Graduate Students


To apply to work in my laboratory, please send me the following so I can assess whether you are a good fit for the lab.


1.  A CV or resume detailing

  • your past work and research experiences,

  • your GPA and a breakdown of your GRE scores

  • contact details for professional references.


2.  A cover page (2-3 paragraphs) explaining:  

  • why you are interested in doing research, and why you think your interest fit with my laboratory.

  • the research questions you are interested in addressing, and/or the type of research project you would like to work on (see the Research link).

  • whether you are strongly interested are bioinformatics, molecular lab bench skills (working with DNA/RNA), organismal (working with the animals - mice, reptiles, Daphnia), working in the field work.


If applying, please consider these potential funding opportunities including:

  • AU Presidential Graduate Research Fellowships

  • Auburn University, Cell and Molecular Biology Assistantships 

    • $22,500 award for the first year 

      • Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) to cover tuition 

      • Required laboratory rotations, giving students time to learn advanced laboratory skills & experience various areas of research opportunities 

      • Deadline for receipt of applications is February 1st

      For information and application materials see:

  • National Science Foundation, Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Graduate Student Expectations in the Schwartz Lab

* These guidelines have been modified with gratitude from Dr. Mohammad Noor's book, "Your hired, Now What?".

Academia is neither a 9–5 job, nor is it a 40 hour a week job. This is not a job you punch a clock and do your time, rather this job is goal oriented in that we define goals for projects with a reasonable time-frame and we work to meet those deadlines. Some of these deadlines are "hard" deadlines with drastic consequences (grant proposal deadlines, signing up for GTAs, turning in your thesis, etc.) others are self-defined deadlines that are specifically set to ensure your progress towards finishing your degree and moving forward with your career. Hence, you may find yourself doing empirical research, analyzing data, or writing manuscripts on weeknights and/or weekends to achieve the defined goals.

Good time management is absolutely necessary to finishing your degree and in academia in general. This is a very difficult skill and will take lots of practice. Prioritizing and keeping the end goal in mind is key to your success as you progress in your degree. As a graduate student your time will be unevenly distributed across three general areas.

(1) Research towards your Thesis (MS) or Dissertation (PhD). This has to be your #1 focus if you want to graduate with a MS or PhD and to continue in this area of science. Your overall objective is to execute your research in a careful and precise yet expeditious manner to generate new knowledge that can be distributed in 2-5 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts over the next 2-5 years for MS and PhD students respectively.

(2) Classwork. Graduate classwork is meant to increase the depth of your knowledge in specific areas of biology. You need to maintain a 3.0 average. While I expect you to learn as much as you can in these courses, keep in mind that if a graduate course is requiring you to double the amount of time dedicated to move from a B to an A, it is important to remember your priorities. Do not allow your GPA to drop below 3.0, but realize that in contrast to when you were an undergraduate, your next position is not going to be based on your grades but upon the quality and amount of knowledge that you produce (distributed in the form of manuscripts and other products) during your time.

(3) Your Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) or Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) earns your stipend and your tuition waiver. GTAs and GRAs are either 1/3 time or ½ time appointments. While I encourage you to take pride in your work, do well, and learn from these experiences - strive to not spend more than 12-16 hours a week (average) on your GTA or GRA. While these provide valuable teaching and research experiences, they are also means to an end in finishing your degree without having to go into debt due to the tuition waiver and the stipend. For GRAs, depending on the funding source (i.e. what project the grant the money is coming from), you will likely be required to do research and/or lab maintenance beyond your own thesis or dissertation research to achieve the goals of the grant that you are being paid from.

My expectations of you as a graduate student

  • I expect you to follow the lab rules that will be given to you when you begin and potentially updated each semester. This includes completing all required safety training.

  • I expect you to read the primary literature in your area of study. You should read articles in scientific journals that are relevant to your work, in the general area of your work, or that look interesting to you. Although I will point you to relevant journals and/or articles, do not rely on me exclusively to point you to all relevant articles. A good rule of thumb is to read at least 1 journal article every day.

  • I expect you to update me regularly about your progress, successes, and concerns and failures in one-on-one meetings and in our shared "On-going Projects" document. This is in addition to formal updates in lab meetings.

