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Department of Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology
Department of Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology
Last updated 11/18/2002
Outcomes Assessment Summary for 2002
The EPOB Graduate Program attracts outstanding applicants from high-
quality undergraduate and graduate institutions such as UC Berkeley,
Yale, Stanford, Duke, Swarthmore, Cal. Tech, University of Chicago,
Columbia, Wesleyan, Cornell, Georgetown, Grinnell, Carleton, McGill,
and University of Washington.
Admissions are highly competitive. Out of 100 applications for
fall 2002 admissions, a total of 25 were accepted, and 16 actually
enrolled for fall 2002.
The department participates in two programs for undergraduates that
bring women and minority undergraduates to the department and
introduces them to biological research: the university SMART program
and the EPOB NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.
We have had many participants in these programs apply to the EPOB
EPOB nominates applicants for the Chancellor's Fellowship, and for
Chancellor's Teaching Fellowships for minorities. These
fellowships are excellent tools for recruiting high-quality
A drawback for our recruitment efforts is the lack of travel funding
for prospective graduate students from out of state who would like
to visit the EPOB Department. In previous years, the Graduate
School awarded EPOB approximately $2,500 for graduate student
recruitment. The loss of travel funds has reduced our ability to
compete with other graduate programs for the best students.
We admit only highly qualified applicants who interview with faculty
members. Therefore, we admit only motivated students who have
initiative and drive and who are able to carry on an intelligent
correspondence with faculty members.
One of the prerequisites for admission is that a faculty member
request admission of the student. After interviewing the student,
the faculty member identifies a line of support (RA, TA,
Fellowship), office space, and laboratory space. The prerequisite
of faculty advocacy assures that the student will receive close
supervision and will promptly initiate his or her research.
The number of students admitted is limited by the number of support
(TAs, RAs, Fellowships) lines available in the department. We
guarantee support (tuition waiver and a stipend) for all of our
Ph.D. students and MAI (Masters with thesis) students for the full
duration of their graduate careers.
EPOB invests a substantial amount of funds in TA support, tuition
waivers, research funding, and individual mentoring for each of our
graduate students. When the Department of EPO Biology admits a
student to our program, we have an obligation to that student to do
everything we can to ensure that they can work in an environment
that is likely to lead to a productive and successful career in
We would like to describe some of the methods used in our graduate
program to mentor and assist our graduate students through their
- Graduate-Student Mentors. We ask continuing graduate students
in EPOB to volunteer to serve as mentors for 1st-year graduate
students. These mentors help our new students (most of them from
out of state) adjust to life in the EPOB Department, the Boulder
Campus and the City of Boulder. This fall, one of our mentors
helped a depressed first-year student find professional counseling
- Lead Graduate Teacher. The Lead Graduate Teacher acts as a
liaison between the EPOB Department and the UCB Graduate Teacher
Program. Most EPOB graduate students are assigned teaching
assistantships in their first year. The EPOB Lead Graduate Teacher
holds discipline-specific workshops at the beginning of the academic
year for our 1st-year TAs.
- Orientation Meeting. We hold a required orientation meeting for
all 1st-year graduate students. At this meeting, we inform
students about resources in the department and on campus such as the
EPOB Writing Lab, the Science Library, the EPOB Graduate Student
Working Group, the United Government of Graduate Students and the
Graduate Teacher Program. At this meeting, we make the point that
our graduate program commits substantial resources and the faculty
commit a substantial amount of time to help the graduate students
attain their goal of an academic or professional career. That is,
we make it clear that the graduate students and the faculty are
working toward the same goal.
- Required EPOB course for 1st-year graduate students. All 1st-
year graduate students are required to enroll in the course,
"Introduction to Biological Research," which informs students about
the various research areas in the EPOB Department. As part of this
course, students are required to attend the EPOB Friday Colloquium
series. The Colloquium series gives our students exposure to many
areas of biology.
