so you want to go to graduate school in ecology...

The primary function of graduate programs is to train the next generation of professionals. Opinions differ as to the best way to educate students, but the broadest goal of graduate school is to help people make the transition from students to scholars. These days, graduate school admissions have become an increasingly competitive process. No matter what lab you are interested in joining, there are a couple of steps you should take before contacting a potential major advisor.

1. First and foremost, you want to sign up with a graduate advisor who will be of some use to you. Read a few papers written by the person with whom you are interested in working. Does their work interest you? Does their approach to science (e.g., experimental, mathematical, descriptive) interest you? Does their area of general interest match that of your own (e.g., do you want to work with polar bears, and they are studying ants? If so, then the answer to the last question is “no”).

2. Spend some time coming up with a few potential research questions that YOU might be interested in pursuing. These do not have to be written in stone, but advisors generally are more interested in students who can show that have done some independent thinking. The latin root of the word “education” is “e-ducere”, which means “to reveal”, or “to bring forth”. Graduate school is all about revealing the scholar within you, and the sooner you start thinking about what contributions YOU want to make to the field (and that’s the exciting part!), the better.

3. After you have completed steps 1 and 2, send your potential advisor an email, and include information about who you are, what you are interested in, and why you are considering that person as an advisor. If you have unofficial transcripts, GRE scores, or other (admittedly dubious) measures of academic potential, include them too. Many schools, and the University of Florida is among them, have basic requirements for GPAs and GREs that you must meet to be considered as a student. More information about those basic requirements can be found on the UF Biology Graduate Program’s website, found under “admissions criteria” here.

4. If you have read this far, you have the potential level of commitment that advisors like to see. If you are interested in joining our lab, send me an email at tmp “at”

information for prospective students