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NEW JOB ALERT: Fully funded PhD studentship in parasite ecology at the University of Washington

The Wood Lab at the University of Washington seeks to hire a PhD student for a fully-funded, five-year degree program in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. The position is supported by a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation for a project entitled, “Reconstructing parasite abundance in river ecosystems over the past half century.” The student hired into this position will have the opportunity to be at the forefront of a new sub-discipline: the historical ecology of parasitism.

The Wood Lab is dedicated to answering the question, “is the world wormier than it used to be?” Our new, NSF-funded project will address this question for the parasites of riverine fishes. We use parasitological dissection of liquid-preserved fishes stored in natural history collections to reconstruct long time series of parasite abundance, encompassing decades of environmental change. By carefully selecting specimens collected before and after the onset of a particular environmental impact (e.g., urbanization, pollutant inputs, climate change) in impacted and matched control areas (a before-after-control-impact or BACI design), we can discriminate change caused by the environmental impact from background change.

The project will involve:

  • “field work” (i.e., parasitological dissections conducted at the Tulane University Biodiversity Research Institute in New Orleans, LA and at the University of New Mexico Museum of Southwestern Biology in Albuquerque, NM)
  • collaboration with an international group of senior parasite ecologists and ichthyologists
  • the chance to mentor undergraduate REU students and engage with elementary-level STEM learners from around the country
  • the opportunity to be among the first to publish using a novel, powerful tool for understanding why and how parasite communities shift in response to global change

The ideal candidate will:

  • have appropriate academic preparation for a PhD in parasite ecology (i.e., courses in ecology, parasitology, and statistics)
  • have previous research experience in parasite ecology with a record of presentations and/or publications; ideally this research experience will involve at least one independent project
  • be internally, intrinsically motivated to answer the project’s overarching research questions
  • demonstrate informed curiosity, with the ability to generate novel questions that can be addressed with our dataset
  • have a well-formed scientific identity (i.e., a good idea about what branch of scientific research they would like to pursue as a graduate student)
  • adopt a rigorous and scholarly approach to their science, with evidence of this from presentations and/or publications
  • be a respectful, professional, and generous team player
  • have a positive attitude in the face of obstacles or setbacks
  • have excellent time management skills; accomplish research goals by creating realistic but ambitious plans and initiating open communication when plans need to be adjusted
  • have the willingness and the courage to discuss issues openly (i.e., to give and receive feedback, to celebrate successes, and to discuss ways to overcome challenges)

To apply for this position, please reach out to Dr. Chelsea Wood at In your e-mail, please include:

  • a letter of intent explaining why you are a good candidate for this position
  • a CV
  • pdfs of any written materials that demonstrate your previous research experience and your rigorous and scholarly approach to science

From the individuals who reach out using the approach above, Dr. Wood will select a subset of candidates to move on to the next stage of consideration, which will involve formally applying to the PhD program of the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences by the School’s application deadline. For full consideration, please reach out via e-mail to Dr. Wood as soon as possible and before 1 October 2022. Please note that you may apply for this position even if you do not already possess a master’s degree.


Prospective graduate students: First, a few words of advice.  Graduate school is a big commitment.  It is to your advantage to delay going until you have a very clear idea of how a Master’s or PhD will advance your long-term career goals.  I recommend spending a few years after your undergraduate degree is conferred doing stuff that helps you figure things out.  Maybe that means working as a technician in a lab, or doing a series short-term field work gigs, or taking a job that is totally unrelated to research.  If you continue to read the literature broadly and critically reflect on your experiences, you’ll emerge with a clear idea of your goals, and folks who arrive in grad school knowing what they want to get out of it tend to be the most successful graduate students.  Grad school is not going anywhere – it will still be around after you’ve taken some time to figure things out.  I highly recommend Robert Peters’ Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student’s Guide to Earning an MA or a PhD for folks considering grad school and for those who are already there.  Steven Campana’s 2018 article, “Twelve easy steps to embrace or avoid scientific petrification“, contains lots of good advice for aspiring scientists.

If you’ve reflected on your experiences and have a clear idea of what you’d like to achieve as a graduate student, I’d love to hear from you.  Check out our Research page to read about current projects that are underway in the lab and see the Wood Lab Philosophy to get a sense of how our lab culture operates.  Although I expect my students to work on projects related to parasite ecology in marine and freshwater environments, there is plenty of room under that umbrella for new projects, so I welcome students who come with their own research ideas.  Please shoot me an e-mail ( telling me about your research interests and experiences and include a resume or CV.

Note that I take graduate students through the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS) and, if you are interested in parasites of river ecosystems, you might consider simultaneously applying to the Future Rivers program, which would give you an extra certification on top of your SAFS degree.

I am deeply committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in our field, so I especially encourage you to get in touch if you are a first-generation college student or a student from a low-income background, if you are a member of a racial or ethnic minority, if you identify as a woman or as LGBTQ, or if you have a disability.  UW is a great place for folks who are historically underrepresented in the sciences, with tons of opportunity to connect with others and with support resources across campus.

All prospective graduate students should plan on applying for graduate fellowships – these help pay for your tuition and salary (releasing you from teaching/research duties, which lets you focus on *your* research), make you a much more attractive candidate for graduate school, and they are some of the most impressive things you can put on your CV. One more benefit: nothing helps you sharpen and hone your research ideas like having to write them down. These are a few of the big grad fellowships you should consider (your eligibility may vary depending on your interests and background):

  1. NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
  2. Nancy Foster Scholarship
  3. Ford Foundation
  4. Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship

Prospective post-docs: If you have an idea for a post-doc project on parasite ecology, please feel free to get in touch – I would be happy to collaboratively develop a proposal for post-doc funding. In particular, consider taking advantage of a current “selected area” in the NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology: research using biological collections. A brand new, three-year post-doc opportunity through the Washington Research Foundation provides support for folks who want to do research that addresses an unmet public need. If you are interested in working on a parasite of humans, like Schistosoma, consider NIH’s Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA).

Undergraduate students: We welcome undergraduate involvement in our lab’s research, particularly from students who have taken or are planning to take Chelsea’s Parasite Ecology course. If you’re interested in doing a capstone project in our lab, please feel free to contact Chelsea at