Prospective Grad Students
At the Evolutionary Ecology of Health research labs, all of our students are encouraged to independently design and implement relevant research projects of their own interest (click here to learn more about our current projects). They are also expected to be able to write publication-level papers for their projects.
The following description illustrates the qualities we are searching for in graduate students:
1. Background or training in evolutionary thinking, especially as applied to behavior and/or psychology
We view mental health through the lens of evolution, because the brain is the product of a long history of evolution. Consequently, a background in evolutionary thinking is of the utmost importance.
2. Strong analytical and critical thinking skills
As John Platt once argued, science progresses most rapidly when a broad range of alternative hypotheses are considered and rigorously tested against each other. However, many widely-held benefits in mental health have not been rigorously tested. Making progress will require questioning the assumptions that underlie the field.
3. The ability to generate interesting research questions
The ostensible goal of a graduate degree in science is to become an independent researcher who can successfully contribute to the field he or she is in. This will depend, in part, on the ability to generate interesting research questions.
4. Strong quantitative skills
Good scientific inference depends on one’s ability to conduct and understand statistical analyses. However, mathematical models of human behaviour and social interactions can also yield surprising predictions that would not otherwise be possible. Additionally, strong quantitative skills (including statistics and mathematics) are useful in promoting logical and analytical thinking.
5. Good communication skills
Successful science depends, in part, on the ability to effectively communicate it. Since we are often doing work that challenges traditional views about mental health, effective communication is all the more important.
6. Good judgment
Whether it is challenging the conventional wisdom, generating a research question, communicating our findings to other scientists or the public, or dealing with people who are closely scrutinizing our work, good judgment is important in just about everything we do.