A LETTER TO PROSPECTIVE HEPPELL LAB GRADUATE STUDENTS
As you might imagine, demand for graduate positions in our laboratory far outstrips supply. In a typical year we might accept one new student into the lab, sometimes two. Contrast this with the 50-60 inquiries we each receive in the same 12 months and you can see why you’ve got your work cut out for yourself to impress a prospective advisor. Please recognize how competitive the graduate school application process is and take the time to prepare an organized and complete package when you contact me (or anyone for that matter) about graduate school. In addition, because of new administrative duties Selina is not actively seeking new students at this time.
This may sound discouraging, but don’t completely despair; we are always looking for students with research and career interests that match our own and we are happy to receive inquiries about graduate opportunities in the lab. Here we have provided you with information that should help you prepare an informative packet that will allow us to evaluate your academic and work history, your ability to write, and your ability to think like a scientist, from asking relevant questions to formulating interesting hypotheses to coming up with the means to effectively test those hypotheses. The suggestions below are independent of any formal application you might submit to the OSU Graduate School. Please note that it is not necessary for you to formally apply prior to first contacting us. In fact we encourage you not to apply until you are reasonably confident that you will be attending OSU.
If you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in the Heppell Lab, when you first contact us please send:
- A short cover letter that outlines your research interests, personal background, and career goals. You should also include information as to why you want to specifically work in the Heppell lab. If you are inquiring about a PhD program or post-doc opportunity, please include specifics about your Masters or PhD research, including PDFs of any publications
- Your GRE scores (report verbal, quantitative, and written scores separately, including percentile ranks)
- A complete resume or curriculum vitae
- A copy of all relevant transcripts
- A statement of what scholarships and fellowships you are pursuing (NSF, etc.)
- A sample of your writing. This could be a publication, term paper or project report; something you feel represents your writing ability
Please combine items 2-5 into a single PDF file; official copies of transcripts and GRE scores are not needed for a first inquiry (your GRE scores could simply be reported on your resume). If you have not yet finished your undergraduate degree, send us your most recent transcripts. We keep all inquiries for at least one year, so combining everything into a single file makes archiving and retrieving the information easier for us. From your perspective, once you have combined your information into a single PDF file it makes contacting other prospective graduate advisors simpler.
If your application is competitive and if either of us has funds to support a student, we will extend an invitation to have you come to visit with us at OSU. This will allow us to meet, allow you to meet our current students, and to visit with other faculty in the department. A visit to campus is not required, but is strongly recommend. We rarely accept students who we haven’t met in person. Besides, you don’t want to commit yourself to 2-4 years in our lab without some feeling that we can get along; just because we are professors at a great university doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want to work with us. An invitation to visit is not an offer of a position.
Because there are so few graduate opportunities in our lab, each position is extremely valuable to us. We consequently put a lot of effort into the selection process. Once a student is selected we put a lot of effort into working with each of our students and we expect a lot of effort in return. In most cases, we have already written a proposal outlining the major theme for any MS work and the general topic for a PhD, so we are already intellectually invested and have contract reporting requirements for most work that our students do. That being said, we have multiple committee, teaching, and research commitments at the department, college, university, and professional level, so we require students who can accept guidance but who are extremely self-motivated, can work independently, and are interested in actively developing and completing their own research. Submitting manuscripts from your thesis or dissertation work is part of doing a complete job, and we expect at least one submitted manuscript prior to a final defense. It is our goal to mentor students through the intellectual process of completing an advanced degree and to prepare them to be successful in their desired careers. Such efforts allow us to meet our personal and professional goals while answering interesting scientific questions that enhance society’s ability to make informed and effective decisions when it comes to the management and conservation of the planet’s natural resources.