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Applications are accepted at any time; however, to receive full consideration for fellowships and financial aid, students should apply by December 15 for admission in the following fall semester.

To apply to the Ecology graduate program, students should first contact program faculty members with whom they are interested in working to find out if they have space in their laboratories. If you would like us to help you contact faculty members, please fill out our online pre-application form. Once an appropriate match between student and faculty member has been made, students should review the admission requirements of the Penn State Graduate School.

The following documents will be required as part of the Graduate School application process: 

  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement of motivations and goals
  • Curriculum vitae/resume
  • Transcript(s)

The graduate programs and Penn State Graduate School are committed to verification of application materials; therefore, please ensure that all of your documents can be readily verified as being accurate and authentic.

Admission is granted jointly by the Penn State Graduate School and the Ecology graduate program.

Apply to the Graduate School at Penn State


Current Opportunities

1. Harnessing the microbiome to mitigate drought impact in agriculture

Plants recruit and nurture a diverse community of microbes — the microbiome. In natural and man-made ecosystems, root-associated microbiomes considerably expand the plant’s genomic and metabolic capabilities, providing essential life-support functions such as nutrient acquisition, modulation of immune responses and (a)biotic stress tolerance. The overall aim of this project is to investigate the effects of plant genotype on root microbiome assembly and function, with a specific focus on microbial functions enhancing plant tolerance to drought. The student will have the possibility to use various tools, including molecular biology, bioinformatics, statistical and simulation modeling, and laboratory experiments. The overall goal is to better understand the impact of drought on plant microbiomes and harness the potential of specific microbial functions that help the plant to cope with such stress in natural and agricultural settings.

Contact Francisco Dini-Andreote.


2. Disease ecology and evolution

The Kennedy lab is seeking a PhD student interested in studying disease ecology and evolution using mathematical modeling and data collection.  The Kennedy lab combines theoretical and empirical methods to study how ecology drives pathogen evolution.  Current topics of interest include the ecological and evolutionary consequences of transmissible vaccines, why there has typically been a lack of resistance evolution to classical vaccines, and the roles of ecology and evolution in pathogen host jumps.

Contact Dave Kennedy.


3. Pollinators and invasive insects

Multiple faculty are recruiting students who are interested in applications of data science tools and approaches to studying, modeling and predicting the distribution of beneficial (pollinators and predators), pest (agricultural and human health), and invasive insect species.

Contact Christina Grozinger or Natalie Boyle.


4. Microbial management in agricultural systems

The Bell lab is seeking a Master's student with interest in active microbial management in agricultural systems. The project will be targeted to fit the interests and skills of the selected student, but could relate to the efficacy of microbial products or the dispersal of microorganisms through agricultural systems. There could be opportunities to learn approaches in molecular ecology, soil science, and bioinformatics, but applicants are not expected to have prior experience in all of these areas.

Contact Terrence Bell.


*Note that unlisted opportunities are available with other Ecology faculty. The postings above only indicate some of the available projects in the program. Please contact the listed faculty members for more details about each of these projects.