Welcome! You are here because you are interested in joining the Eckert lab in Department of Biology located at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). I am an evolutionary biologist, with broad interests in evolutionary genetics, phylogenetics, and phylogeography. The goal of this site is to introduce you to my philosophy as a mentor.
I am looking for students who are passionate about studying evolution. Whether you are an empiricist who works in the field or a theoretician who works through simulations and mathematical derivations, you will need to be a curious and passionate researcher to join my lab. It would also be valuable to have prior research experience, but this is not a requirement. As with most labs in the life sciences, there are only so many spots, so that open positions for students can be quite competitive.
If you are interested in joining my lab, the best thing for you to do is to read my papers, read the information below, and then to set up a time to talk over the phone. Prior to contacting me, please think about why my lab would help you to become a better scientist.
My Philosophy of Mentoring
There are many important things to learn as a scientist. Two of the most important being are - (1) how to think critically and (2) how to be creative. These are crucial skills, as you will be confronted with ever increasing amounts of data that challenge existing computational resources and prevailing theories. It is all too easy to get lost and overwhelmed in the details that cloud the relevance to broader evolutionary questions.
My philosophy of mentoring is one where I will do my best to help you develop these skills. Everybody learns differently, and there is room to tailor experiences that are unique to you. The goal is for you to develop and hone the aforementioned skills.
If you are interested in this type of graduate school experience, please contact me () so we can discuss your interests, your expectations and needs as a student, and what you want to get out of graduate school.
My Expectations for Students
Transitioning from undergraduate to graduate school can be difficult, as the focus changes from demonstration of knowledge (i.e., taking and passing tests) to generation of knowledge (i.e., generating and testing hypotheses).
I expect that students participate in the creation and dissemination of knowledge about evolution. This means that you will be expected to think critically about evolutionary problems and express your thoughts through publications, research presentations, and teaching. You will also be expected to actively participate in laboratory activities, such as weekly reading groups and lab meetings. I also expect the following from all of my students:
I expect all students to publish, or at least prepare for publication, a minimum of one paper from their research during their tenure in my lab.
I expect students to attend and present at regional and national scientific conferences.
I expect students to gain teaching experience. More often than not, this will also be a source of funding, but should also be viewed as a wonderful opportunity to develop necessary skills to become a productive academic.
I expect students to actively read and summarize relevant literature and to maintain active interests in all aspects of science.
I expect students to actively apply for funding.
Programs for Graduate Study
Currently, there are a number of program options for students interested in joining my lab. There are two relevant M.S. programs at VCU in which I have mentored students - (1) M.S. in Biology and (2) M.S. in Environmental Studies. VCU also has an integrative doctoral program named Integrative Life Sciences. More information about each program can be found by clicking on the hyperlinked text (i.e., the blue colored and underlined text representing each programs's name).