For Prospective Graduate Students
Javier A. Rodríguez

Graduate work in my laboratory

My interests are rather varied (see Research Interests and Publications), so research projects in my laboratory span a range of topics. Regardless of the project they choose, I expect students to address questions about aspects of the evolution and/or ecology of animal taxa in their research. This could include anything ranging from a project in molecular phylogeography to a population-based study of habitat selection and activity patterns. Although I am not limited taxonomically, most of the work in my laboratory involves non-avian reptiles and amphibians. It is worth emphasizing that my forays into behavioral ecology have been with Manuel Leal (Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia), whom is extremely knowledgeable of this field, and most of the ideas presented in the papers that we have coauthored in this discipline are his.

With respect to my philosophy as mentor, I equally value experimental research programs and more descriptive projects, provided that they are hypothesis-driven. However, I advise my students to adopt an experimental approach, in part because nowadays securing outside funding for exploratory research is challenging. Finding one's own niche and developing an independent research program are critical aspects of graduate education. I therefore prefer that my students conduct research work that is independent of mine, and they generally must seek external funding for that work. I like to collaborate with my students on at least one "side" project of mutual interest. I make sure that they play an active role in all stages of the publishing process, including project design, data analysis and presentation, bibliographic research, manuscript preparation, and addressing comments from reviewers. Students greatly benefit by getting this experience as early in their careers as possible. I exhort all my students to adopt the maxim "it is not research until it is published." I have considerable administrative responsibilities (I am the Associate Dean of the College of Sciences), but I continue to be an "involved" advisor, and I routinely meet with members of my research group to assess their progress and to offer constructive criticism, advice, and support.

I actively encourage my students to keep trying to refine their data-gathering techniques, to try new approaches, and to not hesitate to solicit advice when they judge it necessary. I urge them to accomplish in graduate school those things that will be expected from them in their chosen careers. For those pursuing academic jobs, that means applying for grants, presentation of research at national meetings, prompt submission of finished work for publication, striving for good teaching, and more importantly, a desire to achieve high quality scholarship. I much prefer to give praise and encouragement, but I do not hesitate in pointing out to my students aspects of their performance that I believe they can improve on.

Finally, but most importantly, I expect that my students bring with them the motivation, determination, and independence necessary to accomplish the goal of achieving in a timely manner a rewarding graduate education that prepares them well for the challenges of being a professional biologist. I realize that beginning graduate students are sometimes shy and even hesitant (I know I was), but as time passes, I expect that they become progressively more confident in their abilities.

Admission to the Graduate Program of the School of Life Sciences

Admission to the School of Life Sciences is a two-pronged process, in that the applicant must (1) have identified a major professor willing to sponsor him/her, and (2) be among those students accepted by the Graduate Admissions Committee. The School of Life Sciences typically admits less than 10 new students each year from a relatively large pool of applicants. It thus follows that individual faculty members usually take on only one new graduate student every other year, and that qualified applicants are not admitted for lack of space in the Program. That said, our Program offers good opportunities for graduate students, and I encourage applications from those whom feel their interests are compatible with mine (for details see Research Interests).

What to do if you want to apply to work in my laboratory

First, please send me a note ( introducing yourself, telling me what are your research interests, what research, if any, you have done in the past, and why you would like to work with me. Second, check out the information about the admission requirements to the Graduate Program. To ensure full consideration, applications should be completed by January 15. Information about UNLV's Graduate College is found at <>.

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