I know that deciding where you want to go for graduate school can be a pretty difficult decision. Therefore, I want to give you a little bit of information about my philosophy so that you can see whether or not my lab is likely to be a good fit for you. If, after reading this, you still think that you might want to study at the University of West Florida, then please get in touch with me to discuss your options. In the meanwhile, I want to give you a little more information. First of all, my appointment is through the Department of Biology, which has specific admissions requirements for its MS degree. Before you can even be considered for acceptance to the lab, you have to qualify to be accepted to graduate school by the University, so take some time to look at the links above.
Secondly, in terms of additional specific considerations for my lab, I do expect a few things. I am excited about interesting biological questions like those listed here, and I like students that will strive to broaden my horizons as well as their own. I accept students who are relatively self-sufficient, motivated, and willing to work hard to excel in their field. Ultimately, success in graduate school is gauged by whether you become an independent scientist (with my support), and you need to leave with a thorough understanding of how the scientific process works. So, given that, I am looking for students who have a solid background in biology, and display a high degree of creativity, integrity, and self-motivation. I expect that students will read broadly in the current literature, attend and present at departmental seminars and scientific meetings, and devote themselves to learning the laboratory techniques and analyses that are required to conduct and publish a good scientific study. It is also important to me that everyone in my lab is able to get along. I don't mean that you have to become best friends with everyone, but I expect you to be a good colleague to others in the lab by helping to maintain lab morale, lab organization, and hygiene, attending lab meetings, and contributing intellectually to the projects of your labmates. Your lab is your family when you're in grad school, and I want ours to be a good one.
You should also know that my lab is not huge, so only one or maybe two students every year will be accepted to the program. However, despite the information outlined on this web page, I get several messages from potential students each month that do not include any personal information or any indication that they know who I am or what I do. When I read a 3-line email that asks if I am accepting students, I cannot help but wonder if the person has put so little effort into contacting me, why should I take the time and effort to seriously consider them as a member of my lab? If you do not know who I am or what I do, then the first question that comes to my mind is why in the world would you want to come to my lab and work with me for 2-4 years?? A word of advice â€“ if you are really interested in applying to my lab as a graduate student, then take the time to look through the web site to figure out what sort of research I and my students do. After that (if you are interested in the same sorts of things that I study), please take the time to write me a detailed email. This should include not only your educational history, previous experience, and research interests, but also what think you may want to do when you grow up and how you think my lab could help you get there. Why do you want to come to UWF in particular? Why do you want or need a MS? And what about my work attracts you exactly? (Always include in these emails your educational background and any relevant previous experience in science; e.g., it's always a good idea to send a CV with your email. You will need these things for virtually any graduate school application anyway, so it will save you time later on, and will greatly improve your chances with any potential advisors when you contact them with this information even if our lab is not a good fit for you.) If you want to be taken seriously when you apply to my lab, you will have to put in some effort when you apply, because I have dozens of people each year contact me who do read this and do take this information seriously. Also, you should know that although we work on sharks in addition to other types of fishes, most of the actual research we do is in the lab. So if you want to spend your days like they do on Shark Wranglers, my lab is not the place for you.
Finally, a word of advice to prospective students: graduate school is hard enough; don't go out of your way to make it any more difficult than it need be. When you are trying to select a graduate program, the bottom line is to ask yourself: where are you likely to get the best opportunity to gain the background necessary to excel in whatever career you choose, whether that is an academic position, a government position or in private industry? Will you get the educational opportunities and guidance that you need? Will you have the resources and equipment necessary to complete your research? Will you have enough support? These are the sorts of questions that you need to consider before making your decision. Graduate school is often stressful, and I don't know any students who have not questioned their decision at some point during their studies. UWF is a great school, but we are small, so the assistantships we offer our students are not always as generous as other programs. The hardships you will encounter here or anywhere else as a graduate student mean that you have to be serious about wanting to succeed, or you probably won't be happy. If you are serious about wanting to apply to UWF, you should definitely try to contact other graduate students here to find out more about their experiences and views of the program as well, because they are in the exact position that you will find yourself if you are accepted to the program.
So, after reading through this, if you think that you are a strong candidate for acceptance to graduate school at the University of West Florida, and you might like to work in my lab, I encourage you to contact me. I would also encourage you to try to arrange a visit to UWF if at all possible. Meeting face-to-face is the best way to decide whether you will enjoy working together with the people in the lab for your graduate career. Graduate school is a long and difficult road, so you'd better like the lab and the people that you work with, or it's likely to move from being hard to being unbearable. Therefore, I would really encourage a personal meeting for anyone seriously interested in my lab to help everyone involved in deciding whether you, me, and UWF will be a good match and give you every opportunity to excel in your graduate education. But first, you'll probably want to get in touch with me, either by email or phone:
(Credit to Rob Toonen for the original wording of this statement)