Philip Freda '15 (M.S.)
Ph.D in Entomology
Kansas State University
Briefly describe your role and your graduate program.
"I am a graduate research assistant working in the lab of Theodore Morgan at Kansas State University while pursuing my Ph.D. in entomology. My research revolves around the evolution of complex life cycles and fitness-related traits, especially thermal tolerance in insects."
How did you learn about this opportunity?
"I learned about this position from my faculty mentors at SJU, Fr. John Braverman, S.J., Ph.D. and Clint Springer, Ph.D."
Describe the application process for your program along with advice you have for those who want to apply to graduate programs.
"My application process began with completing my GRE a year before I graduated. Despite not being the only factor that graduate schools consider, a good score on the GRE can really make the difference between you and other applicants. Many applicants will have a publication or two under their belts and excellent class grades. So what separates you from other applicants? It's not awards or volunteer work, it's the GRE score. This may seem unfair to many but the GRE score is definitely a factor for many schools and departments. After you have your score it's time reach out to labs you are interested in. I suggest applying to no more than 10 schools as registration fees are expensive and the time commitment for each application is significant. Contact labs and PIs that you are interesting in working in and for not just ones that seem prestigious. PIs will know right away if you're heart isn't in the research. After you've been accepted to a number of programs, the school will invite you out to visit the school, the faculty, and the students. It is imperative to ask the students what THEY think of your potential lab and the PI. Also, let the faculty, including your possible future PI, where you have applied. This will give them time to make the offer to you to join the department more competitive. Liking the school is also very important. If you are doing a Ph.D, you may spent 4-6 years of your life there, so you will have to have a connection with the place, not just the research. Work/life balance is paramount. After you've soaked in each program, make sure to think long about where you want to go as you may have multiple choices. Make a pros and cons list and pick the program or school that has the highest pro:con ratio. Since you are a scientist, make a science out of it!"
How did your SJU education impact your professional goals?
"My SJU education prepared me for my Ph.D. program by providing me insights into theory and technology relevant to my study area as well as challenging me sufficiently."
Did you participate in any experiential learning activities while at SJU?
"I was a GEOKids LINKS fellow while completing my M.S. in biology at SJU. My roles were to teach science to grade school students at inner-city institutions in Philadelphia, PA. In addition to giving back to the community, this opportunity positively impacted my teaching skills."
What advice do you have for those hoping to pursue a similar career path?
"My advice would be, if an undergraduate pursuing graduate school, make sure to volunteer in a lab that you find an interest in. That is, make sure you are interested in the research they are performing. In addition to that, make enough of a contribution into the research to get an authorship on a publication. That will go a long way on your graduate application. If the head of the lab is not really keen on adding you in, prove yourself and what you've done for the lab. For graduate level students, try to publish as much as you can and read the literature of your area of interest broadly so you can impress potential future PIs."