What my graduate students can expect:

For students who come to work with me, I provide desk space in my lab with high speed internet access.  Most student come with their own computer; I have a few computers for some students to use. My philosophy is to provide students with the essential tools that they need to be productive research biologists.

Whenever possible, I provide students with research assistant (RA) support. This means students draw a salary for doing their research. The alternative is to be supported on a teaching assistantship, in which case students teach to earn their stipends. Being a teaching assistant is an important part of training to become a university faculty member.

I try to be supportive of students. I am around the lab every day. We have weekly lab meetings in which we generally discuss student research projects. We also have a weekly discussion group for which we typically discuss a manuscript produced by a lab member.   I keep close tabs on all of my students, not to meddle in the students work but to be certain that students stay on track towards reaching their goals. In general I try to foster an interactive, supportive, and lively lab group that promotes intellectual development and research excellence.

What I expect from my graduate students:

I recruit students who are seeking careers as research biologists. I expect students to be devoted to their research and to work diligently towards the completion of their research projects. The students that currently make up my lab group are highly self-motivated. Their passion is scientific investigation. I expect any students who comes to be part of my lab group to work hard at becoming a professional research biologist.

I accept both Masters and Ph.D. students, although all of my students enter the program with an expectation that they will eventually earn a Ph.D. in biology. Thus, my masters students are really Ph.D. students who are taking a two-step route towards their ultimate goal. I believe that this is a very good strategy for many students. Students should complete their Ph.D. degree within approximately five years. It is almost impossible to achieve this degree at Auburn University in less than four years and even if the student is beset by setbacks, it should never take more than seven years to complete the degree. Masters students should work toward completing their degrees in two years, but spring field work often pushes the completion date into the third year. No student should take more than three years to complete a masters degree.

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Dr. Geoff Hill
Professor &
Curator of Birds
Dept. Biological Sciences
Auburn University

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