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Department of Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology
Graduate Program
Last updated 11/18/2002

Outcomes Assessment Summary for 2002

Graduate Recruitment

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 graduate program.

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 students.

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.

Graduate Admissions

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 biology.

Graduate-Student Mentoring

We would like to describe some of the methods used in our graduate program to mentor and assist our graduate students through their degree programs:

  1. 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 on campus.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 science.
    • 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 research project.
    • 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.
  7. 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 the department.

Career Placement

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 consulting firms.

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.

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Last revision 01/03/05


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