Finding a major professor
Establishing a productive relationship with a major professor is every
bit as important as selecting the right graduate program. Finding a major
professor requires careful consideration, and considerable effort. In
addition, the Graduate Group in Ecology (GGE) requires that all admitted
students have a committed Major Professor. While it is not necessary to
have this commitment before submitting your application, it is a good
idea to start the process early. Many good prospective students miss out
on the opportunity to join the GGE because they do not find a major professor
willing to accept them as well as to lobby for their admission. It is
good to think of it this way: the average faculty member accepts less
than an average of one student per year. How do you become that student
this year? Confirmation of a commitment by a GGE faculty member must be
in the form of a letter submitted to the GGE admissions committee. Even
if you are very well qualified and highly competitive, failure to fulfill
this requirement will prevent admission. Remember that you will be entering
a research partnership with your major professor—both of you must
expect to have a productive working relationship.
There are several steps you should take to make your search productive:
- Consult the faculty list online, and especially the list of faculty that are accepting new students. Identify faculty members whose interests match yours and e-mail them regarding your interest. You should arrange to have a conversation with your prospective major professor by telephone, or in person.
- Write a specific a statement of purpose that clearly identifies your research interests. Ecology faculty will usually choose students on the basis of experience, skills, and interests as well as academic record. Providing an accurate picture of these is definitely in your interest.
- Feel free to contact more than one faculty member. We recognize that many students may have diverse interests.
- Talk to graduate students already in the program. This is a very productive way to find new leads. The Ecology Graduate Student Association is a great resource for referrals; they may be contacted through the GGE graduate program coordinator.
- If you can, arrange to visit. This is a good way to get a feel for the institution and the program, and the very best way for you to assess potential major professors. With over 300 applications each year. Many GGE faculty members will not accept a student that they have not already met. It is impossible for the GGE to assist you with travel funds for a campus visit; however, housing with a graduate student can usually be arranged.
- Although the responsibility for finding a major professor is ultimately yours, we will assist you in the search as much as possible. In particular, you may want to contact the Chair of the Area of Emphasis who is also Chair of the Admissions Committee. They may have some advice on which faculty members have similar interests to your own.
- Finally, the requirement to have a major professor extends throughout your tenure if you are selected for admission. Nevertheless, should you or your major professor find that you are incompatible, or your interests change, you are welcome to find a new major professor.
Additional Information on finding a major professor can be found at the EGSA student survival guide.