Lab Opportunities

Postdocs Foreign Applicants Graduate Students Undergraduate Students

Mentoring Philosophy

Students are the life-blood of a vibrant scientific laboratory. Incoming students bring novel ideas, perspectives and energy to the group, whereas more established students helpput those ideas to the test through experimental design, analysis and interpretation. I have benefited from working with engaged, dedicated mentors at every step of my education, and am committed to training students at all levels of experience to develop their skills as scientists, scholars and critical thinkers. My mentoring experience includes bilingual (Spanish-English) tutoring and peer counseling, training workshops in plant volatile analysis, undergraduate summer research opportunities and honors projects, co-advising of graduate students from other institutions, and training my own graduates and postdocs. I strive to build a structured lab environment which places a premium on the excitement of discovery, equitable division of lab responsibilities, mutual respect and open communication.

Postdoctorate Students

I consider prospective postdocs to be scientifically mature colleagues with whom I hope to develop novel ideas, questions or model systems. Postdocs must be responsible for organizing their time and research priorities, for aggressively pursuing funding opportunities, and for showing leadership in lab activities, including mentoring younger students. It is my charge to guide the final stages of postdoc's maturation, from teaching new methods to instruction in grantsmanship, project management, peer review, strategies for publication and curriculum design-in short, how to land (and keep) a job.

Foreign Students

I have deeply enjoyed training postdocs and graduate students from other countries, including Switzerland, Australia, Germany, Uruguay, Sweden, Argentina, Chile and South Africa. Cultural exchange is one of the great perks of a life in science, and I have been treated with generosity, warmth and tolerance as a guest around the world. Thus, I relish the opportunity to repay such kindness as a cultural ambassador for my own country, and have encouraged my foreign guests to take the fullest advantage of their opportunities to see the USA while working here.
However, the post 9/11 world has raised formidable obstacles to the free exchange of peoples and ideas; foreign applicants are urged to consider the following suggestions:

  1. Study the most updated visa/exchange relationships between your country and the USA. Initiate all paperwork well in advance of your anticipated dates of travel.
  2. Be prepared to demonstrate financial independence, life insurance and other documents that will ensure fair and efficient treatment by customs and immigration officials.
  3. Be patient with bureaucratic problems-communication between the Social Security Administration and the Homeland Security Department, for example has been problematic.
  4. Take steps to improve your written and spoken English before you arrive. Many Americans still speak only English, often quickly and with regional accents, and may not empathize with the special challenges of learning a second language. Written and spoken fluency will enhance your chances for a successful stay.
  5. Acquire an international driver's license before you arrive. Although public transportation is fully encouraged, it is not a practical option for field work in most rural parts of the USA.

I cannot over-emphasize the need for self sufficiency and independence regarding your research

Graduate Students

The Department of Neurobiology and Behavior offers excellent opportunities for interdisciplinary instruction in the proximate and ultimate mechanisms of behavior. My training and interests extend beyond NBB, as I am currently a member of the graduate fields of Entomology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Plant Biology at Cornell. Thus, I am qualified and eager to mentor thesis work in several fields.

Cornell graduate study is traditionally organized around graduate fields, rather than departments. This speaks to Cornell's strong collaborative tradition in the life sciences, and the fact that the biological sciences are spread across several departments here. This can be confusing, because my academic appointment is in NBB, thus my name will not appear on the departmental faculty listings of these other units. Do not be put off! If you are interested in applying to do graduate work with me, please investigate the web sites for NBB and the other graduate fields with which I am associated (see links above), and think about the best field for your career interests. I can serve as your thesis advisor in ANY of these graduate fields.

I have three primary expectations for graduate students:

  1. That they display an abiding curiosity and respect for the natural world, and allow it to inspire and direct their research initiatives
  2. That they take responsibility for generating and developing their research programs and take full advantage of the opportunities presented to them.
  3. That they treat those around them with sensitivity and respect, especially in cases where ethnic, cultural or philosophical differences may exist.

I have developed strong collaborative relationships around the world, and my students typically visit other labs or attend short courses to learn complementary approaches or techniques. I also encourage my students to attend small, important meetings such as ESITO, Gordon Research Conferences, SIP and other symposia, as well as annual meetings associated with specific societies, from the Ecological and Botanical Societies of America to ACHEMS, ISOT, SICB and ISCE.

Undergraduate Students

I have a long tradition of mentoring undergraduate research in my lab, owing to my own formative research experiences as an undergraduate at Yale and a research technician at Stanford, and the enjoyment I get from helping young students to experience scientific discovery. I typically welcome 1-3 undergraduates to my lab each year, often beginning with federal work-study (mostly care of insects and plants, but often leading to independent projects) or volunteer work (usually shadowing one of my graduate students or postdocs). When students show initiative and dedication, they might develop projects of their own through independent study (e.g. BioG 2990 & BioG 4990, honors research, the Hughes Scholars summer program or an REU position supported by one of my grants.

I do not hand students "safe" projects that I know in advance will work out, nor do I let students flail without any guidance. We typically discuss an interesting paper or lecture to develop a research theme, then work together to design appropriate experiments, learn the necessary analytical tools (GC-MS, software, etc.) and set up a timeline by which the student can remain productive in the lab while maintaining their academic schedule. In the end, though, students are responsible for their own research project, and must understand that our study organisms do not take holidays or weekends, and must be cared for appropriately. Finally, it is important for students to experience all stages of research from experimental design and data collection/analysis to communication of their results to their peers and the public. My students typically participate in outreach activities such as the Entomology Department's Insectapalooza weekend, meet with school children or National Park visitors while working in the field, and present their findings as posters or short talks in departmental end-of-year honors symposia, the campus-wide CURB symposium, and sometimes at regional or international conferences (e.g. SICB).

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