Ecologgers, this topic seems to come up several times a year. Here's a short article on how to choose a major professor that was published in Fisheries in 1998. It is as relevant now as it was then.
Notes from the Blackboard Choosing the right graduate school and getting the job you've always wanted By Gary D. Grossman The recent sustained growth of the U.S. economy has directly affected the field of fisheries as more and more individuals have become interested in both revenue producing and recreational activities involving fish. Concomitant with this growth is an apparent proliferation of education opportunities in our field. Although probably more jobs are available in fisheries today than ever before, a surfeit of well-qualified graduates has made competition for these jobs particularly intense. Consequently, it is not uncommon for highly trained fisheries graduates to have difficulty obtaining employment in the field. These circumstances necessitate that future graduates be highly prepared if they hope to find a job as a fisheries manager or researcher. In fact, most professional positions in fisheries now require at least a master's degree. Given that graduate training is an essential credential for the prospective fisheries biologist, I want to share some pointers I have learned during the 16 years I have been training graduate students, although I suspect that these suggestions will benefit a wider audience than just students alone. Of necessity, I am writing in generalities, and I am well aware that not every strategy works every time or for every person. In addition, although I recognize that Fisheries has an international readership, my comments probably will be most relevant to U.S. residents. I begin with suggestions for how you can choose a major professor or graduate program and end with strategic hints for current graduate students interested in improving their potential employability. First, your choice of graduate program and major professor probably will have a greater impact on future employment than any other education decision you will make. Consequently, before deciding to join a faculty member's research group, inquire about the placement rate of graduates from his or her lab. Like most activities that engage a variety of people, you will find that some faculty have high placement rates, whereas other professors have no idea of the number of former students currently working in the field. The same can be said for graduate programs: Some have very high placement rates of their students (this tends to be most true at the state biologist level), and others have poor records. Despite the importance of these factors, in my years of interviewing prospective graduate students, rarely have I been asked about the placement rates of either former students or our graduate program. My point is that students must recognize that both graduate programs and major professors vary in quality, and if a choice is made without evaluating the relative merits of a given major professor or program, then you may be substantially handicapped. Second, one of the best ways to evaluate professors or graduate programs is by talking to former students. Although discussions with current students can be helpful, of necessity these students may be less candid than former students are. As with most discussions of important personnel matters, it probably is just as important to register what is not said as to note what is said. Finally, try to match your strengths and weaknesses as a student to your major professor's style of supervision. If you function best independently, do not choose a major professor who thinks graduate students are incapable of washing their hands by themselves. Alternatively, if you require occasional prodding to complete tasks, then working with a more-interactive major professor may be best for you. Like all bosses or mentors, major professors come in a wide variety of flavors and sizes, and you need to choose one who will best complement your abilities and needs as a graduate student. Third, ask for a copy of your potential major professor's resume, then examine it carefully. Determine whether or not this professor is actively publishing and, if so, whether she or he is publishing in first-rank journals. Does the person have a good record of grant support? Does he or she regularly attend professional meetings and give invited papers and seminars? Has the person ever won teaching awards? Does she or he have strong contacts at other universities and/or federal and state agencies? Although few professors can meet all of these criteria, a strong major professor will meet most of them. Gary D. Grossman is professor of animal ecology at Warnell School of Forest Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602. On Wed, May 27, 2015 at 11:11 PM, Nathalie Arnone <nmarn...@gmail.com> wrote: > > Emily, > > > > As someone who is still looking for a graduate research position, I have > found that keeping eyes open on jobs and graduate opportunities is > important. I really wanted to keep my momentum after graduating and get an > MS or PhD. I was communicating with a professor that told me that I'd be > perfect for their lab and the research project etc etc (I thought I had it, > despite not directly hearing it or getting it in writing). I applied. I > waited quite a while, reaching out to the potential advisor every couple of > weeks or so to maintain interest as well as a mutual respect and patience > (although I recall being stressed at times). This took place from Feb of > this year to just last week, receiving a measly piece of paper saying I > wasn't accepted. Could I have gotten a courtesy email? Maybe. Were there > most likely circumstances that justified it? Absolutely. Maybe the funding > didn't go through. Maybe someone better came along (my guess). Who knows. > More importantly, who cares! Not even 48 hours later I got a call for an > interview for a job I applied for a week prior. I interviewed the next day. > > > > Keep your options open! I'm going to get my graduate degree I just don't > know in what order. I thought I did all the right things, reaching out and > being myself. I hope this helps you. There's wonderful advice coming your > way. Find published works and research in the area you want. Email PIs from > those and ask them about what they're doing now. It's great that you have > your own questions. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but a mentor in your > field of interest should be lucky to have someone driven and independent > (isn't that the point?) > > > > The first email was fascinating to me in that it was blunt and satirical > (and potentially offensive to the "bosses" of academia). Listen, there's a > lot of jaded individuals out there who didn't get chosen for a position > (ding ding ding). There's a chance that you're not going to get a couple > opportunities! I hope that you stay on the path that YOU choose and don't > become negative or have any regrets. Go for it. > > > > Kindest, > > > > Nathalie Arnone > > > > On May 27, 2015, at 14:21, Emily Mydlowski <emilymydlow...@gmail.com> > wrote: > > > > Hello all, > > > > I'm delving into the graduate school search (MS and PhD programs) quite > > heavily and am seeking advice regarding approaching faculty with a > research > > project. The system I'm interested in working on is that which has many > > unanswered, interesting questions I would love to pursue. From a faculty > > perspective, is proposing a project topic (too) bold of a move to a > > potential advisor? > > > > Any advice would be much appreciated. > > > > All the best, > > > > Emily Mydlowski > > Northern Michigan University > -- Gary D. Grossman, PhD Professor of Animal Ecology Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources University of Georgia Athens, GA, USA 30602 http://grossman.myweb.uga.edu/ <http://www.arches.uga.edu/%7Egrossman> Board of Editors - Animal Biodiversity and Conservation Editorial Board - Freshwater Biology Editorial Board - Ecology Freshwater Fish