e s f letters
e s f letters


A Message to Prospective Applicants
from the EFB Graduate Program Director

Your decision to enter graduate study is a major step, and you owe it to yourself to do it right. Here we explain the key steps for applying to the graduate program in the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology.

  • Before applying: For potential M.P.S., M.S. and especially Ph.D. degree applicants, send an email or call those professors with whom you might be interested in working (directory). These preliminary contacts can be used to ascertain potential graduate research opportunities as well as contacts with current and/or recent graduate students who have worked with these professors. Looking at individual faculty members web sites can be especially informative. Contacting EFB graduate students to learn about professors and their research programs is often helpful. Recognize that professors will receive inquiries from many prospective graduate students but may be able to accommodate a limited number of new students. Graduate applicants who are accepted typically have made a strong effort to inform potential major professors of their abilities, interests, and relative fit with respect to specific research and teaching programs. Although initial contact with potential Major Professors is recommended, it is not a requirement. Therefore, feel free to indicate the names of your preferred Major Professors in your application form and/or essay with or without the initial contact.
  • The process of admission: The EFB Graduate Director will coordinate the review of your application by several faculty members in the field of study you indicate. After consideration of all aspects of a graduate application including an agreement by one or more professors to serve as major professor, the EFB faculty recommends or denies admission to Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies, who provides the official communication to the applicant.
  • The major professor in the graduate program: The relationship between the major professor and the student in the M.P.S., M.S. and Ph.D. programs is fundamentally “one on one”, although interactions with the steering committee members and other faculty are also vital. It is your personal interaction with your major professor that affects your intellectual development, research project, and many other aspects of your life at ESF. When identifying your choices of major professors consider not only fields of interest, but also your personal expectations with respect to your relationship with a major professor. We believe an important part of the graduate selection process is finding an appropriate fit between prospective students and a major professor. In some cases it is found to be appropriate to have a student directed by co-major professors.
  • Explore possibilities: We have a great faculty whose expertise covers a broad range of biology. Much of the research focuses on important environmental and ecological issues. We are well known for forest, wetland and aquatic ecosystem research involving diverse flora and fauna, often utilizing our many field facilities in New York State, but our research encompasses areas throughout the world. The distinction between the field and laboratory research is now beginning to blur as molecular techniques offer tools for all aspects of biology including conservation biology, taxonomy and evolution.

To make it all worthwhile:

  1. We hope you understand that communication with professors before submitting your application is an important step in exploring our graduate program. If at all possible, arrange for a visit through the EFB Graduate Secretary. Visiting would be worth your time and expenses if at all possible.
  2. Write your essay in the application with great care. A major purpose of this essay is to help us judge you. Your essay should tell us (not only the professors whom you have communicated with, but others who will review your application) your areas of interest and why you are interested in pursing these areas in a graduate program.

So before you apply on-line or send in your application to the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies, communicate with faculty! You can find our phone numbers, e-mail addresses, web pages and areas of research interest on the EFB faculty directory and other pages.

All of us at EFB look forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Danilo D. Fernando, Graduate Program Director, Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY ESF, Syracuse, NY 13210 (dfernando@esf.edu).