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485 McCormick Road
P.O. Box 400328
Charlottesville, VA 22904

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Graduate Program

Overview

Graduate training in the Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior group emphasizes research creativity, independence, and collaboration. We are looking for students who bring their own ideas to the conversation, and who are willing to explore and master new techniques to research those ideas. The size of our program provides exceptional opportunities for close interaction with faculty both in a student’s home laboratory and across the department. Many students conduct their research at the Mountain Lake Biological Station where they interact closely with scientists and students from all over the world.

EEB students are part of the graduate program within the Department of Biology. Membership in this larger program allows easy connections across lab groups representing a diversity of scientific approaches and techniques. The Biology GSPA (Graduate Student and Postdoc Association) is an active force in promoting student interests, and connect students across these the varied halls of Biology. Details of the Biology PhD program, including official application instructions and requirements can be found at the Department of Biology

Join us!

What are we looking for?

There is no “typical” graduate student in EEB at UVA. Some join right after completing their undergrad degree, others after a Master’s, others after a few years pursuing other experiences. The most important qualities we look for are some research experience, passion for the big questions and ideas in evolution, ecology, and behavior, and the self-motivation to succeed on your chosen trajectory.

We value a diversity of viewpoints, perspectives, and backgrounds within our scientific community. Our faculty are committed to making the program a welcoming intellectual environment for anyone interested in pursuing a career in EEB related fields.

Financial Support

PhD students are guaranteed financial support for five years through a combination of fellowships, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships. Our generous stipends compare favorably to other top institutions, along with coverage of tuition, academic fees, and health insurance. Past EEB students have been highly successful at earning a variety of externally funded fellowships from the University, NSF, NIH, and private foundations.

Application Process

Formal application to EEB takes place through the Department of Biology. We begin reviewing applications December 1 each year. GRE scores are not required or evaluated for admission. Prospective admittees are invited to visit the Department for a recruiting weekend in February to meet faculty and tour facilities and town.  All the details and requirements for application can be found here.

Contact us!

If you are interested in the research we do in EEB@UVA, we want to hear from you. The most important step in joining our program is to reach out to faculty who are conducting work that is of interest to you. A short email introducing yourself and your interests is all it takes! That starts a conversation that will help both of us learn if our interests align. You can find our contact information and current research on the faculty & research page.

 
 

The EEB Program

The details of each student’s path depend on their own training and research direction, but there are some common features that all students experience.

 

Rotations

Every student has the opportunity to rotate in two laboratory groups during their first year (students entering with a Master’s are only required to rotate in one lab). Rotations provide a chance to sample different approaches and study systems, and build connections with multiple faculty and lab groups.

 

Teaching requirement

We view teaching as critical component of the graduate training program. Students are required to complete a minimum of one semester of Graduate Teaching Assistantship. In practice, most do more. For those interested in career paths that include teaching, the department offers a competitive Distinguished Teaching Fellowship that allows students to develop and deliver their own upper level class.

 

Coursework

Course requirements are limited. EEB students take a three-semester core course in Advanced Ecology & Evolution that is led by a rotation of core faculty in the group. Each faculty member leads an 8 week section in their own specialty, covering a range of current topics that span molecular evolution, genomic approaches, ecological dynamics, quantitative genetics, and behavioral ecology. Other course requirements include courses in Communicating Science, Research Ethics, and a research colloquium (the weekly EEBio research seminar). Additional optional topical courses are available from Biology, Mountain Lake Biological Station, and other University departments.

Qualifying exam

In the spring of Year 2, students prepare a written research proposal that outlines their plan of research, its intellectual background and significance, and its place in the broader literature. Students defend the proposal in an oral exam with their committee in which they demonstrate their knowledge of the subject area, conceptual background, and current literature. After successfully passing the exam, students are formally admitted to PhD Candidacy.

Year 1

  • 1st rotation in a lab (Fall)

  • Coursework, including the Advanced Ecology and Evolution course

  • Teaching assistantship, research assistantship, or fellowship

  • 2nd Rotation in different lab (Spring), not required for students with MS experience

  • Plan for first summer research season or experience

Year 2

  • Form advisory committee and hold introductory meeting (Fall)

  • Continue coursework (Fall)

  • Develop and write research proposal (Fall and Spring)

  • Qualifying exam (Spring)

  • Begin independent research

Years 3-5

  • Continue research

  • Meet annually with advisory committee

  • Write papers and present results at meetings

Year 5

  • Write up dissertation

  • Final private Defense with committee (Spring)

  • Public presentation of Dissertation (Spring)

 

Grad Life

Living in Charlottesville

Charlottesville is a progressive college town that sits in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is consistently named on lists of best places to live in the USA. We have abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation, a world-class music scene, and prominent local food, brewing, wine, and art culture. We are a short drive or train ride from Washington, DC and only 20 minutes from Shenandoah National Park.

For more on life in Charlottesville visit the sites below:

Graduate Student and Postdoc Association

The Department of Biology has an active Graduate Student and Postdoc Association that promotes intellectual and social discourse throughout the department. Their activities include selecting and inviting an outside speaker each year, raising funds for student travel awards, hosting social events, and advocating for student welfare. 

Mountain Lake Biological Station

Many students and faculty conduct their research at the Mountain Lake Biological Station. MLBS is a world-renown field station that provides an active intellectual environment with modern facilities and protected field sites, as well as housing and dining through the summer months. The community of researchers, artists, and other scholars that make MLBS home in the summers provides EEB grad students a unique opportunity to broaden their networks and experiences beyond the department and university. Students are eligible for (and typically receive) internal grants to support full costs of residency and research at MLBS.