Welcome to the graduate program in EEB at Yale University
The Ecology and Evolutionary Biology graduate program has a long tradition of training exceptional ecologists and evolutionary biologists. Our program provides students with five years of guaranteed funding and the intellectual support they need to reach their potential and become world-class scientists, educators, and professionals.
The Ecology and Evolutionary Biology graduate program offers students an integrated training program with coursework, teaching, and research components. Students will develop their understanding of study systems and scientific approaches, enabling them to generate and test questions fundamental to 21st century advances in ecology and evolutionary biology. Students will be joining a department with faculty whose research interests span numerous areas of ecology and evolution and whose systems encompass multiple levels of biological organization.
We welcome students into our program with diverse identities, from varied backgrounds and prior experiences. As a department, we are committed to fostering diversity and a welcoming environment for all. Although applications to our program are competitive and all of our graduate students are exceptional, the admissions process is quite distinct from the admissions process for undergraduates to Yale College. Our admissions decisions prioritize the fit between the research interests of applicants and their prospective faculty advisors, as well as evaluating a student’s potential for success in a research-focused graduate degree. We consider applicants as a whole and in the context of the relevant experiences to which they had access.
Note that the department only admits students to pursue a PhD: while all students receive a Master’s degree en route to their PhD, we do not accept applications for terminal Master’s degrees.
Table of Contents
- Diversity Recruitment Resources
- The admissions process
- How to apply
- Advice for Applying to EEB at Yale
- How to email a prospective advisor
- The PhD Program, Summarized
- Available Events and Resources
- Student Life
- Our Alumni
Diversity Recruitment Resources
If you are from an underrepresented population, the Office for Graduate Student Development & Diversity (OGSDD) offers a number of programs for those thinking about applying to graduate school.
You can apply to participate in the Yale Diversity Preview Day, where you will have the chance to meet Yale faculty and graduate students, take a tour of the campus, and learn more about the graduate admissions process. Participation in Yale Diversity Preview Days is free, and all expenses (accommodation, meals, and transportation) are covered by Yale University.
You can also participate in the Bouchet Admissions Bootcamp, which helps prepare applicants to craft a competitive graduate school application. Students who complete the Bouchet Bootcamp receive an application fee waiver for Yale graduate school admissions.
More information about these and other diversity recruitment resources can be found on the OGSDD website. If you are visiting New Haven, the OGSDD and EEB would be happy to welcome you to campus and arrange for you to visit with the director of the OGSDD, Dean Michelle Nearon, as well as faculty and current graduate students.
In addition, if you have questions, concerns, or would like to learn more about diversity recruitment resources or the admissions process, you’re welcome to contact the OGSDD, our Registrar Kelly Pyers, Director of Graduate Studies Dr. Casey Dunn , or our graduate student admissions liaisons (see sidebar for contact information).
The admissions process
Students who apply to join the graduate program will apply to the department as a whole. Nonetheless, students who join the program are usually interested in working with one or two faculty in the department. Thus, the fit between the interests of the student and their prospective advisor(s) is one of the most important considerations during the admissions process. Students should not apply for the graduate program unless they have already been in contact with one or more prospective faculty advisors in the department.
Once the application deadline passes, the entire EEB faculty evaluate the applications and decide which applicants will be invited for an interview. The percentage of applicants who receive interview slots depends on several factors including the number of applications, which often varies between years. For domestic students, travel and lodging to Yale for an on-campus, in-person interview will be provided by the department. International students may interview remotely or may travel for an in-person interview on-campus on a case-by-case basis. Interviews typically happen in mid- to late-January.
Interview visits consist of many elements, but applicants typically spend some time learning about the graduate program, department, and Yale. Interviewees also spend much of their day meeting individually with faculty. Additionally, prospective students will have the opportunity to meet many of the current students in the program, and experience the food and nightlife of New Haven. Following interviews, the department evaluates the interviewees and sends out admission offers. The Department does its best to provide offers to as many interviewees as possible. Admitted students have until April 15 to accept or decline the offer.
If you have any questions about the admissions process, please contact our Registrar Kelly Pyers, Director of Graduate Studies Dr. Casey Dunn, or our graduate student admissions liaisons (see sidebar for contact information)
How to apply
- From the faculty appointed in the department, choose potential advisors with whom you would be interested to work
- Typically, this process involves reading about the research of faculty from the papers they have published and from their lab websites.
- Contact potential advisors
- For a suggested template of how to format this email, see here
- If you would like assistance contacting a potential advisor, or have not heard back from a potential advisor you contacted, you may contact our graduate student admissions liaisons (see sidebar for contact information). This account is monitored by graduate students in the department in order to facilitate connections between prospective students and faculty, and is not involved in admissions decisions.
