Now Recruiting Graduate Students and Undergraduate Researchers (including Work/Study)
Research experience is a necessity for any undergraduate interested in pursuing paleontology, ichthyology, earth science, evolutionary biology or any other scientific field as a career, and teaches students how science actually works. Our lab provides plenty of opportunities for undergraduates to get involved, ranging from individual mini-projects to collaborative work with graduate students and postdocs to senior theses. Time commitment is very flexible, ranging from a few hours a week to registered credit hours during a semester to a senior thesis written over the course of a year (See the Penn EES departmental website here)
Undergraduate volunteers have collected data on the early history of vertebrate evolution, reconstructed the ecology of past life, described new fossils and ancient faunas, and reconstructed 3D models of fossils using CT scans. They have also learned methods ranging from basic statistical tests to model-fitting to ecological comparisons to time series analysis to taxonomic description. As a result of their efforts, they have gained authorship on scientific papers, demonstrating their skills as scientists to the broader research community and graduate school admissions committee. EES undergraduates on the Paleobiology track are required to submit a senior thesis for graduation. The department offers funding for undergraduate research in paleobiology.
The Department of Earth and Environmental Science graduate group accepts PhD applications from October-December 15 for admission the following Fall (See the application website). Admission is based on fit within a lab, so it is best to contact the potential advisor before applying. PhD students are supported by either departmental fellowships or research grants (e.g., NSF GRFP or funded proposals), which provide tuition, benefits and a generous stipend throughout the dissertation. Students determine their own dissertation projects in consultation with their advisor and generally finish in 4-5 years with 3 or more papers.
Dissertations in the lab address major themes in paleobiology. These include, but are not limited to: the tempo and mode of evolution at higher levels and on geological timescales (macroevolution), the effects of environmental and ecological change on life over time, the origins and interrelationships of major groups of animals, and the causes and consequences of mass extinction. Research usually involves a combination quantitative, phylogenetic, biomechanical, ecological and/or descriptive methods. This varied approach gives the student a broad background in the practice of paleontology. While research in the lab has largely focused on fishes and early vertebrates, any suitable and well-preserved group of fossil animals may be used as appropriate.
Researchers interested in undertaking a postdoc in the lab should optimally starting planning a year before the intended start-date. Funding may be obtained via internal resources, such as the Penn Postdoctoral Fellowship for Academic Diversity, or external grants including the NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Earth Science and Biology as well as joint proposals the appropriate NSF section.