with my guidance.  One of the most important skills students should gain in graduate school is how to write a competitive grant. All graduate students in the lab should commit to producing meaningful, novel contributions to science, designing a research project that relates to environmental problem solving in some way, and conducting some sort of public outreach or direct conservation/restoration action.  Graduate students are expected to present their research at scientific meetings, publish their findings in appropriate scholarly journals, and work with managers to pursue research that helps on-the-ground conservation action. Lastly, I ask that graduate students be productive members of the lab community, including participating in lab meetings and providing constructive feedback to lab members.

If you are a prospective graduate student who would like to apply to the lab, first make sure that your research interests are consistent with the research interests of the lab.  If you are interested in restoration, conservation, or the intersection between climate change and restoration, my lab might be a good fit for you.  If we share similar interests, then you can contact me with the following to get the ball rolling.  If I think we are a good fit, I will then contact you to set up a phone or in-person meeting. 

  1. A cover letter that describes your research interests and your short- and long-term career goals and how pursuing a graduate degree in my lab will help you attain those goals.

  2. An unofficial copy of your transcripts.

  3. A writing sample that demonstrates your ability to synthesize and evaluate complex information (e.g. a journal article, technical report, or paper from a class).

  4. Your resume or CV summarizing your work and academic experience and with names, titles, email, and phone numbers of three professional references.

  5. An unofficial report of your GRE scores (though I am hoping that our graduate committee will remove this requirement very soon, so if you don't have them, no worries).

Undergraduate training is slightly different in the lab.  I encourage and welcome undergraduate participation in the lab.  I recognize that NIU undergraduates have significant time constraints that would prevent them from meeting the expectations that I set forth for graduate students in the lab. Undergraduates can expect me to help them pick a research project that will build their research skills and help advance the research goals of the lab but that is achievable given their time constraints. I expect undergraduates to invest the time and energy necessary to complete the research project they choose to pursue.  Undergraduate students can expect to learn how to read a scientific paper critically and to interpret research findings in scientific papers.  I expect undergraduates to participate in lab meetings, contribute constructive feedback during meetings, and be active and respectful members of the lab community.  If you are an undergraduate and are interested in pursuing research in the lab, please send the following to get the conversation started.  I will email you back if I have an open position in the lab.

  1. A cover letter that describes your short- and long-term career goals and how research in my lab will help you attain those goals.

  2. Your unofficial transcripts, including GPA (I only take students with a 3.0 or above).

  3. Resume or CV summarizing your work and academic experience and with the name, title, email, and phone number of at least one reference.