- Begin the online application through the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences portal
- The Graduate School has an extensive FAQ about admissions
- Please specify Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as the program of study when applying.
- Please specify which faculty you are interested in working with directly in the application.
- A completed application will contain the following elements:
- A statement of purpose (typically 500-1000 words, or one to two pages). In your statement of purpose, please “explain why you are applying to Yale for graduate study; describe your research interests and preparation for your intended field(s) of study, including prior research and other relevant experiences; and explain how the faculty, research, and resources at Yale would contribute to your future goals.”
- A curriculum vitae
- A list of all colleges and universities you have attended, along with an unofficial transcript from each school
- Three letters of recommendation – enter the names and email addresses of your recommenders into the application, and they will be sent a link to upload a letter on your behalf
- If your undergraduate degree was not attained at a primarily English-speaking institution, you must take a TOEFL exam and include your TOEFL score in your application.
- A personal narrative (optional, up to 300 words, other universities may refer to this as a “diversity statement”). In your personal narrative, please ”tell us something about the personal experiences, interests, or perspectives that you would bring to the community at Yale”
- List of certificates or awards (optional)
- Note: the Yale EEB program no longer accepts GRE scores (from either the general GRE or the Biology GRE)
- Submit your application by December 1 (midnight EST) and pay the $105 application fee
- Many applicants are eligible to request a fee waiver, which must be submitted by November 30. For more information, see the GSAS page on Application Fee Waivers
Advice for Applying to EEB at Yale
The graduate program in EEB at Yale is a relatively small one. As such, how your research interests fit with the interests of your potential advisor(s) is an important factor considered during our selection process. Every faculty member has a different set of criteria for evaluating prospective students. Make sure you’ve had a conversation with your prospective advisor(s) about shared research interests before applying to the program.
Note that there are no minimum requirements, apart from an undergraduate degree by your matriculation date, for admission into EEB at Yale. EEB seeks to attract motivated early career scientists who could excel in our program, and embraces that there is no single formula predicting that success. Rather, we consider applicants as a whole and in the context of the relevant experiences to which they have had access. Your personal statement, research experience and accomplishments, diversity statement, course grades, and letters of recommendation are considered during the application review process.
Note on GPA conversion for applicants: you may self-report a GPA and GPA scale in the “Academic History” section of the application. Please do not convert or recalculate your GPA, and if your college or university does not report or compute a GPA, you should omit it.
How to email a prospective advisor
The following is a suggested template for how to contact a prospective faculty advisor. If you would like assistance contacting a potential advisor, or have not heard back from a potential advisor you contacted, you may contact our graduate student admissions liaisons (see sidebar for contact information).
Subject: Prospective EEB Graduate Student
Dear Dr. ___________,
My name is _______. I am interested in applying to the PhD program in EEB at Yale to begin Fall [year here]. I was wondering whether you are accepting graduate students this year?
[A few sentences about your research experience and interests here].
[A sentence about what research you’re interested in pursuing for graduate school] [A sentence about how your research interests align with those from the prospective advisor you are emailing].
I would love to discuss potential research topics, and I have attached my curriculum vitae for your reference
I look forward to hearing from you.
The PhD Program, Summarized
In the PhD program in EEB at Yale, students receive guaranteed financial support, participate in research rotations, take graduate courses, teach as graduate teaching fellows, participate in department events, and can take advantage of numerous university-wide resources and opportunities.
All PhD students in good academic standing in EEB at Yale are guaranteed five years of funding, which includes a stipend more than sufficient to cover all living expenses for the New Haven area, full coverage of tuition, and health insurance. This funding is generated from a variety of sources, including university fellowships provided by the graduate school as well as external grant funding attained by advisors. We strongly encourage all students to apply for all independent fellowships that they are eligible for, as they provide the most intellectual freedom for the student and are an important additional source of funding for the EEB graduate program. For health insurance, graduate students are provided both the Yale Health Basic Coverage provided to all Yale students, as well as the Hospitalization/Specialty Care coverage at no cost. This includes coverage in Student Health, Acute Care, Mental Health & Counseling, and 1 semester paid parental leave, among other services. Dental and vision health insurance are offered annually to all students for an additional fee.
While 5 years of funding are guaranteed for all students in good standing, we realize that many students will need an additional semester or year beyond 5 years to complete their dissertation. If the advisor is unable to support a year 6 student with grant funding, that student will typically also be able to teach for the additional semester or year of support.
Our students also teach undergraduate courses as graduate teaching fellows. Graduate students are required to teach three semesters to receive their PhD, and most EEB students complete this requirement during their first two years of graduate school. Additional teaching requirements are dependent on funding sources in the later years of the PhD. If a student continues to be funded by university fellowships in years 4 and 5, additional semesters of teaching may be required. Regardless of funding, however, most students have at least 5 semesters and every summer with no teaching responsibilities.
