Searching for a promising scholar

  • Are you deeply interested in insect ecology?
  • Are you excited about exploring the intersection of plant defenses and insect overwintering survival using both traditional field work and cutting-edge molecular tools?
  • Would you like to do your graduate degree research at a small, research-intensive university in a great community surrounded in all directions by forests?
  • Are you looking for an opportunity to develop a network of collaborators from a variety of other institutions during your graduate studies?

Our lab is looking for a graduate student (M.Sc. or Ph.D. level) or a postdoc, and a promising scholar of natural history, to join us in studying how pine host defenses affect mountain pine beetle larval overwintering success in its normal hosts (e.g. lodgepole pine) and a novel host (jack pine) across its expanding range. What are the tree chemical defenses that larval mountain pine beetles experience in their early development? How long after a tree has been killed do those defenses remain in the tree tissues? How do those defenses affect larval growth, development, and physiological preparation for surviving the extreme cold of a northern winter? What are some of the specific genes that are instrumental in helping the larvae obtain enough nutrition from the toxic environment of their host tree to allow them to survive the winter? What are the effects of climate and a new host species in a new geographical range on larval survival? How might these affect the spread of this invasive insect?

Work on your project will take place wherever the beetles and the host trees live. That will mean extensive field work in the summers, including trips to other parts of British Columbia, into Alberta, and perhaps beyond. In addition, there will be plenty of lab work throughout the year using techniques ranging from analytical chemistry to RNAi.

This work is funded by a major grant and is an extension of five years of previous successful and highly collaborative work. That means a number of things…

First it means that there is secure funding for several years of your research. This includes funds for materials, travel, conferences, and publication fees. It also includes funds for student stipends. However I would strongly encourage applicants to look for their own funding as well. More on that in a moment.

Second, it means that there is a preexisting network of institutions and researchers who you will be able to work with during the course of your degree. The “network” grant ensures that we continue to maintain close collaborative relationships with other scientists at the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta, the Natural Resources Canada Canadian Forest Service, and the University of Minnesota. A strong collaborative network, such as this one that we have developed over several years, is beneficial to you as a graduate student both by providing research opportunities and because it may lead to further career opportunities beyond your graduate studies.

Third, it means that you will be working on a solid foundation of results, data, and ideas. You will have the opportunity to push hard against the envelope of our current knowledge. You can find a fairly up-to-date list of papers that have come out of our collaborative research so far at this link. I would specifically recommend that you carefully read those papers that I linked a few paragraphs above – as well as this, this, this, and one more to appear here shortly – prior to considering whether this position might be for you.

Graduate studies are not easy by any stretch. Ask anyone who has done them, or fellow students who are in the midst of their work. But they can be the most richly challenging and rewarding time of your life. While doctoral degrees are awarded to successful candidates for their ability to develop and defend new ideas, explore hypotheses, and communicate findings to various audiences in a robust manner, those things are only an outworking of something deeper. A course of graduate studies is, more often than not, a journey of maturation as a scientist and a scholar. So I am looking for someone to join our research program who can demonstrate that they are ready to embark on that road. Specifically, I am looking for someone:

  • who has shown that they are capable of committed work over an extended period of time,
  • who can work equally well in the lab or in the field,
  • who has shown that they are capable of scholarly output (e.g., papers, presentations at conferences, etc.) even early in their scientific career,
  • who is able to develop novel hypotheses and pursue them with passion,
  • who has a sincere and scholarly interest in insect ecology, and
  • who wants to explore the very edges of what we know about the natural world.

While this project is well-funded, I will be looking for applicants who either have their own funding in hand, or who show the potential to pursue and receive their own funding. As noted above, our grant will allow for a suitable and livable graduate stipend. But finding your own funding is an important part of the graduate degree process, it looks great on your CV, and it provides you with one more layer of security during your time as a student. It also serves to free up some money that can then be used to support more experimentation, to hire valuable research assistants to help with your project, and to allow more trips to present your findings at conferences, etc. UNBC awards entrance scholarships for excellent students, maintains a number of other awards, has a tuition rebate for Ph.D. students, and provides a large number of TA-ships to supplement your income with pay for teaching experience.

If you come to work in our lab, you will find a pleasant group of people excited about their research. You will become a part of a close-knit group of researchers who are interested in many of the things that you are working on. You will also find UNBC to be a vibrant community with lots of great things going on. The surrounding city, Prince George, is a great place to live with many cultural opportunities in town and fantastic outdoor activities all around. And you can’t beat the reasonable rents or the five-minute commutes – or commute by bike in the summer and skis in the winter!.

If you are interested in this position, please email me at for further details or to ask the questions that you probably have.

Thank you for reading this, and I look forward to hearing from you.