Join the lab

Prospective graduate students

In some years, one or two graduate positions may come available in my lab for qualified and motivated individuals who wish to study ecology or biogeochemistry. I am interested in students who will demonstrate enthusiasm for science. Your thesis or dissertation research is not simply more school. It is the beginning of a scientific (or science-using) career, and I will commit to mentoring you toward an ability to develop and conduct meaningful research, and helping you achieve your degree and employment goals. In return, I expect students to immerse themselves full time. Research is hard. Thus, only with a “jump all in” attitude will you meet our rigorous standards for graduate-quality research, and successfully compete in the job market after graduation.

Our lab succeeds when everyone participates dynamically in a stimulating collaborative-group environment. Full-time ambitious engagement in the lab and field will allow you to develop, conduct, and complete research projects that are important and rich with information. To sustain yourself through the graduate school journey, it is important to maintain a work-life balance with an enriching life outside of “working hours” that complements commitment during “working hours”. Once admitted, students are part of the lab family and have full access to the lab’s resources—desk space, computers & software, labware & field equipment, analytical instrumentation, and most importantly, each other and the social “capital” that comes with the group.

Admission to the program depends on qualifications and funding. Funding plays an important role, as it provides you a small stipend to offset living expenses and covers some or all of your tuition, health insurance, and research costs. There are several possible funding options, including teaching assistantships (TAs), research assistantships (RAs), and fellowships/scholarships. With a TA position, you typically teach undergraduate lab courses. With an RA position, you are employed to assist on a research project that is funded by a research grant. Scholarships and fellowships come in many forms, and are often funds given directly to a student, freeing them from the employment responsibilities of RA and TA positions.

The department has a few TA positions that come available every year, which applicants may compete for (about 10-15% of prospective applicants are awarded a TA position). I am also interested in working with prospective applicants to help them secure their own funding from external scholarships and fellowships, such as National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships (see list below).  Students may compete for several of USF’s internal scholarships, which vary in dollar amount and duration. I do not currently have a research grant that includes an RA position in its budget.

Prospective graduate students should email a note of inquiry to David Lewis ( and attach their résumé or CV. Graduate program information and application instructions can be found here. The application deadline to the graduate program is in the fall of the calendar year preceding the fall semester in which you wish to begin; see the link above for deadline dates.  

Haphazardly assembled & poorly updated list of other funding sources …
* NSF programs
* Ford Foundation fellowships
* EPA STAR fellowships (This program now appears dormant or dead)
* NOAA’s Nancy Foster scholarships (particularly for women and minorities)
* NASA student funding (carbon cycling sometimes eligible for NASA money)
* List maintained by the USF Integrative Bio Dept
* Some other lists and databases (may take some digging through):
List maintained by the USF grad school
Database of opportunities at USF library website
General USF database
USF Office of National Scholarships

Undergraduate students

Motivated undergraduate students interested in research experience may work in the lab by signing up for research credits. We typically have several undergraduate students assisting research staff, graduate students, and professors in the lab and field. Students usually sign up for 2 or more research credits, working 4 contact hours per credit. Lab work varies from washing dishes to running analytical equipment according to need and your level of experience. Undergraduate research assistants can also assist with field work.

Students working in the lab long enough (e.g., several semesters) to learn analytical techniques and become well-versed in lab procedures have the opportunity to pursue independent research projects. Some students have used this opportunity to fulfill honors requirements. Interested students should email Dr. Lewis (


Post-docs are welcome in our lab. We are always looking for new ideas and leadership from people at this advanced level. I unfortunately do not have current funding to support a post-doc, although I am constantly writing proposals that often include post-doc positions in the budget. Prospective post-docs interested in the subject matter of our lab are invited to work with me to develop proposals to fund their position.