University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences

Graduate research opportunities

EEB Graduate Student Opportunities in Research Labs - Fall, 2014

Please refer to the EEB graduate faculty website to learn more about the research of EEB graduate faculty.  Many of our faculty are looking for new students every year. Below is a list of faculty who are looking for students in specific areas with their personal statements. Funding is often available on their research projects.

In addition to the list below, please check the EEB graduate faculty directory for graduate advisors.

Dr. Yaniv Brandvein
I am dedicated to understanding the origin, diversity, distribution of, and evolutionary forces active within, the flowering plants. My group is fundamentally integrative, synthesizing genomic, theoretical, phylogenetic, comparative, molecular and field work to address these biological questions. We use genomic data to understand the history of divergence, adaptation, introgression and biogeography in emerging model systems. We use large-scale comparative analyses to reveal the major drivers of species diversity, phenotypic variation, and reproductive isolation in the flowering plants. We complement these genomic and comparative inferences with both functional analyses of the genetic and ecological bases of reproductive isolation, and basic population genomic theory to generate hypotheses and novel inference methods.

I encourage inquiries from students with a deep curiosity and interest in speciation, introgression, plant mating system evolution, and/or genomic conflicts and who are unafraid of maths, computers, pipettes and plants in their native range and are interested in a collegial and collaborative environment.

Dr. Kathryn Bushley

Research in my lab focuses on how fungal secondary metabolites shape the interaction of fungi with plants, insects, and other organisms.  Using a combination of next generation sequencing, phylogenomics, natural products chemistry, molecular genetics, and metabolomics, we examine the evolution, diversity, and functions of fungal secondary metabolites, particularly nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs) and polyketide synthetases (PKSs).  Current research is focused on population genomic analyses and population genomics of evolution of NRPS secondary metabolites among strains of the beetle pathogen Tolypocladium inflatum.  Future research projects include 1) a comparative genomic and transcriptomic approach to identify genes, secondary metabolites, and regulatory networks that allow fungi in the genera Fusarium and Beauveria to interact with distinct hosts, and 3) examining the roles of root and leaf endophytic fungi in mediating resistance to nematodes and other insect pests.  I am hoping to recruit one graduate student in Fall of 2014.

Dr. Meggan Craft

Research in my lab focuses on the ecology of infectious disease. Specifically our research integrates field-based empirical data into mathematical models to better understand disease dynamics in animal populations. These models can be used to predict disease dynamics and to ultimately devise more efficient control strategies.  Students will have the flexibility to choose their own study system. I am interested in recruiting PhD students with quantitative skills, including a strong background in programming and mathematics. For more information see the Craft Lab website.

Dr. R. Ford Denison

Darwin argued that domesticated species have been "neglected by naturalists."  That is still true of agriculturally important microbial symbionts, such as the rhizobia that provide legume crops with nitrogen.  For example, how do the "sanctions" legumes impose on rhizobial "cheaters" (discovered by former students in my lab) affect subsequent rhizobial escape into the soil?  Do rhizobia that lose the ability to reproduce as they gain the ability to fix nitrogen divert resources from nitrogen fixation to their still-reproductive clonemates?   Research interests at an earlier stage include experimental evolution of life-history in Daphnia, to test a novel hypothesis on the evolution of aging, and a comparison of intercropping with crop rotation.

Dr. Jacques Finlay

I advise students with interests in aquatic ecology, biogeochemisty, and global change. Graduate students in my lab have worked on a diversity of topics in a wide variety of systems.  Graduate students are encouraged to develop and pursue original research, often within the context of ongoing projects. My lab will have an opening for a new student for fall 2014.

Dr. Emma Goldberg

Research in my lab uses theory to address questions in macroevolution and evolutionary ecology.  For example:  How do geographic range, mating system, and other characters influence chances of speciation or extinction?  Here, we use and extend phylogenetic comparative methods with an eye to incorporating additional kinds of data.  How do local adaptation and interspecific interactions shape geographic range limits?  Here, we consider quantitative trait evolution, competition, and dispersal, looking forward to further ecological processes and environmental circumstances. I am especially interested in advising students who strive to think clearly about related interests by developing mathematical models, but we can also discuss opportunities for complementary empirical work.  I hope to recruit one student to join the lab in Fall 2014.  More information is available at the lab website <>.

Dr. William Harcombe

My lab investigates the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape microbial communities. We use model systems and experimental evolution to quantitatively understand the connection between molecular mechanisms and community dynamics. One primary project in the lab is exploring how cooperation and conflict shape a tri-partite mutualism over the course of experimental evolution. Other projects involve using bacteriophage to investigate the influence of parasitism on community composition and function.  Students in my group combine computational systems biology, empirical approaches from molecular microbiology and theory from evolutionary ecology.  I have positions for motivated students beginning in Fall 2014.

Dr. Sarah Hobbie

I will be taking one student in Fall 2014. That student will have some latitude to develop his or her own research. But mostly likely, the student will either work at the Cedar Creek LTER site on projects related to understanding the effects of human-caused global environmental changes on ecosystem processes, or will work on land-water flows of nutrients in urban ecosystems.

