How do I pay for a PhD program?

In STEM disciplines in the US, being a PhD student is a paying job. Isn’t that cool? The pay isn’t great, but it is typically enough for one person to live frugally. You don’t need a fellowship to be in grad school, because if a program accepts you, they should identify funding for you, often by teaching (as a TA), or as a research assistant (RA), or some other way. Having a fellowship is nice because of the prestige as a career boost, as well as more freedom to choose where you attend grad school, and you also won’t have to TA or RA as much leaving more time for your own research.

When will I get my match?

We hope to identify mentors for mentees within one week. We typically have more mentors volunteer than we need, and so it might be possible that a mentor is not paired with a mentee.

What do I do if I am looking for a mentor but my field isn’t related to ecology and evolutionary biology?

In 2020, we currently are limiting the scope of this program to EEB because this is where we know people, and where we know we can be effective, and this program is unfunded so we don’t yet have time or staff to scale up. There are other programs that do mentor matching. For example, the folks at Cientifico Latino have a program for all STEM disciplines to help grad school applicants. If you ask for help (with professors, on twitter, with other students), you might find that some folks are willing to give you some advice and support.

How broad do you consider “Ecology and Evolutionary Biology” to be?

We are thinking about it in the broad sense, and if you’re involved in organismal biology in some way, or animal behavior, or conservation biology, or wildlife management, or forestry, or entomology, or botany, or marine science, and even microbiology or physiology, or something along those lines, then we will be glad to pair you up. If you’re in a field that would end up in a department that is clearly under the realm of “Molecular and Cellular Biology,” or “Neurobiology” or some such thing, then this is not what we are doing. The pool of mentors that we are gathering is not as well positioned to be helpful for you.

What if I’m applying to become a doctor, vet, or dentist?

Sorry, we don’t have the expertise to help you.

What is your geographic focus?

We are principally focused on students applying to graduate programs in the United States, and to those attending US institutions. However, if we have the capacity to support international students applying to program in North America, as well as US students applying to programs outside the US, then this we are glad to make those pairings. The reason for this geographic focus is simply that is our wheelhouse, and EEB graduate programs in the US are different enough than outside the US that we would expect to have some difficulty finding expertise in our mentor pool.

Why are you doing this?

There are a lot of undergraduates who don’t have enough access to the kind of support that they need and deserve to launch well into a graduate program. Many universities (especially regional public universities and low-endowment colleges and universities, often principally serving students from groups underrepresented in EEB) lack the resources to provide quality mentorship to all of their undergraduates. There are many faculty, grad students, postdocs, and others that would like to help diversify EEB, and we would like to connect the demand of students for mentorship with the supply of mentors.

Do I have to identify as a minority to sign up?

We would like to help all students who feel that they need support in writing fellowship applications and throughout the process of applying to grad school. You don’t need to be a member of any particular category. As our mission is to improve access and equity in graduate programs, we prioritize making connections for students with identities that have been minoritized in our discipline. If we have a shortage of mentors who volunteer, then a match might not be possible for everybody, but we hope it doesn’t come to that.

How do you do the pairings?

We don’t use an algorithm, we simply do our best to scan through the list of available mentors and mentee requests to see how we can best meet the needs of mentees. If you provide more information about in open-ended question (the last one on the form), that can be helpful. We often know many of the mentors (as EEB is a small world), and this can inform our pairing choices.

Do I have to sign up every year?

Yes, please do. We don’t expect a mentor to volunteer for multi-year commitments, and if you would like a mentor more than one year in a row, please fill out a new form.