information for prospective students


All prospective graduate students must meet the minimum standards of the University of Toronto, School of Graduate Studies. Please check with the Graduate School for their minimum requirements.

Undergraduate students should plan ahead. Make early inquiries about potential projects.

Summer research experience is possible, although I typically travel much of this time. Acceptence depends on the needs of my graduate students.

Visiting scholars please inquire.

I am not anticipating openings for graduate students until September, 2014. However, students who have scholarship funding are always encouraged to apply.

Ph.D. or M.Sc.?
The University of Toronto strongly prefers Ph.D. students. Owing to funding constraints, M.Sc. students will only be accepted if they have a two-year NSERC Fellowship.

thesis topic:
Students working in my laboratory must choose their own dissertation topic. I do not assign thesis projects to Ph.D. students. I play the role of an advisor, not a commander. The lab is very strongly oriented towards molecular evolution and conservation genetics, and we are reasonably well equipped for data gathering. However, we focus on whole organisms, be they freshwater mussels, amphibians, lizards, parasitic wasps or polar bears. It is not unusual for thesis work to contain a morphological component. The project must be question-oriented. The construction of a phylogeny is no longer deemed sufficiently sophisticated to warrant a Ph.D. on its own. The question is far more important than the organism. Students with an interest in behavioral genetics are particularly encouraged to apply. Why? In my laboratory, graduate education is synergistic. I expect my students to teach me as much as I teach them. I consider myself to be a perpetual student. And I am keenly interested in how relatedness effects the social (and antisocial) interactions of individuals.

The University of Toronto has very strong interests in seeing that students have a minimum guaranteed income. Funding is very important, particularly for foreign applicants. Students are encouraged to seek some of their own funding for research, as well as scholarships and fellowships. Success in finding funding helps lead to success in finding employment in academia.

Self-starting students who desire a career in research and academics are strongly preferred.

Prospective students with some experience in a molecular laboratory are preferred. Laboratory safety is not only essential, but also controlled by Provincial law. Training is required before work is allowed in the laboratory.

They are checked. Interviews are encouraged. Applicants are advised to contact my current and past students. Do your homework, no matter where you apply.

The degree of “Doctor of Philosophy” is just that. Students are required to question the assumptions of their project, their analysis, and their interpretation of the analyses. Just when they think they've got it “right,” they are encouraged to look at the same questions from the alternative perspectives. You don't want to say: "I agree with you in principle, I just disagree with your basic premise"!

opportunities in China:
Fully-funded Ph.D. student AND postdoctoral scholar positions in evolutionary genomics and conservation genetics are available in my laborator in Chinay, which is operated by Prof. Ya-ping Zhang. Ph.D. students must have a M.Sc. degree. Again, the question is more important than the organism.

Murphy’s Law to Success:
Students in my laboratory are strongly encouraged to publish. Publications can be a key to success with postdoctoral funding and eventual employment. The guidelines are simple: publish a paper every year for each year that you’ve been in my laboratory. That’s one paper the first year, two more the second, three more the third, and so forth. At the end of your fourth year, you should have 10 papers published or in press. The goal is not insurmountable, and for many people this level of productivity is the minimum they achieve throughout many years in academics. To meet this goal, I often offer up smaller side projects, quick, one-week distractions that can add a line to your c.v.


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