back to Fowler home page

Information for grad school applicants

Grad school is about research

For a student in a Ph.D. or research M.S. program, graduate school is really about research, not classes.  While you will take some classes, especially in your first year or two, the most important part of your education will come from doing research yourself. Therefore selecting a grad school is as much about selecting a professor (that is, selecting a 'lab') as it is about selecting a program and a university. This works both ways: professors are looking for students who will be successful in research in the professor's field.

Information about current and recent research projects in Dr. Fowler's research group

Therefore, grad students are selected by a professor as well as by a program

Applicants are not admitted to UT  through either the EEB Graduate Program or the Plant Biology Graduate Program unless an individual professor indicates that he or she wishes to have the applicant as a student in his/her lab. If there is no one here whose research area matches your interests, or the professor(s) you want to work with don't have room in their lab(s) that year, you will not be admitted.  Therefore, if you are interested in working with me, please (1) be sure to let me know early in the process, and (2) be sure include my name in the appropriate place(s) in your application, so that I am sure to see your file.  And please feel free to contact me if you think you might be interested in coming here and ask me whatever questions you may have before you decide whether or not to apply.

Program options

Students working with me have two options, the Plant Biology Graduate Program and the EEB (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) Graduate Program.  It's up to you to choose which one fits you best. The primary differences are the course requirements and the makeup of your prelim (=qualifying) exam committee.  All of my students are expected to be very knowledgeable in ecology and in closely related fields such as evolution, but Plant Biology students are also tested in plant biology at the cellular and molecular levels during their prelim exam, while EEB students are also tested in animal behavior.

Note that the Graduate Programs are not the same as, and do not match, the Sections within the School of Biological Sciences.  I am a member of the Department of Integrative Biology.

Application and admission process

A good starting place is the Graduate School web site.

During the admissions period, applications are considered when they are complete.  There are real advantages to completing your application promptly.  Each professor only admits one or two students a year; by the time a late application comes in there may be no more room in his/her lab.  And fellowships are usually offered only very early in the process.

If you are applying to the EEB Graduate Program or the Plant Biology Graduate program and need help with some part of the application process itself, the person to contact is Ms. Tamra Rogers. She is a staff member, not faculty; she handles the administration of both graduate programs from applications to dissertation defenses, and does a fantastic job of taking care of grad students.

Grades, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and your application essay are all taken into account. Your essay should include a description of your scientific interests, to the extent you have defined them. I am also interested in any training or other relevant experiences that are not apparent from your transcript, such as an internship or paid employment as a research technician.  If you have done an undergraduate research project I would like to see a copy of the paper or report you wrote about it.  You may send extra material like a project report directly to me if you want.  I am also interested in whether you have had any experience with field work. Finally, I am interested in whether you are comfortable with a scientific field that will probably require you to learn quite a bit more statistics, math, and computer programming than an average biology B.S. student graduates with.

Please don't be discouraged if you have not had an internship, have not done undergraduate research, have not worked as a technician, have not done field work....  These are desirable but not required items in your background.

Because of the importance of research, letters from people who will evaluate your potential as a researcher - faculty or other research scientists - are usually more useful than letters from, for example, an employer at an environmental consulting firm.


We do not admit students without also offering them financial support. Most of our students support themselves by working as teaching assistants and research assistants.

Applicants with exceptionally strong records may be awarded fellowships.  If this describes you and you are interested in coming here, try to apply as soon as possible -- fellowship offers are made very early, as a recruiting tool.  And consider applying on your own for an NSF graduate fellowship.

Other faculty, other departments, etc.

The faculty of the Department of Integrative Biology includes a number of other ecologists, including Larry Gilbert, Shalene Jha, Tim Keitt, and Caroline Farrior. Find links to their lab web sites on the IB faculty webpage. There are also ecologists in the Marine Science Institute, the Department of Geography and the Environment, and elsewhere in the university. The Section of Integrative Biology is also very strong in evolutionary biology: check out web sites of the many evolutionary biologists on the IB faculty web page, some of whom also do some ecological research.