Dr. Peter Kennedy

Symbioses between microbes and other organisms play a central role in the ecology and evolution of life on Earth.  Our lab studies the diversity and function of fungal and bacterial symbioses of plants, with a primary focus on ectomycorrhizal fungi.  We use a range of field- and lab-based experimental methods to investigate how symbiont communities are structured and their ecological roles in forest ecosystems worldwide.  Current areas of active research in the lab include examining the effects of tri-partite interactions among plants, ectomycorrhizal fungi, and nitrogen-fixing bacteria, experimentally testing the role of biotic and abiotic factors in driving large geographic scale patterns of ectomycorrhizal fungal community richness, and further exploring the mechanisms and outcomes of ectomycorrhizal competition.  The lab is currently accepting graduate students to begin in fall 2014.

Dr. Georgiana May

Research in my lab focuses on the evolution and ecology of microbe's interactions with their host plants. We are especially interested how interactions of organisms making up a plant's microbiome may drive symbioses toward more mutualistic or antagonistic outcomes with the host.  We are working on these questions in several systems focusing on endophytic and pathogenic fungi living within plant hosts in natural and managed ecosystems.  For Fall 2014, I am recruiting students with interests in the movement of symbiotic fungi between natural grassland and agricultural host plants, and among hosts in natural boreal forest systems.  Graduate students in my lab are encouraged to develop and pursue their own research questions while overlapping with ongoing and funded projects that provide much of the infrastructure.  Our approaches to these questions have used modeling, observational, genetic, metagenomic and population genomic methods.  We also maintain, and make publicly available, a large collection of endophytic and pathogenic fungi from maize.

Dr. Suzanne McGaugh

My lab will have openings for two graduate students starting in Fall 2014. Major projects in the lab focus on understanding how gene-flow, recombination, selection, and drift have shaped the evolution of Mexican cavefish from surface fish. Other projects include investigating the drivers of recombination rate variation in a variety of taxa and comparative genomics in reptile populations. Most projects in the lab will have a computational component, though a significant amount of freedom will be allowed for pursuing individual projects and interests.   Please check out the McGaugh Lab website for more information.

Dr. Allison Shaw

In my research group, we use theoretical approaches (such as analytic models and individual-based simulations) to study evolutionary and behavioral ecology questions. I am currently recruiting graduate students, and I would particularly welcome students interested in exploring how long-distance movement (migration, dispersal) can interact with climate change, parasites, and infectious diseases. Graduate students in my group are encouraged to develop their own research questions, and the best fit will be candidates who have a strong mathematical background and are interested in developing theoretical projects. I am very open to graduate students having an empirical side to their work as well, although this is likely to work best with support from a coadvisor in the department or collaborator.   Please check out the Shaw lab website for more information.

Dr. Andrew Simons

Research in my lab centers on phylogenetic systematics of fishes. My students develop their own dissertation topics depending on their particular interests and goals and all of my students have combined field and lab work in their studies. Past dissertation topics include comparative phylogeography of North American stream fishes and the evolution of complex morphological structures. My current students are studying the evolution of gill raker morphology in North American suckers; phylogeny and evolution of trophic morphology in marine blennies; and the evolution of generalism and its impact on diversification in clupeiform fishes. I am interested in recruiting one graduate student to start in Fall 2014.

Dr. David Stephens

I’m an experimental behavioral ecologist, and my lab studies animal foraging behavior, decision-making, signaling and learning from an evolutionary perspective.  My group maintains a colony of captive blue jays that we use to study decision-making problems.  At the moment we are focused on the dynamics of signaler’s and receivers, and we have projects involving experimental signaling games, testing the role of social vs. asocial signals, and investigating the ‘receiver psychology’ of   multi-component signals.  We have strong ties with colleagues in psychology and neuroscience, and we try to take a broad view of animal behavior. We are interested in recruiting graduate student colleagues who share our fascination with evolution and cognition.  Please visit the Stephens Lab website for more information.

Paul Venturelli

My team examines how temperature, life history, and human disturbance shape the population dynamics of fishes that are of interest to management or conservation. I am looking for a Fall 2014 PhD student to conduct research on either applied degree-days or sustainable fisheries modeling. Degree-days measure the thermal energy that is in an environment over some period of interest. Degree-days can be used to describe rates of growth and development, but this approach is fairly new to fish science so there are many exciting research questions. The first research option is to explore some of these questions and develop new degree-day applications. The second option is to use compensation modeling to evaluate and design fishing regulations. Compensation modeling is a new technique that uses the increase in individual growth rate that occurs when a population is harvested to predict the harvest rate that that population can sustain. Applicants must have a strong mathematics background and competitive GPA and GRE scores.

Dr. George Weiblen

My lab studies plant and insect systematics, molecular phylogenetics, pollination ecology and coevolution. We combine fieldwork in tropical and temperate ecosystems with specimen-based research and DNA sequencing to study the ecology and evolution of plant-insect interactions. Experimental studies of coevolution between figs trees and their obligate pollinators have been a focus of past research. Other current opportunities for research in my group involve the analysis of plant-insect food webs and forest dynamics using large data sets from Papua New Guinea.  I am currently accepting students.   More information is available at the Weiblen Lab website.

Dr. Marlene Zuk

Research in my lab concerns sexual selection, sexual signaling, and mate choice, and I am particularly interested in the role of parasites and disease in these processes.  Students have worked in a variety of systems, including birds, but most of our current research uses insects and other invertebrates in a combination of laboratory and field work.  Much of our work centers on the role of behavior in the establishment of new traits, using a case of rapid evolution in the Pacific field cricket.  I am also beginning a project examining same-sex behavior in Laysan albatross.  I am interested in recruiting one or two students for the upcoming year.  For more information on my research, see