Research opportunities in the Barrett lab

2008 lab party
Barrett lab summer party Aug 2008

If you are interested in joining the Barrett Lab and are qualified, read on. I would like to take on 2-3 graduate students and a post-doctoral fellow (PDF) during 2011/2. Students with a background in ecology and evolutionary biology and an interest in conducting molecular and genomic work are especially welcome. However, students with strengths in other areas will also be considered. If you are interested please e-mail me and send a CV and a statement of why you would like to do research in my lab. Below I outline my general philosophy of graduate student training and mentorship. For specific research projects that are currently available for graduate students and PDFs in 2011/2012 go to the RESEARCH section of my website. 

Graduate student training – general philosophy

I have trained 26 graduate students during my tenure at University of Toronto  (11 M.Sc. and 15 Ph.D.). Many of my former students have gone on to become university faculty (see lab alumni) and are making important contributions in their own fields. I take graduate student training very seriously and I consider it the most enjoyable and fulfilling aspect of being an academic, aside from research itself. I have had the fortune to have some outstanding students and I have learnt much from my collaborations with them.

My philosophy of graduate student supervision is quite simple and involves several general principles. These vary to some extent depending on whether the student is enrolled in a M.Sc. or Ph.D. program. My preference is to take on Ph.D. students but I am also willing to supervise M.Sc. students. My general experience has been that every student is different and that supervisors should adjust their supervisory style depending on the student’s background and degree of independence. I am proud to say that I have never had a student drop out and all my students have completed their theses.

For a Ph.D. student I usually: 1) provide a range of potential thesis topics that fit a student’s overall interest, usually 3-5 general problems are discussed initially. Over a period of time these are narrowed down to 1-2 questions. I am also happy to entertain projects that the student might suggest, so long as they are feasible, can be funded by my NSERC grant, and are sufficiently original to warrant intensive study; 2) I provide the necessary academic, financial and logistical support to conduct the thesis research throughout the duration of the program; 3) after the first 1-2 years, and once the research questions are formulated and the study system is worked out, I encourage the student to take full ‘ownership’ of the project and develop new avenues and questions related to the problem; 4) Students in my laboratory normally publish 4-6 journal articles from their thesis and I work with them to improve their paper writing abilities, and to ensure that they publish papers as they go along. This enables them to be in a better position on graduation to obtain post-doctoral or academic positions; 5) I encourage my students to develop collaborations with other faculty and students and many papers from my laboratory reflect this. I also like to involve graduate students in book chapters and reviews that I am working on if they are interested and have the time.

For M.Sc. students I usually use the same overall approach except that because of the much shorter duration of the program I encourage students to work during their first summer as a research assistant in my lab and focus their interests. It is important to settle on a problem fairly quickly in the M.Sc. program so that by the end the first term a tractable question has been decided upon and research has commenced.

Undergraduate opportunities

Every year I hire between 3-5 undergraduates to assist with the research projects being conducted in the lab.  Most of these are hired during the summer months (May 1 – August 31). I sometimes also hire students during term time on a “as needed” basis. Finally, I am always interested in committed and conscientious volunteers and if performance is satisfactory this can lead to being hired as a paid assistant during the summer months. If you are interested in any of these possibilities e-mail me and send a resume and short statement as to why you would like to work in the lab. 

      • Information on admission to our M.Sc. and Ph.D. programs here.
      • Information on our EEB Post-Doctoral Fellowship here.

2008 lab party
Rob Colautti Ph.D. defence party Dec 2009