To Prospective Graduate Students:
Thank you for your interest in joining our lab group and working on a graduate degree under my guidance. After reading this letter and exploring our lab web page, I encourage you to contact me directly by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in my lab or have unanswered questions. I am always looking for exceptional, hard-working, and fun students to join our lab group!
Our lab group includes graduate students, undergraduate researchers, and occasionally technicians. Much of our research is done in small teams and collaboratively with colleagues in other departments or on other university campuses. I often prefer to support graduate students on my research grants rather than technicians because I believe an important part of my job as a professor is to help train the next generation of scientists. Most new graduate students who enter my lab either have a strong foundation in microbiology or molecular biology and want to learn more about aquatic sciences, or have broad training in limnology or ecology and would like to focus their graduate training in aquatic microbial ecology and molecular biology.
There are only a few graduate students in my lab at any time (typically 2 to 4) because I prefer to give my personal attention to your training. In some years, I may accept no new students and in other years I may have room for one or two new students depending on continuing research efforts and new projects that are developing. Virtually all the students who have worked in my lab achieved their degree goals and have gone on to successful careers. See the section of our lab web page about my Past Students for more information.
While working with me, graduate students are supported as Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA), Graduate Research Assistants (GRA), or often as a combination of both. In fact, all graduate students who have worked in my lab have been fully supported during their entire graduate career, including summers. GTA and GRA positions at UMD also include a full tuition benefit. Many students will teach for one academic year. The experience they gain by instructing others has served them well in various careers in addition to academia. See the Positions Available section of our lab web page to learn about GRA positions for new graduate students that are currently available. You can also contact me directly as new opportunities are continually developing.
New graduate students in my lab must first be admitted to and can obtain a M.S. or Ph.D. in one of two graduate degree programs: Water Resources Science (WRS) or Integrated Biosciences (IBS). The WRS graduate program (http://wrs.umn.edu/) is focused on aquatic sciences and policy and is ideal for students who are coming from diverse backgrounds. The IBS graduate program (http://www.d.umn.edu/ibs/) is an interdisciplinary program that recently replaced the UMD Biology graduate program. It is ideal for students who wish to blend ecology and cell biology in their formal academic training. Students from my lab in both of these graduate programs have been highly successful in obtaining employment after graduating.
Admission to these graduate programs is competitive. If you are interested in working in my lab, then I encourage you to contact me before applying and possibly even visit our lab and UMD first. We welcome visitors! The typical admissions cycle for these graduate programs is that applications are received from September to March for admission the following fall semester. I start reviewing applicant files in November. By the following March, I have often made most decisions about accepting students and offering GRA positions on research grants that I have for the following year. So, be sure to contact me and apply early. Exceptional students may be invited by the WRS program to visit (expenses paid!), offered a research assistantship from the IBS program, or may compete for a university-wide fellowship, but you must apply early (typically by mid-November) to be considered for one of these special fellowships for the following fall. All graduate teaching assistantships in my department are usually awarded by the end of March. Thus, all decisions about accepting new students into my lab for the fall semester are usually made by the middle of the previous April.
When funding is available, I encourage new students to start field and laboratory research with us the summer prior to their first official semester (which begins the first week of September). By working with our lab group during this first summer, new students quickly learn about our research projects, gain valuable experience with analytical methods, become comfortable as partners in our lab group, and start asking research questions. By the start of fall classes, these students have an advanced start on their thesis research that often ensures a successful second field season and timely completion of their degree.
Thanks for your interest in graduate training opportunities in my laboratory. If you have questions after exploring our lab web page, then feel free to contact me.
Randall E. Hicks
Department of Biology
1035 Kirby Drive, SSB 207
University of Minnesota Duluth
Duluth, MN 55812