Join the lab

The Wright Lab at Southeastern Louisiana University is recruiting Master’s students and undergraduate research apprentices. SELU is a 4-year public university in Hammond, LA that values undergraduate teaching and research and has an excellent masters-granting graduate program. Master’s students can typically expect to complete their degree in two years, though funding for a third year may be possible.

The research performed in the Wright Lab centers on the integration of molecular and morphological information to estimate and date phylogenetic trees. More information on the lab’s general goals can be found here.  I really enjoy mentoring students, and helping them take their first steps towards being able to think statistically and computationally about biology and biodiversity. If you join the Wright Lab, I will help you learn skills that will be useful, even if you don’t go on to a career in academic biology. Those skills include: understanding organismal and evolutionary biology, reading primary scientific literature, processing and visualizing data in the Python programming language, mathematical modeling for the biological sciences, interacting with high performance cluster computers, and using revision management to manage data and computer code. If you stick around, you will be able to experience scientific writing, and publishing scientific papers.

My commitment to you is that I will:

  • Give you exposure to a variety of research areas and interests
  • Work with you in-depth on the important tools, concepts, and practices in the lab
  • Help you select the best tools and approaches for research problems
  • Help you navigate the various postgraduate opportunities that you will have
  • Help you navigate the professional world
    • I will help you network
    • I will listen and provide advice for difficult or awkward situations
  • Meet with you regularly to provide feedback on your performance, and to discuss your personal and educational goals
  • Provide feedback on grants, proposals, posters, and papers
  • Alert you to exciting jobs, funding, or opportunities
  • Write letters for you for graduate school, professional school, or jobs
  • Uphold the lab code of conduct so that you have a welcoming place to learn

The commitment I need from you is that you will:

  • Read scientific literature and discover what excites you.
  • Meet with me regularly, and respect the meeting times that we mutually agree on.
  • Make good faith attempts to learn the tools and techniques we use in the lab.
  • Think carefully about scientific problems and problems you encounter in your research, and come to me with questions or to discuss.
  • Keep an eye on your graduation requirements and come to me with questions or to discuss.
  • Carefully read grant opportunities, graduate program solicitations and job ads, and come to me with questions or to discuss.
  • Alert me to letters I need to write with sufficient time (a week is usually sufficient, but more may be needed if it is a busy season).
  • Get me documents that need to be read, such as theses, two weeks in advance. Ideally this will not be the first time I see the document.
  • Collaborate with me on posters, talks and manuscripts. Alert me as soon as possible that you would like to attend a conference to give a talk or poster, and meet with me ASAP to set reasonable goals for accomplishing this.
  • Obey the lab code of conduct.

My goal for you is for you to find your passion, and to be able to turn this passion into a career. That will involve hard work on both our parts.

Joining the Wright Lab

There are three main paths to join the Wright Lab.

For Undergraduates:

  • I would prefer for students who don’t have a background in computational biology to first take GBIO 403, Computational Biology. This will equip you for the type of work we perform in this lab.
  • Registering for GBIO 450: GBIO 450 is a research course. One can register for between 1 and 4 credits to count towards your biology degree. It is unlikely that under 3 research credits will give you the chance to do meaningful work in the lab.
  • Paid work: Students who have either completed one semester of GBIO 450 satisfactorily, or who have my approval can join the lab as paid student workers. Work study may be possible for these positions, so let me know if that is something that is required.

If you are interested in either of these tracks, contact me directly.

For Master’s Students:

The department has a Master’s program. If you are interested, please contact me directly. If we agree that you are a good fit for the lab, I will sponsor your application to the department. Master’s students will be supported through a combination of teaching assistantships and research assistantships. Teaching is a very important point of an academic career, and helps develop your public speaking skills, which is important even in a non-academic career. Even if research assistantships are available, I do want students to TA at least a semester.

Contacting Me

If you’ve read the above, and it all sounds good, feel free to shoot me an email about joining the lab. In your email, explain a little bit about you and why you are interested in the lab.  Here is an excellent blog post about writing to potential mentors. It is aimed at graduate students, but the advice is good for anyone. Do be aware that I try for a quick turnaround on email, but in busy seasons, this may be up to a week. If it’s been a week and you’ve not heard from me, feel free to email again.

Thanks to Stacy Smith‘s excellent “All About Expectations” page for the inspiration for this one.