The Yoder Lab is officially NSF-funded!

Black Rock Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park

I’m delighted to finally, officially announce that the lab has received funding from the National Science Foundation — for a big, collaborative endeavor we’ve been calling the Joshua Tree Genome Project. Collaborative grants to us here at CSUN and to Chris Smith’s lab at Willamette University, with subawards to collaborators at USGS and the Universities of Alabama and Hawai’i Mānoa will support four years of experiments, fieldwork, and genomic analysis to learn how Joshua trees cope with climate extremes, how their populations might adapt to climate change, and how adaptation to climate has affected the tree’s coevolution with their hyper-specialized pollinators.

Among the big practical outcomes of this funding, for the Yoder Lab, are support for graduate student research stipends and undergraduate research assistants, as well as two years of support for a postdoctoral researcher. The postdoc position will be, I think, exceptionally well suited as a starting point for competitive applications to opportunities like the Smith Fellowship as well — I will be working to start the formal job-search and hiring process this fall, so keep an eye out.

Earn a Master’s in the Yoder Lab at CSUN

A Joshua tree flower in closeup.

My lab at California State University, Northridge, is open for Master’s students enrolling for the 2018-19 school year. I’m building a research program focused on the coevolution of interacting species, particularly how mutualists shape each others’ genomic diversity, and how interactions between species can help or hinder adaptation to abiotic factors like climate. You should join!

Why the Yoder Lab?

You should come to work with me if you’re interested in the evolution and coevolution of interacting species, and if you’re excited to do fieldwork in the desert, execute experiments in the greenhouse, collect and crunch population genomic data, model evolutionary processes with differential equations and computer simulations — or maybe to do several of those things. The lab is just getting started with an array of projects, and in some cases my collaborators or I have preliminary data waiting for the right person to tackle it. My startup funding includes support for graduate student stipends to cover up to a year of your time doing thesis research, and I’ll work with incoming students to identify and apply for external support such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Student Research Fellowship.

Why a Master’s degree?

If you’re considering a research career in biology, most of the discussion and advice you’ve read has probably been focused on Ph.D. programs. The Ph.D. is a “terminal degree,” and if you want to become a university professor, you’ll have to earn one. But there are good reasons that you might prefer to earn a Master’s. First, you want to try research and study before committing to a Ph.D. Research for a Master’s degree typically takes two years, while for a Ph.D. it’s more like five, and often six. If you’re not sure you want to make that commitment, doing a Master’s is a good way to see whether you like research and the academic work environment. Second, you want to work in science, but not as research faculty. Depending on the specific focus of your research, a Master’s in biology can be good preparation for jobs in conservation, at government research labs or regulatory agencies, or in research technician positions in academia and the private sector.

Why CSUN?

CSUN is an excellent place to earn a Master’s in Biology. We’ve got a big, collegial Department of Biology with faculty specializing in everything from marine biology to molecular genetics, and a great ecology and evolutionary biology group. The department has a good record of preparing Master’s students for Ph.D. programs, if that’s what you choose to do, and CSUN was recently recognized by Nature as a Rising Institution for Research. Our campus in the San Fernando Valley is surrounded by natural habitats ranging from coastal chaparral to the Mojave Desert and montane woodlands, and it’s within commuting distance from much of greater Los Angeles, including Santa Monica and Hollywood.

On top of all this, CSUN has significant structural advantages. Biology departments that offer both Master’s and Ph.D. programs can often short-change the Master’s side, with curriculum requirements that are poorly calibrated for a short, focused course of study. CSUN’s graduate program is constructed with Master’s students in mind, and they receive the full attention of their thesis advisors. On the other hand, departments that offer only Master’s degrees often have limited financial support for graduate students, expecting them to work a second job or take on student loans — but CSUN offers teaching assistant positions and an array of other fellowship and scholarship opportunities, including support specifically for students from groups underrepresented in science.

Apply today

Ideal candidates will have previous research experience, familiarity with the R programming language, and a passion for science. Interested students should contact me at jeremy.yoder@csun.edu with a description of your research interests, any previous research experience, and your career goals. Include a CV, if possible, and contact information for at least two references. You can learn more about my research on the Lab’s projects page, through my scientific publications, or in this recent podcast interview. Formal applications to the CSUN graduate program in biology require GRE scores and transcripts, and are due February 15. The Yoder Lab values diversity, and members of groups under-represented in ecology and evolutionary biology are especially encouraged to apply.