R2C2 Prospective students

I am always looking for motivated students to join our research group, on the undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral level. Below is some information to help you get started.

Selection of students

Numerous factors will influence whether a student will be accepted into my lab. Beyond the strength of the student's application I must consider the space available in my lab, the appropriateness for me to mentor a student given their interests, and funding.

The sucessful student will be able to read broadly in the current literature, attend & present at departmental seminars & scientific meetings, and devote themselves to learning the laboratory techniques and analyses that are required to conduct and publish a good scientific study. 

Our funding is limited, as students are basically funded through our own projects, mostly from FCT (Portuguese National Science Foundation) but also some internationally funded. The University hardly provides any funding, and therefore, even at the Masters level, money is scarce. Therefore competition for available spots can be very tight.

In terms of additional specific considerations for my lab, I do expect a few things.  First of all, it is important to me that everyone in my lab is able to get along. You do not have to become best friends with everyone you meet, but you have to be able to show courtesy and respect to your students and colleagues, or my lab is not the place for you. Therefore, I expect you to be a good colleague to others in the lab by helping to maintain lab morale, lab organization & hygiene, and to contribute intellectually to the projects of your lab mates.

Despite the information outlined on the web page, I get messages from potential students that do not include any relevant information (the key information I expect is educational history, previous experience, and research interests). When I read a 3-line email that asks if I am accepting students, I cannot help but wonder if the person has put so little effort into contacting me, why should I take the time and effort to seriously consider their email?  A word of advice – if you are really interested in applying to our lab as a graduate student, then take the time to look through the web site to figure out what sort of research we do. 

We have hosted many students in the lab and we are happy to provide students the opportunity to conduct research with us. If you are interested in conducting undergraduate research in the lab, please contact me at rcastil@ualg.pt. Due to the training involved, we ask that student make a minimum commitment of six-months to one year to the laboratory.


To make yourself competitive for admission to BEE you want to show that you are ready and capable of doing the job of "young scientist". To do this, I suggest the following:

  1. 1.Do well in your classes, especially your biology classes. If you haven't done well in your undergraduate courses, you may need to spend some time obtaining more experience, either in the workplace (as a technician or research assistant) or through a master's degree.

  2. 2.Get involved in research. Volunteer to do research in a laboratory on your campus. Seek out summer internships and research opportunities. Research experience will prepare you for graduate school and will help focus your interests. Get as much experience as possible. Having many different research experiences is good to help expose you to various fields, shaping your scientific interests. However, it is important that you also have a history of finishing what you start. Work with your supervisor to publish your research. You must also put in the time to analyze the data and write up your research.

  3. 3.Develop a coherent idea of why you want to do a masters course. It isn't necessary that you have a full thesis perspective before applying to graduate school. However, you should have a clear idea of why you want to go to graduate school, and the KIND of work you would like to do there. Your interests will likely change over time. However, if you can't articulate your scientific interests to a prospective advisor, you will not leave a favorable impression.

  4. 4.Apply for extramural fellowships. Part of being a scientist is applying for funding so start early. Applying for fellowships shows that you have initiative and will help you focus on your interests. Prospective faculty advisors are often willing to comment on drafts of fellowship applications. There are some private entities who may want to fund your idea. Be creative! You will need it if you want to suceed in science.

  5. 5.Contact prospective faculty advisors. The application process is more personal than most students realize. Don't just send your email. Contact prospective supervisors BEFORE applying. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Know what they do. See if they have space for new students. Visit their labs. The more familiar a faculty member is with you, the better your chances of being accepted. We want quality students, but also need to know that they are committed students and that they will get along with the rest of the lab members.

  6. 6.Don't give up. Because the application process is so competitive, you may not be admitted the first time around. If you are truly committed to becoming a research scientist and pursuing a Ph.D., this will not dissuade you. If you don't get in the first time, contact the faculty member and ask them what you might do to become a more competitive applicant in the future.



If you have or will be completing a Ph.D. and are interested in pursuing research in my lab, I encourage you to contact me. The availability of Postdoc opportunities is highly dependent upon funding, but I am very willing to work with interested students in developing competitive grants and postdoctoral fellowship applications so that they can join our group. FCT has provided grants to our lab in the last few years, but candidates must hold a good publication record.

This text was largely adapted from:

Rob Toonen’s page http://www2.hawaii.edu/~toonen/letter.html

Paul Barber’s page http://www.eeb.ucla.edu/Faculty/Barber/Prospective%20Students.htm