We are highly interactive and supportive scientists broadly interested in learning and making positive impacts through our research in bioinformatics and computational biology. A unifying theme for current dissertation research is the use of machine learning. Much of our research is done in collaboration with scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.
We are cognizant that science is a privilege of an affluent society. We can do scientific research because other people pay taxes, work in fields and factories, and do other things that make society function. Our privilege comes with the responsibility of sharing what we learn. We fulfill this responsibility by communicating via talks to the scientific community and the non-scientific broader public, writing journal and conference papers, teaching courses and communicating with the press.
There are three primary responsibilities of a graduate advisor: 1) to provide advice and guidance on your research; 2) to advise, encourage and support your development as a scientist; and 3) to help you through the hoops and over the hurdles of graduate school. Consequently, the most important consideration for choosing a graduate program should be the advisor. Unlike undergraduate education where you interacted with a moderate number of professors for a limited time, in graduate education you will be working mostly with one professor. The weather, the location, the institution reputation, and even the specific research area matter little if your relationship with your advisor is not one of deep mutual respect, admiration and understanding with a focus on your success as a trainee. The process of choosing an advisor is akin to choosing a parent for adoption. Whatever your relationship with your parents, it is complex and has elements of tension between dependence and independence, differences of opinion, communication challenges and risks of conflicts of interest. Furthermore, the relationship should change over time. For example, your needs, abilities, knowledge and understanding is not the same as it was when you were an infant, and the interactions between parent and child should reflect these changes. The relationship between graduate student and advisor has all these same complexities albeit somewhat different than between a child and parent. All this is to say that you should choose your advisor wisely, as it is the most important decision you make regarding graduate school.
This of course begs a question — How does one investigate potential advisors? The general answer — Ask the right questions of the right people. Communication typically starts with an email message. If the potential advisor is interested in learning more, follow-up actions are suggested. It is most helpful to visit labs to have conversations and get impressions of the potential advisor, current graduate students and others. If a visit is not possible or practical then make recourse to email and video calls. This investigative process is important for all parties. Prospective students want the “right” advisor, the potential advisor wants students whom they can help develop into scientists with fulfilling careers, and other people in the lab want a pleasant and thoughtful colleague.
Each graduate student in our lab is in one of three graduate programs: Biological Sciences (concentration area Computational Biology, Bioinformatics and Genomics, or concentration area Behavior, Ecology, Evolution and Systematics); Applied Mathematics & Statistics, and Scientific Computation; and Computer Science. A few students have been co-advised with scientists at the National Museum of Natural History through the joint University of Maryland – Smithsonian Institution program. The aforementioned graduate programs differ in their formal course requirements, culture, and procedures (formal and informal). Regardless of the specific graduate program, the nature of the research in our group is interdiscplinary.