Ohio University

Guide to Choosing a Graduate Adviser in Biological Sciences

This is a guide to choosing a graduate adviser in the Biological Sciences graduate program at Ohio University.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the Graduate Program and decide which specific program of study interests you. Two departments (Biological Sciences and Biomedical Sciences) participate in the Biological Sciences graduate program, but your degree will come from Biological Sciences.
    1. Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience
    2. Cell, Development and Microbiology
    3. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  2. Look through the faculty lists in your program of interest at Faculty Research Groups and find folks who do something that interests you.
  3. Review faculty bio pages of faculty who interest you. You will be required to name three potential advisers on your application. Review each faculty, comparing them as you answer the following questions.
    1. Do they have recent publications demonstrating an activity research program? By recent, we mean in the last two to three years. Has their research program been consistent in terms of productivity? This is the sign of a stable lab environment.
    2. Do they attend national and international conferences? This is important as this will ultimately be a way for you to network and get your foot in the door as you move along in your career.
    3. How many students have they had and how many have not finished successfully? Be aware that a few unsuccessful students may not mean that the person is not a good adviser. On the flip side, only a handful of successful students over a career also does not mean the faculty member is not a good adviser. There is limited funding for graduate students in such a big department, so the majority of faculty can only take one student at a time, if they get a student that year at all. Therefore, most faculty will have gaps in their graduate training record for this reason. Also keep in mind that newer faculty members may not have had time to establish a publication or student track record yet.
  4. Make contact with potential advisers over e-mail notifying them of your intention to apply to the program and your interest in their lab. Establishing contact is important—you need to develop some sort of relationship to know whether it will even be worth your time applying. The faculty member may simply not be interested in having students depending on their own situation.
  5. Email students who are currently in the potential adviser's lab. (See Graduate Student Directory.) Ask them about the faculty member's advising style, the consistency in feedback and encouragement, and the general workplace environment in the lab. Be aware, that some graduate students are disgruntled and this has nothing to do with the adviser. If someone is overly negative, be sure to talk to someone else for an additional point of view.
  6. Try to visit before you even apply. It is always good to do this as early in the process as possible and will strengthen your application. When you visit, ask to meet with a group of graduate students in the program as well as other faculty.
  7. For specific questions about program logistics, contact the Graduate Program Chair, Dr. Daewoo Lee. If you are interested in a faculty member whose home department is in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, contact Dr. Larry Whitmer at witmerl@ohio.edu.
  8. Once you have applied, continue contact with the faculty member, but do not hound them for information on your application. The process takes time and they may not know what stage it is at.