Undergraduate research opportunities

Undergraduates interested in plant evolutionary biology are encouraged to inquire about research opportunities in the lab. The best time to begin undergraduate research is your sophomore year. With your freshman year finished, you will have the basic foundation in biology and chemistry necessary for undertaking research in the lab. By beginning in your sophomore year, you will have the time to learn the techniques and advance to an independent project. Projects may focus on one of the areas of ongoing research in the lab (molecular evolution, comparative analysis, biochemical studies of plant pigments, phylogenetics, floral ecology).  Students can participate in undergraduate research in the lab in one of several ways: (1) as a volunteer, (2) for credit, (3) as a work study student, or (4) as a UROP or BURST student. Also take the time to read Ted Garland’s thoughts on undergrad research. Interested students should contact Dr. Smith to discuss current research opportunities in the lab.

Information for Prospective Graduate Students


When the lab has openings for new graduate students, we seek creative, motivated, curious, and hard-working students to join. Students may pursue research in any of the lab’s areas of interest (evolutionary genetics, molecular phylogenetics, comparative methods, plant biochemistry, and floral biology), either in Solanaceae or in another group of plants. Depending on the nature of the project, research may range from more molecular work (genetics, biochemistry) to computational/statistical work (e.g. comparative methods) or field-oriented work (e.g. systematics, pollination biology). Given the integrative nature of evolutionary biology as a field, most projects will involve a mix of these! For example, a molecular-oriented doctoral project might examine the changes in gene expression and function that result in flower color differences and test the selective forces acting on that variation while a more comparative project might delve into the systematics of one of the beautiful but understudied taxa of Solanaceae (e.g. Witheringia, Cestrum, Browallia) and reconstruct the evolution of their floral morphology along the phylogeny.

The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at CU-Boulder offers master’s and doctoral degrees. Instructions for applying can be found here. Students accepted into the program are offered support through graduate teaching and research assistantships. Students are strongly encouraged to apply for internal CU-Boulder fellowships as well as external fellowships (NSF graduate fellowships, NIH pre-doctoral programs). In addition to the CU application, prospective students should contact Dr. Smith directly about working in the lab. Before contacting us, look at the ongoing research projects, read some of our publications, and take a look at Dr. Smith's expectations for graduate students. In your inquiry email, please include the following: (1) a paragraph explaining why you want to go to graduate school and why this lab is a good fit for you and (2) an attached CV highlighting relevant research experience and coursework. It’s a good idea to read one of the many guides to success in school before embarking on your graduate career. Casey Dunn also offers great advice for those considering applying to a graduate program.

Information for Prospective Postdoctoral Fellows

We welcome inquiries from doctoral students interesting in pursuing postdoctoral research in the lab, and prospective postdocs are advised to begin looking into funding sources at least a year before graduation. Interested parties should contact Dr. Smith to discuss possible projects and funding sources, and expect to apply for one of the many external funding mechanisms (e.g., NIH NRSANSF PRFBFord Fellowship, LSRF, HFSP). CU-Boulder also offers postdoctoral fellowships for applicants from underrepresented groups through the Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, and the Smith lab welcomes fellows through this program.

About the University of Colorado-Boulder

CU-Boulder is a large public university institution with over 30,000 graduate and undergraduate students. Boulder is consistently rated as one of the best places to live in the U.S. -- in large part because of its gorgeous location at the front range of the Rockies, its extensive biking and hiking trails, and its vibrant culture. 

UCB campus