Mentoring graduate students is among my most rewarding responsibilities as a university faculty member, and I am always seeking motivated students to join my lab. Graduate student projects in my lab typically are grounded in ecological field research, and I encourage students to learn additional scientific skills throughout their programs (e.g., pathogen testing, GIS and spatial analysis, data analysis and mathematical tools). Though they are the exception rather than the rule, I also am interested and experienced in advising modeling-based projects. Many students with interests in conservation and/or public health incorporate concepts and tools from human dimensions research into their theses. The most important prerequisites to joining the lab are prior experience and enthusiasm for conducting field work (for field-based projects) or a strong quantitative coursework foundation (for modeling-based projects), some background in scientific writing (e.g., a thesis chapter or manuscript for prospective PhD students, or an undergraduate paper of at least 10 pages in length for prospective MS students), and an open mind to learning new skills.
Most students in my lab are working on some aspect of tick-borne or mosquito-borne disease ecology, but I am open to advising a variety of potential projects related to the themes of vector control, infectious disease ecology, and epidemiology. From the outset, I encourage students to consider their career goals and I strive to help students develop thesis projects that will provide relevant scientific training and professional development opportunities accordingly. I expect all graduate students to seek funding to support their research efforts, publish their research, attend professional conferences to present their findings, and participate in the public scientific outreach activities of the lab, the latter of which is increasingly essential to all career paths in the natural sciences.
Graduate students can join my lab through several degree programs offered at the University of Maine: the PhD or MS (thesis option only) in the College of Natural Science, Forestry, and Agriculture's interdisciplinary Ecology and Environmental Sciences program, or the MS in Entomology or PhD in Biological Sciences in the School of Biology and Ecology. Please feel free to speak with me about the different programs to help identify the best path to meet your professional goals. At UMaine, there are opportunities for students to engage with a variety of units beyond the primary academic unit, including the Initiative for One Health and the Environment, the new UMaine Cooperative Extension Plant, Animal, and Insect Laboratory, the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, the Climate Change Institute, and the Graduate School for Biomedical Science and Engineering.
Regardless of the program, graduate students are supported by a combination of Research Assistant positions in my lab and Teaching Assistant positions in the School of Biology and Ecology (e.g., BIO 100, BIO 200, and my upper-level General Entomology course, BIO 326). I also assist prospective and current graduate students with applications for their own support (e.g., the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and UMaine competitive assistantships). If you are interested in graduate study in the lab, please contact me by email with a description of your research interests and your CV. I look forward to hearing from you!
There are a variety of opportunities available for undergraduate students to participate in research in my lab, and I am committed to providing mentoring for my current and former undergraduate research students in their job and graduate school searches as well as their research endeavors. To get the process started, please make your best effort to contact me at least two months in advance of the semester you wish to join the lab to explore options and project ideas. Please note this is NOT a biomedical lab, and due to safety concerns and the substantial investment in training required, most undergraduate research opportunities (exceptions: occasional summer research assistantships and Honors theses) do not involve handling pathogens!
Summer research assistant: Every summer, a limited number of paid research assistant opportunities are available in the lab, which often evolve into research-based capstone (BIO 388) projects during the academic year. These positions typically involve field work for 40 hours/week and may preclude taking summer courses. Please contact me early if you are interested in these opportunities as I begin filling the positions in February. I generally require a minimum GPA of 3.0 and some prior field work experience (including in classes) for consideration for paid research positions. Most but not all summer research assistants have taken either BIO 326 or BIO 431 with me.
Honors thesis: Mentoring Honors College students has been among my most gratifying teaching experiences at UMaine, and I generally support up to two Honors theses in the lab per year. Honors students typically conduct part of their project during the summer prior to senior year, and this is an absolute requirement for projects involving field work. I encourage Honors students to seek funding to help support their own projects (e.g., Center for Undergraduate Research fellowships) and to present the results of their research at the UMaine Student Symposium.
Research-based capstone (BIO 388): Students who have earned more than 84 credit hours can fulfill the capstone experience Gen Ed by completing an independent project in the lab. The capstone research experience can be one or two semesters in duration (for the latter, students enroll in BIO 387 in the Fall and BIO 388 in the Spring). I only accept one-semester capstone students for the Fall semester (although you can take my project-based Emerging Infectious Diseases course that also fulfills the capstone Gen Ed in the Spring). As part of the capstone, students are required to lead a discussion of a scientific journal paper, complete a 6-week (one semester) or 12-week (two semesters) research project, and write a 10-12 page scientific paper. I also encourage BIO 388 students to present the results of their research at the UMaine Student Symposium.
Literature-based capstone (BIO 392): Students who have earned more than 84 credit hours also can fulfill the capstone Gen Ed by writing a literature review on any topic related to disease ecology or entomology under my supervision. This option generally is confined to the Fall semester. As part of the capstone, students are required to lead a discussion of a scientific journal paper and write a 15 page review paper.
Non-capstone research (BIO 387): Students who have earned fewer than 84 credit hours can conduct independent research in the lab for up to 3 credit hours per semester (1 credit hour = 2 hours per week of research in the lab), and up to 6 credits of BIO 387 can count toward the 24 biology credits required for the Biology, Zoology, and Botany majors. This is a good option for first-years, sophomores, and juniors who are looking for a first lab research experience. BIO 387 students are required to write a 5 page synopsis of their work at the end of the semester to receive credit.