- Grants and Fellowships. All EPOB graduate students are required
to apply for a grant or fellowship from a major granting agency such
as: National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of
Health (NIH), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of
Agriculture (USDA) and the Ford Foundation. This gives our
students valuable experience in writing proposals, and many of our
students have been awarded funding from these agencies. Our
faculty are dedicated to assisting students who need help with
writing grant proposals.
- Meetings and Exams. Meetings and Exams for EPOB graduate
students are intended as "mid-course corrections" giving students
positive, constructive guidance and support in their research degree
programs. EPOB requires the following meetings and exams:
- First-semester meeting. The student's advisory committee evaluates
all aspects of the student's undergraduate and graduate record--
including coursework, past research experiences, teaching
experiences, the student's perceived goals and interests, and
strengths and weaknesses in specific biological disciplines. On the
basis of this evaluation, the committee requires or recommends
specific coursework, and suggests possible research directions and
TA assignments. In addition, the Advisory committee assembles a
list of required reading that constitutes the basis for developing a
broad understanding and familiarity with the chosen field of
- MA 2nd-semester exam or PhD 3rd-semester exam. This
examination evaluates the student's knowledge of the contemporary
and historical literature relating to the student's proposed
research. During the meeting, the student delivers a 20-minue oral
presentation describing progress toward choosing and initiating a
- MA 3rd-semester comprehensive exam or PhD 5th-
semester comprehensive exam. For this exam, the student writes an
NSF-type research proposal on the thesis or dissertation topic. The
student gives a 20-minute presentation on her or his research
progress. This is followed by an oral examination given by the MA
thesis committee or Ph.D. dissertation committee. The primary
purpose of this meeting is to set up a "contract" between the
graduate student and the advisory committee. Once the proposal has
been approved, it clearly describes the data and analyses needed for
the thesis research.
- MA thesis defense or PhD Dissertation Defense.
- Graduate-Student Participation in Local and National Scientific Meetings and Seminars.
- The majority of EPOB graduate students participate in both local
and national scientific meetings. At these meetings, the students
present posters or give oral presentations on their research.
- In the EPOB Department there are regularly scheduled informal group
discussion meetings in ecology and evolution, attended by graduate
students and faculty.
- Once a year, there is a meeting of population biologists ("GRMPB")
held at the CU Mountain Research Station, where our graduate
students are encouraged to talk about their research in a friendly,
informal setting, and learn about the research of other population
biologists in the Rocky Mountain Region. Before the graduate
student gives an oral presentation, he or she gives a practice
presentation in the department to assure them that the power-point
presentation is ready and that the presentation fits comfortably
into the allotted time.
- Each year, the EPOB graduate students organize a one-day, "EPOB
Symposium", where our students give poster presentations and talks
about their research in front of their student-peers and faculty in
Fifty-nine students have earned Ph.D. degrees in the last five
years. Nineteen of these currently hold tenure-track positions in
colleges and universities (Dalhousie University, San Diego State
University, Georgia State University, University of Southern
Mississippi, University of Puerto Rico, University of Colorado and
Colorado College). Seven are lecturers at universities or colleges
and twenty currently hold post-doctoral positions. Three graduates
work in secondary schools and nine hold positions in industry or
New Graduate Academic Initiatives
Our new graduate regulations have changed in the following ways: The
number of required seminars has been reduced, and the number of
rigorous graduate courses is being expanded. Each student's faculty
advisory committee has greater authority to design a graduate
curriculum tailored to the goals of the individual graduate student.
Additionally, all graduate students are assigned a reading list that
they must complete in their first year.
We have implemented a BA/MA degree program, and to date, 7 students
have completed the BA/MA degree. We are also actively involved in
several new interdisciplinary graduate programs, including the
Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (I.G.E.R.T.)
grant, the Astrobiology program, the Biophysics Graduate Certificate
program and the Neurobiology Ph.D. program. Additionally, we are
offering a Remote Sensing Field Methods course with the Geography
and Geology Departments.