Unlike many other PhD programs in Ecology and Evolution, we require all students to participate in two research rotations, usually during their first year. While most students have decided on which lab they are joining by the time they begin here, and will typically do one of their rotations in this prospective lab, we have found that students tend to really enjoy the research rotation experience. These rotations provide our students with the opportunity to connect with other labs in our department or across Yale, develop new research skills, gain exposure to new areas of research, and contribute to research projects. Occasionally students have even decided to switch labs, due to their experience with a particular research rotation!
Course work requirements for our program are kept to a minimum, so that graduate students in EEB can decide for themselves the amount of coursework they would like to pursue and can focus their time on research. During their first year, students are required to take a year-long graduate seminar course, which serves to introduce students to the faculty in the department, and briefly covers topics in research ethics and professional development.
In addition to the first year seminar and research rotations, students are required to complete three additional graduate-level courses, but of course may take as many courses as they would like to. In their first year, students meet with the DGS, a faculty “entry committee”, and their prospective advisors for suggestions on courses they should take, but are free to fulfill their course requirements from courses offered by any department at Yale. In addition to graduate student courses offered in EEB, many of our students take courses offered in the departments of Genetics, Statistics & Data Science, Biostatistics, and from the School of the Environment, among others.
We aim for students to officially advance to PhD candidacy by the end of their second year of study. This requires completion of course and teaching requirements, the formation of a dissertation committee, and the passing of the prospectus exam. The prospectus exam consists of both a written and oral component. The student is expected to write a document that describes their proposed dissertation project - this document should address the relevance and impact the work will have on the field, as well as provide enough logistical detail to prove its feasibility. The oral part of the prospectus exam consists of a thesis committee meeting, where the student presents their proposed research plan to their committee, and is presented with several rounds of questioning by the committee over both details of the proposal as well as the student’s knowledge of pre-assigned readings deemed relevant to the student’s interests. Once students have completed their course requirements and this prospectus exam, they receive a Master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology en route to their PhD and are officially considered PhD candidates. They are then free to devote the remainder of their time in the program to their dissertation research. On average, our students complete their PhD in 5.5 years.
For More Information
If you would like to read more detailed documentation of the PhD Program in EEB at Yale, tailored for current graduate students, you can read that here
Available Events and Resources
Our department has numerous events throughout the year to foster community building and scientific exchange among our students, post-doctoral scientists, faculty, staff, and invited visitors to Yale.
During the fall and spring academic semesters, our department hosts a weekly invited seminar speaker. Speakers are invited from institutions across the world, and during their visits students have the opportunity to sign up for individual or small group meetings. Additionally, the department provides a catered lunch open to all graduate students in the department with every invited speaker, and students are sometimes able to join the post-seminar small group dinner with the speaker at a local restaurant.
As part of the weekly invited seminar series, the graduate students of the department invite two eminent speakers to visit as Hutchinson speakers. Visiting Hutchinson speakers are leaders of their fields, and students have priority access to schedule meetings and attend social events during the Hutchinson speaker’s visit. Additionally, depending on slot availability, graduate students and post-doctoral scientists can invite additional speakers for the weekly seminar series. Students and post-doctoral researchers interested in doing so are encouraged to contact the faculty member organizing the weekly EEB seminar series for that academic year.
Each Friday, students participate in a weekly “Speakeasy”, where graduate students and post-doctoral scientists present and discuss their ongoing research alongside provided snacks and drinks. This provides a forum for the early-career scientists in the department to provide support and feedback to each other in a relaxed environment. Speakeasy is often followed by a happy hour or other graduate student social event.
In addition to the department’s invited speaker seminars and Speakeasy, many members of our department attend the weekly Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies lunch seminar, which includes speakers from across Yale alongside invited external speakers from other institutions.
Lastly, our department holds a number of annual social events to build community. Every August, we hold a welcome BBQ for our incoming cohort of students to meet existing students, post-docs, and faculty. Every fall, the department supports a graduate-student only weekend retreat, typically held at the beautiful Yale Myers forest. Additionally, the department holds an annual departmental retreat, typically held over two days at an off-campus location. At this retreat, students, post-docs, faculty, and staff participate in social activities, hear about each other’s work, and attend talks given by invited speakers from across Yale.
Students in our graduate program also have access to numerous resources, events, and services available to students across Yale. These include:
The Yale Center for Teaching and Learning runs numerous workshops on best-practices for teaching, include a Certificate of College Teaching Preparation program that many of our students pursue and receive
The Graduate Writing Lab runs numerous events and workshops to help graduate students develop and practice academic and professional writing skills
The Yale Center for Research Computing maintains several computing clusters available to Yale students at no-cost, regularly offers workshops on use of high-performance computing and programming, as well as on-call support for problems with the computing clusters
The Statlab offers regular workshops on statistics, data analysis, data visualization, and other academic software
The Yale Office of Career Strategy offers numerous events and workshops to help students explore what comes next, including both academic and non-academic career paths
The Yale library system, including Marx Library, Sterling Library, and access to numerous online library services
Student Funding Opportunities
Students in our program compete for, and receive, funding from numerous bodies at Yale to support their own academic travel and research.
