The single most important thing you can do as an applicant to the Ocean Ecology and Biogeochemistry group is to make initial contact with potential advisors well in advance of the application deadline. Deciding to come to graduate school is an important decision, and discussing your career and educational goals with potential advisors (who may have openings – see below) provides an opportunity to ensure this may be the right fit for you. The working relationship with your advisor and your commitment to your research are probably the two most important determinants of your success in graduate school. We evaluate applicants on the standard metrics one would assume, adequate coursework, academic performance, written personal statement, prior research experience, etc. However, the initial and subsequent interactions with applicants allow us to better decide your suitability for the program and fit with the potential laboratory group you would be working with. In many cases, we turn down very strong applicants simply because we do not have a potential advisor for them, or there are no openings with a given advisor.
Timing, timing, timing...
Most, not all, successful applicants are supported by funds from research grants of their advisors, additionally, many advisors within the group run relatively small labs with only a few graduate students. Openings with specific advisors are usually dependent on new research grants, and thus year to year you could be accepted or not simply depending on whether new research money has become available. There are some opportunities to bring students in on other funds, and thus, early contact with potential advisors is crucial.
Please ensure you have the appropriate coursework (or will complete it), we require applicants to have completed undergraduate coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus. The depth of this coursework is dependent on who you are applying to work with, and what your research direction will be. We do not expect you (though some do) to have a absolute research direction sorted out when applying, but you should be able to articulate some clear motivations, goals, and expectations. If you are applying to graduate school because it seems like the next appropriate step after completing an undergraduate degree, you are probably not ready for graduate school.
We don’t normally accept students on the PhD track without having first completed a MS in a related field. A doctoral degree is an incredible commitment of time and resources on both the advisor’s behalf and your behalf. Assuming you are willing to commit 5-7 years of graduate work and research towards a degree, without having had any previous graduate research experience can be disastrous. We have found that obtaining a MS first adds little to no extra time to the total time towards a PhD, provides an opportunity to get an early publication out from the thesis, allows you to make an informed decision about whether the college and advisor are the right fit, and provides a graceful exit if you decide a PhD is not the right track for you.
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