Graduate Students

An open letter to prospective graduate students,

First of all, thanks for your interest in the lab. While I prefer a more "personal approach" and welcome the opportunity to speak with you directly, I'd like to take just a minute or two of your time to introduce the lab and give you a taste (pun intended) of what life is like in our lab. That way, you can see if what we do is of interest to you.

If you look around this website you can see information on our major projects and some recent publications and the kinds of techniques we use. But, how would you fit in? Well, to be frank, that is partially up to you. We are card-carrying neurobiologists - so your graduate training will encompass a hefty dose of modern neuroscience, particularly at the cellular and molecular level. Additional training in cellular and molecular biology will help round out your formal coursework. A portion of this will, by necessity, be done independently depending upon your background and interests. We do not try to weigh grad students down with coursework, but rather favor an approach that is more independent and exploratory in nature. If not actual experience, a sincere interest in neurobiology/sensory systems/ion channels/receptor biology is required for those wishing to undertake an advanced degree with us. If you have this and a fair amount of motivation and scientific curiosity, I can guarantee you'll be given the academic freedom to pursue the things related to taste/neurobiology/nutrition/food intake/cell signaling etc. that you are interested in.

The majority of your time will be spent in lab work and keeping up with the current literature. As you may have gleaned already, we are interested in taste. Specifically, we are interested in how the body recognizes and responds to nutrients and how this process is tuned to the underlying nutritional needs of an organism. This has all sorts of implications ranging from basic mechanisms for taste transduction to the plasticity of the taste system to post-ingestive nutrient chemoreception to the control of food intake and even obesity. What you end up working on is largely up to you (of course, within the broad interests of what we do in the lab) and a critical part of your training will be to develop your own scientific independence.

I should stop here and say that as a general rule, students wishing to pursue a PhD are preferred over those working toward an MS degree. While this is not a hard and fast rule, there are a lot of reasons for my taking this stand (more than I am willing to type...), but probably the most compelling one is the stronger commitment that predoctoral students make to their research program. Grad school is not easy nor is it your birth right, so personal motivation, enthusiasm and dedication will go a long way toward meeting your educational and career goals.

Why should you want to join us? We can offer you broad-based training in cellular and molecular neuroscience. Our goal is to link structure and function and to do this we do everything from sophisticated molecular biology through electrophysiology and calcium imaging to analysis of behavior. We are a moderately sized laboratory (currently about 8-10), equally distributed among grad students, post-docs, research associates, technicians, and undergraduate researchers. So, you'll have a good collection of colleagues to collaborate with, both within and outside of the lab. We are a good group and try not to take ourselves too seriously. You be given the opportunity (OK, required) to attend national meetings and present your results and discuss science with others in your field as well. Taken together, these things will sum up to a well rounded educational experience. And finally, practically-speaking, you will be guaranteed support for the duration of your graduate program. The type, amount and level of support will depend in part on your experience, qualifications and our funding success.

While a lot of your time will obviously be spent in the lab, certainly not all of it will. The laboratory resides on the beautiful campus at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Lake Nona (Orlando).  This area is known as "Medical City" and is becoming a major site for sports training at the national level. There are tons of things to do in central FL including all the theme parks, great restaurants and numerous outdoor activities.  Orlando is home to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, the Orlando City SC in the MLS, and the Orlando Solar bears in the ECHL to name a few.  And, of course, all the athletic teams associated with the University of Central Florida. The beach on the Atlantic side is a 45 minute drive from campus (I know since I live in Cocoa Beach...). 

UCF College of Medicine

Now that you have a flavor (another intentional pun) for the lab, please feel free to contact me so that I can give you more specific information and answers any questions you may have. Please include as much information as you can (experience, interest, GPA, GRE scores, ...) so I can get an idea of your background. Thanks again for taking an interest and best of luck with obtaining all your educational and career goals.

Please note: All 1st year PhD students are required to do a minimum of two rotations through laboratories at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences (see Requirements below) before deciding officially on a PhD mentor.  

-Tim Gilbertson

••• See some of the following links for more information:

Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

Graduate Programs at Burnett

Requirements for a PhD in Biomedical Sciences

••• You are also free to email my current and recently completed graduate students for their viewpoints on life in the lab:

Yan Liu (Post-doctoral fellow; former PhD student)

Angela Stewart  (PhD; started Fall 2013)

Ashley Calder (PhD; started Fall 2014)

Naima Dahir (PhD; started Fall 2014) 

Fangjun Lin (PhD; started Fall 2017)

••• Still need more info on what is expected?  Read my 6 expectations for a graduate student below.

Timothy Gilbertson,
May 13, 2014, 9:22 AM