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Graduate research at the Nunez Lab


Thank you for your interest in pursuing graduate studies at UVM biology and our lab. Please be aware that applications for the Ph.D. program are due by December 15. Thus, make sure to contact Dr. Nunez and/or other UVM faculty months in advance to discuss graduate opportunities and whether we have a good research match.

Important logistical things to keep in mind before applying:

Note 1: Whenever contacting Dr. Nunez to inquire about PhD opportunities, make sure you include all the items requested on this webpage

Note 2: At this time, I am only co-advising students with my fellow faculty from the department. If you are interested in joining my lab, please let me know who, of my colleagues, may be a good co-advisor and why?

Potential co-advisors include: Ballif, Brody, Ebert, Gotelli, Cahan, Lockwood, May-Collado, Pespeni, Stanley, Vigoreaux.

Things to consider (for prospective Ph.D. students):

What do we mean by a good "research match"? In this lab, we greatly enjoy interdisciplinary research in the fields of population, statistical, and evolutionary genomics. Dr. Nunez will be happy to mentor you in projects seeking to understand fundamental aspects of rapid evolution in the wild (e.g., adaptations to seasonality or intertidal zonation), demographic inference as well as molecular evolution using flies, barnacles, sea urchins, etc. If these topics excite you, then the lab will probably be a good match for you. Yet, it is important to note that working on these questions will be demanding and it will require you to develop and sharpen robust statistics and computational skills, master the primary literature, as well as a lot of fortitude and doggedness to complete challenging multi-year projects!

Basic requirements to join the lab:

To ensure success in your graduate career and while doing research in my lab, any given applicant should, at the very minimum, have the following general academic profile:

  1. Fulfill all of the requirements as determined by the graduate college and the biology department:

  2. Have participated in research at the undergraduate level or above (e.g., a research master's), preferably in a lab investigating questions in evolution, population genetics, bioinformatics, ecology, and other areas of biology or computer science. 

  3. Have completed courses in at least two of the following areas: ecology, evolution, population genetics, genomics (broadly defined),  computational biology, statistics, or similar. For example, an ecology and evolution course (similar to BCOR 2100) and a course in statistics (similar to STAT 1410) would suffice. There is flexibility on this matter.

  4. Have some level of familiarity with primary literature in the field of molecular evolution. For example, research published in journals such as Genetics, Molecular Biology and Evolution, G3, Genome Biology and Evolution, Nature Ecology and Evolution, PNAS, etc.

Why do you want a graduate degree? It is very important for any and all people who want to pursue PhDs to work on developing a professional vision. A vision is not a plan set in stone, since your own plans and outlook on life will change while you are here, but at least a fundamental understanding of why you want a Ph.D./Masters. For example, tenure-track positions at research universities are highly competitive, and it may take a long time before an opportunity that makes sense for you materializes. This is an important thing to be aware of as you chart your professional vision. Also, while positions in industry and government are more abundant, they often require particular sets of skills that one must purposely develop while in graduate school. So you have to ask yourself: What sort of position do you ultimately want, and what skills will you need to achieve that? 

UVM has a phenomenal biology program. The UVM graduate program in biology is vibrant and you will have many opportunities to network and collaborate across other university units such as:


UVM biology will provide you with multiple opportunities to collaborate within the fly, barnacle, and urchin systems: Most labs in our department work on unique fundamental questions. Yet, there are plenty of opportunities for co-mentorships to develop multi-disciplinary projects. For example:

  • The Pespeni lab works on the ecological genomics of marine organisms in the context of climate change.

  • The Lockwood lab studies thermal physiology and functional genomics of fruit flies and marine systems

  • The Vigoreaux lab works on fly muscle physiology.

  • The Stanley lab studies the neurobiology of feeding behavior in flies.

  • The Helms Cahan lab studies evolutionary ecology and thermal biology

  • And many more: check out the faculty

Working in my lab will allow building collaborations with a global consortium: We actively collaborate with members of the international consortium DrosEU (The European consortium of Drosophila genomics). And we make regular contributions to the global DEST dataset. There are multiple collaborative projects that can emanate from this work.

To start the process:

1. Make contact. Please send Dr. Nunez an email with ALL of the following information to joaquin.nunez [at]

  • Your name, major, and graduation date (or expected date).

  • Your most up-to-date transcript.

  • A full CV

  • A cover letter with a description of why you would like to pursue a Ph.D. or Masters in the lab and at UVM. Include all particular aspects of our work that interest you, as well as the fundamental questions in biology that you are curious about.

  • [Optional] The names of potential co-advisors from our department for your project

2.  Follow up with Dr. Nunez. Sometimes life gets very busy. So if you don't hear from Dr. Nunez in about a week, feel free to send a quick follow-up.

3. A preliminary phone/zoom interview will take place in which we will discuss shared research interests, and potential next steps to prepare your application (ensure to schedule this interview before UVM's application deadline). During this interview, Dr. Nunez will ask you the following questions:

  1. Describe your research interests and why they are a good match for the lab.

  2. What are the most significant developments in population genetics in the last 5 years?

  3. How would you describe the most interesting insight from your past research, to a non-scientist?

  4. Describe your favorite paper from the primary literature and why?

  5. Do you participate in any kinds of science outreach activities? Or, what kinds of activities would you like to participate in the future? How do you think Science can give back to the community?

  6. Do you have a question for us, at this stage, about the department or program?

4. Follow-up interviews.  After meeting with Dr. Nunez for a preliminary interview, if a potential research match is identified, Dr. Nunez will invite you to participate in follow-up interviews with current students and post-docs. Alternatively, Dr. Nunez may invite you to join a lab meeting or lead a journal club (often virtually) to present your work or discuss a paper of interest. These follow-up interviews are optional, but they are invaluable spaces to further explore how you may fit into our lab and our program. 

5. Submit an application dossier to the graduate college. Find the UVM application instructions in this link

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