The Yale Graduate Student Assembly offers a Conference Travel Fund available to all graduate students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Students may apply for support to travel to one conference annually, and may receive up to $500 pre-candidacy or $750 post-candidacy.
The Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies offers annual competitive “Small Grants” for both pre-candidacy and post-candidacy students. For pre-candidacy students, the maximum award of $3,000 is meant to support pilot data collection. For post-candidacy students, the maximum award of $5,000 is meant to improve the quality of their dissertation by further developing a component of their work.
The MacMillan Center offers a number of grants and fellowships for international travel and field research. Specifically, the MacMillan International Dissertation Research Fellowship awards up to $18,000 for international fieldwork post-candidacy if you have a “substantial humanities or social science dimensions” to your proposed research. The MacMillan Center Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowships is the pre-candidacy equivalent for up to $5,000.
New Haven provides a wonderful living environment for students during graduate school, including a reasonable cost of living, access to numerous events, activities, and natural spaces, availability of excellent food, arts, and nightlife, and ease of travel both domestically and internationally.
Cost of Living
The graduate student stipend provides our students with a high standard of living against the costs of living in the city. Most of our students live in the neighborhoods surrounding the Yale campus, including Downtown, Wooster Square, East Rock, Prospect Hill, and Dixwell. From these neighborhoods, it is typically a 10-20 minute walk to campus, and it is easy to access the free Yale Shuttle System. Student housing costs vary, but many students pay $700 - $900 in rent for a shared apartment with one or two other people (as of 2021).
Students also have the opportunity to participate in numerous activities at Yale or in the community. As of 2021, there are more than 70 registered graduate student groups on-campus. The McDougal Graduate Student Center offers numerous graduate student social events and programs, including their very-popular First Friday at Five series of free food, drinks, and entertainment every first Friday of the month during each academic semester. Students can also participate in athletics, including graduate intramural teams and community-based groups, or participate in the Graduate Affiliate program, where graduate students become affiliated with one of the 14 undergraduate residential colleges.
Arts in New Haven
Many students enjoy the active arts scene in New Haven. There are several venues which host live music, including touring groups, like the College Street Music Hall and Cafe Nine. Additionally, it is easy to access New York City or Boston for larger touring acts. There are also numerous theatrical groups in New Haven. These include, but are not limited to, the Shubert Theater, which hosts touring acts, the Long Wharf Theatre, the Yale Repertory Theatre, and the Yale School of Drama. There is a 9-screen movie theater in downtown, as well as a larger 12 screen theater only a 10 minute drive away in North Haven. New Haven boasts several notable museums. Most prominently, both the Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery are free and open to the public and display works from some of the most notable modern and historical artists.
New Haven also offers plentiful access to outdoor natural spaces. Many community members enjoy East Rock Park in the city proper, alongside slightly-further away spaces like West Rock Park, West River Memorial Park, and Sleeping Giant Park. There are also numerous beautiful hiking trails throughout the state, and of course, plentiful access to beaches, including nearby Lighthouse Point Park.
Food and Nightlife
New Haven’s food and nightlife scene is extremely vibrant. Of course, New Haven is frequently listed as having the best pizza in the world, and so boasts numerous restaurants serving the acclaimed New Haven-style ‘apizza’. However, our large student population, proximity to major metropolitan centers, and citywide cultural diversity support a wide range of cuisines. For nightlife, many bars and restaurants are clustered in downtown or along State St. on the eastern side of New Haven. Many students enjoy the Yale owned-and-operated graduate student-only bar Gryphon’s, which, for a ~$20 annual membership, has some of the cheapest drinks in town, and weekly events like trivia and karaoke.
Finally, New Haven is a very easy city to get around in, and our location on the East Coast makes travel highly accessible. New Haven’s size makes transit within the city easy, with many students walking, biking, or taking the Yale shuttles and city buses to get around. When heading outside of New Haven, we are about a 1.5 hour drive from New York City and Providence, and a 2 hour drive from Boston. There is a frequent commuter train from New Haven’s downtown station to New York for ~$20 and a ~2 hour ride, and Amtrak trains between Boston and Washington D.C. also stop in New Haven. We have a small local airport, Tweed, in East Haven, with several flights a day. For longer routes, many students fly through the Hartford Airport (~50 min drive), or through the NYC (Newark, JFK, LGA) or Boston (BOS) airports.
Check out what some of our past students are doing now!