  • I expect PhD candidates to have submitted for publication two medium to high impact first-author peer-reviewed papers for publication before I sign off on their dissertations. All these publications must be from research done while in our lab pursuing a PhD, not prior work. For MS students this expectation is one first-author peer-reviewed paper submitted.

  • I expect you to actively pursue funding for your project and personal support, in the form of smaller research grants like Sigma Xi grants, and larger NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, as well as travel grants to meetings. Not only will this help contribute to the financial stability of the lab, but this is excellent practice as writing and obtaining grants is fundamental to our jobs as scientists. Additionally, providing evidence of being able to write successful grants look great on your CV when you apply for your next position.

  • Towards these goals of grants and manuscripts, a good rule of thumb is to write at least 1 hour every day. Your first writing goals should be (1) early stage grants such as the NSF GRF, and (2) your research proposal for your committee.

  • I expect you to present the results of your research at national meetings at least every other year. I expect you to apply for travel grants to defray the costs of these meetings. I will attempt to assist with your expenses, but the unequivocal condition for any financial travel assistance is that I see a complete draft of what you will be presenting at least 7 days before the first day of the meeting.

  • I expect you to attend seminars regularly (e.g., weekly) and to participate in other departmental activities. While all seminars may not seem directly relevant to your research, undoubtedly you will learn something from them to broaden your understanding of biology or the scientific profession, even if it about how (or how not) to give a seminar.  If you cannot attend seminar, please proved an email explanation.

  • I expect you to communicate to me concerns that you have about your research and/or our interactions. Communication is critical for both of us to keep our relationship productive.

  • I expect that you be willing to contribute to the lab as a whole, both intellectually and occasionally with requested research outside of your dissertation projects.

  • I expect you to take care of yourself. Sleep and regular exercise is necessary to maintain your physical and mental health and your productivity. Time dedicated to family is also important. Vacation time - away from the lab - is necessary to maintain real world perspective and mental stability. I require that you take at least 2 weeks of vacation time a year.  Please work with me to arrange the timing of your vacations as to not interrupt critical ongoing research and reaching deadlines.

  • I expect you to treat me, and others in the lab, with respect and dignity.

My expectations of me as an advisor

My job is split between three main areas as well:

(1) Maintaining my research program.  This includes obtaining grant money to support the lab in research supplies and stipends for GRAs and postdocs, generating knowledge and distributing it by publishing high quality research articles, and presenting our research at scientific meetings.


(2) Teaching. This includes research mentoring and training of undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs; and teaching courses to undergraduates and graduate students.


(3) Service and outreach. This includes service to the scientific community through peer-reviewing grants and research articles for journals; service to the University by serving on University and Departmental committees and on graduate student committees, advising undergraduate researchers in their coursework; and outreach in using our research to educate the public.


  • I will always make time to talk with you about your research and/or your academic training. Although I will not be available at the drop of a hat, I will always be available for at least 30 minutes once a week for you with advanced notice. It will generally be much more than that, but I will commit to a minimum of 30 minutes in even the worst weeks. Please realize that faculty are not paid in the summer unless they have a grant that pays ~1 month of salary. Most faculty dedicate summers to their research, so it should not be assumed that you can schedule committee meetings with faculty in the summer.

  • I will advise you on how to proceed according to the career path that you select (e.g., how to get a postdoctoral position, academic job, etc.). Alternatively, if I am not familiar with the career path you have chosen, I will refer you to people and/or resources that can help to guide you.

  • I will read and comment on any manuscripts, grant applications, or other written materials you give me within two weeks (excluding theses or dissertations). It will generally be in less time than that, but I can guarantee within two weeks. Please get these to me at least this far in advance of your deadline.

  • I will provide you with resources for your research provided that they are available to me, your project has been approved, the expense is reasonable given the laboratory priorities, and you are actively pursuing further funding for it.

  • I will update you on my assessment of your progress, both in research and in your overall training upon request. I will give you copies of recommendation letters that I write for you. If I cannot accurately tell you about your performance, then I am not doing my job as an advisor.

  • I will introduce you to others in the field and help you make contacts that will be useful throughout your career.

  • I will treat you with respect and dignity.