Website for Kevin Thornton's lab at UC Irvine


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Joining the lab

The Thornton lab is always interested in new members, especially PhD students and postdocs. On this page, I’ve written down some advice for people who may be interested in joining my lab.

Potential postdocs

You have probably found me because we’ve met at a meeting, you’ve read one of my papers, etc. That makes things easy–please contact me by email, and include a pdf of your current CV as an attachment.

Potential PhD students

If you are considering doing a PhD, you should be aware that admission to the PhD program in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCI relies heavily on discussions between the applicant and a potential future advisor. In other words, applicants need to do their homework about who does what in the department, and then initiate conversations about the possibility of doing a PhD with the faculty members whose work interests them. In academic science, publications (a.k.a. “papers”) are what matters, so you should sit down and read through recent papers from the labs that seem interesting to you. For example, my publications are listed here, and if you read them and find them boring, then you should not talk to me about doing a PhD in my lab. On the other hand, if the papers leave you wanting to know more, then drop me an email ASAP and we can talk.

The sorts of students that I’m looking for will typically have enjoyed their undergraduate courses in genetics, genomics, bioinformatics or statistics, and will have an interest in evolutionary biology or evolutionary perspectives on topics in biology. I also helps to have a knack with (or at least not be afraid of) computers. Modern biology is moving into an era of “big data”, and almost everyone getting a PhD in the coming years will benefit from learning how to write computer programs to manipulate and analyze data. UCI is an excellent place to develop such skills.

If you want more information on graduate school at UCI, there are two PhD programs that I’d like to direct your attention two. The first would typically be appropriate for someone with a Bachelor’s degree in biology, and is the PhD program in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Irvine. You can find more information through the department’s web site. Applicants to this program will be most successful if they have made contact with potential advisors ahead of time.

The second program is the gateway program in Mathematical, Computational, and Systems Biology at UCI. This program is designed to appeal to students wanting an interdisciplinary training in areas of biology where quantitative skills are at the center of modern research. Applicants to this program have broad backgrounds from majors in the biological sciences, to math, physics, and computer science. Students enter this “gateway” program in their first year, take a series of courses, and then spend time rotating through various labs before deciding upon a lab to join and do their PhD. At the start of the second year, students join the department where their advisor is located.

PhD students in my lab can come through either program, and I’m happy to talk to you about deciding which one to apply to.