Letter to Prospective Graduate Students

Last updated May 2017

Dear Prospective Graduate Student,

Thank you for your interest in joining my lab!  Please read my main web page for a description of my research interests.  I get a lot of inquiries about working with me, so please excuse the impersonal nature of this letter.

At the moment I have two graduate students (both PhD) and 4 postdocs in my lab.  I will be on sabbatical for the full calendar year of 2017, however I do plan to recruit new graduate students for fall 2018.

Student research is expected to fall within the broad scope of my interests (applied ecology, disturbance, invasion, disease management), but will largely be determined by the student.  I will provide advice and help, of course, but expect my students to be independent and motivated.

Please note that I strongly encourage my graduate students to do both empirical and theoretical research.  If you are not interested in doing at least a little modeling, this is probably not the lab for you, but if you’ve never done any and are curious, do apply.

Ideally, you should have some background in both ecology and mathematics (though the latter is less common).  You should also have some experience in independent research. Good grades are important.  Most people will have gaps in these requirements – these can be filled in when you start grad school, but you should be aware that they do need to be filled.

Possible sources of funding and support include teaching assistantships, university fellowships, other scientific fellowships and grants.  Only the first of these can be guaranteed.

If you are still interested in working with me, feel free to contact me (by email or letter).  You should describe:

  • your research interests
  • why you want to work with me
  • why you want to do a PhD
  • your longer term goals
  • your educational background
  • your previous research experience
  • any pertinent work experience

Don’t write an essay; just give me a feel for who you are!

If you are serious about coming here, you will need to apply to the Biology or the Ecology graduate program at Penn State University.  Specific questions about applying should be directed to one of these programs.  If you do apply, please let me know, so that I can look out for your application.

Best wishes,
Katriona Shea

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