EEB Insider: Gina Quiram


What made you decide to pursue your Ph.D. in the U of M's Ecology, Evolution and Behavior (EEB) program rather than at some other university?

I found several schools where I was confident that I could pursue an interesting Ph.D. research program and find a potential advisor and lab that I thought would be a good fit for me. What stood out about the EEB program was the collegial and collaborative atmosphere among students and faculty. After welcome weekend, it was clear that people in the department interact on a regular basis, and that the students were not only colleagues but friends. I was excited to join this community.

I'm not from Minnesota and I have to ask, “What is a Minnesota winter like?”

I am from Minnesota so I grew up with the winters and absolutely love them. They are cold and snowy, but the good news is that there are a lot of outdoor activities that you can do. I think this is the key, to get outside and ski, skate, snowshoe or fish. With a good warm coat and boots winter can even be fun.

I don't think of myself as a city person. Is the University of Minnesota really an urban campus and what is that like for someone who likes the outdoors?

This is a big yes. I grew up in rural Minnesota and had similar concerns. In reality, I am more active outdoors now then I was before I moved here. There are tons of biking and running trails in the cities themselves. Within an hour or two of campus there are countless hiking trails, rock climbing, skiing hills, cross county ski trails and the list goes on and on. But for me the best part is that I have never had trouble finding fellow students in the department to accompany me on an outdoor adventure.   

I've heard that some graduate programs are really cutthroat. What is the EEB program like?

I would say that the EEB program is not cutthroat and that is one of the things that attracted me to it. It is competitive and there are very high expectations for students, but those high expectations are coupled with a collaborative and supportive atmosphere. Fellow students and faculty are more than willing to support you whether it be in discussing protocols or actually filling pots with soil. The friendly, collegial atmosphere of the department combined with high expectation for achievement of the students was one of the big draws for me as a prospective student.

Once you have your Ph.D., what are you going to do with your degree?   

My plan is to be a professor at a liberal arts college in Minnesota. I am starting to apply for post-doctoral positions and am hoping that this brings me somewhere new for an adventure or two in a different ecosystem before I settle back in Minnesota.

I've heard that some graduate programs are only interested in students who aspire to be a faculty member at a top research university. Is the EEB program supportive of students interested in careers at other kinds of institutions?

I was clear from the beginning that this was not my intention and I have found the department to be very supportive of my goals. I think the most important thing is to make sure that the advisor you are going to work with understands your goals, or uncertainty, and that he or she feels that they have the tools to support you in achieving them.